It’s been a long break. We finished classes about ten days before Christmas, and if you aren’t doing J-Term classes, it’s almost February when you start classes again. For creative types, I think this is a really good thing. We’ve spent 15 weeks in a row working hard on class assignments and projects, reading and writing based on assignments that will make our work better. Now, we have the opportunity to do with our time as we please—we can read and write what we want, and we can can take a bit of time to breathe.
Over break, I read a ton and wrote pieces of different projects that I had shelved for the semester. It was really nice to get back to some old ideas and pieces, but it was also nice to kind of brainstorm some new ideas. It was also nice to start my newest obsession, which is the rebooted series of Doctor Who from the BBC.
I devoured the entire series (so far) in about three weeks. It was kind of disgusting how fast I went through them. In fact, I worked episodes into my schedule. “Get A done, then an episode of Doctor Who. Then, do B and Doctor Who is your reward.” And, as I watched more and more episodes, I noticed that many episodes followed along the same pattern (and many deviated from it). I actually took a few notes about the way story was presented in the series.
The most important thing to me as a writer, though, was how the ridiculous and cheesy antics of the show became secondary to the way I began to connect with the characters. The writers took a really silly concept with ridiculous looking costumes and such and made the viewer truly care for the characters. The show infuses themes into every episode, from alienation, isolation, and loneliness to the power of love and friendship and, really, growing up. The themes aren’t anything “new,” but they are presented so well and weaved into the stories in many different facets that, when the episode is over, you wonder why you care so much about time-traveling people who have to keep time from getting messed up. It’s a stamp of good writing.
At Columbia, students are encouraged to write whatever genre they want. I’ve never really tried sci-fi, but if I do, I think I’ll use the way theme is presented in Doctor Who as a model. If you don’t care for the characters, the story is just plot driven, and that can get old quickly. So, while I was being lazy over break and working TV into my schedule, I actually used the time of watching it to study its structure and makeup. I guess it wasn’t a true break for me after all!