What the commodifiers of fantasy count on and exploit is the insuperable imagination of of the reader, child or adult, which gives even these dead things life — of a sort, for a while.
Imagination, like all living things, lives now, and it lives with, from, on true change. Like all we do and have, it can be co-opted and degraded; but it survives commercial and didactic exploitation. The land outlasts the empires. The conquerors may leave desert where there was forest and meadow, but the rain will fall, the rivers will run to the sea. The unstable, mutable, untruthful realms of Once-upon-a-time are as much a part of human history and thoughts as the nations in our kaleidoscopic atlases, and some are more enduring.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
I was reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman last night when I came across the quote about vast secret worlds inside every human being. I was instantly reminded of the conversation above from the Doctor Who episode The Doctor’s Wife, also by Neil Gaiman.
I think Idris’ “bigger on the inside” statement resonated deeply in every Whovian who watched it. But it’s more than just a Doctor Who quote. I think it’s something that everybody should — would — appreciate, and I’ve always wanted to explain it to non-Whovians because it’s a very… it’s really good.
So, to the non-Whovians, here’s the explanation:
The woman on the left is Idris, and the man on the right is the Doctor. Idris is the spirit of the TARDIS trapped inside a human body. The TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine, shaped like a 1960’s police box, but is so much bigger on the inside. Almost everyone who’s ever stepped foot in the TARDIS for the first time comments that it’s “bigger on the inside”. Yet when the TARDIS’s spirit gets trapped in a human body, she observes that people are the ones that are “so much bigger on the inside”.
Doctor Who has always been amazing. It’s the best TV series ever. But this episode — this quote — it’s one of those that will always stand above the rest.
Neil Gaiman truly is a genius.
We who know can appreciate more fully what it means to be a book series. Books are (usually) paper and ink, yes, but the ink forms an image on our minds and informs our lives. What do we do when Harry Potter ends? The premise is faulty. Why would Harry Potter ever end? When in the history of human existence have well-considered words not left a mark? If reading is the gateway to compassion, if our power to imagine better is so linked to our ability to learn about that which we can’t experience ourselves, why do we discuss endings at all?
Put another way: Of course it has been in our heads, but why on earth should that mean it hasn’t been real?
“the wild regrets and the bloody sweats, none knew so well as i; for he who lives more lives than one, more deaths than one must die.” — oscar wilde.