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Doctor Who Tackles the Vulnerability of Grief

Bring your tissues to this week's episode of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who season 11 episode 1 review

**Spoilers for the Doctor Who episode “It Takes You Away.”** 

Every week of this new season, we see a level of Doctor Who that we’ve never seen before. When the Doctor has experienced grief in the past, he has typically brushed it off, had his breakdown in the form of a speech, and would be fine in the next episode.

With this season, that grief doesn’t sit on the shoulders of the Doctor, though.

The loss of Grace has never really left Ryan or Graham, their relationship growing throughout the season with the lack of the matriarch of their family. Grace was the glue that held the two together, the one mutual bond they have. Ryan refused to call Graham his granddad because, in his eyes, Graham was just his grandma’s husband.

In this week’s episode, we meet Erik, who left his daughter to be with his “dead wife.” He is a man who lost himself when he lost his wife and, in an ill-advised effort to protect his daughter, pretended that a beast was in the woods and would hurt her if she ventured there. What he discovered, instead, was a portal between his world and one where a being, the Solitract, was trying to capture him to be its friend.

Maybe this episode hit with me, especially, because I also lost my grandmother this year. Watching as Ryan and Graham coped with the loss of Grace hit home and has continued to be my favorite part of the season, because their grief is very real and shows how moving on is necessary, but is easier said than done.

In the reverse of Ryan’s situation, my grandmother was my step-grandma, not my blood but my grandmother all the same. She was who I had and who I looked up to, so when Ryan finally called Graham his granddad and understood that all they had was each other? It was easily the most heartwarming moment of the season for me.

Grief is something we all process differently. Ryan lost his grandmother, but Graham lost the love of his life. That doesn’t discount Ryan’s grief, but Ryan’s is a grief I understand. Watching your grandparents die is, unfortunately, a part of life. We learn to adapt and grow from the loss and remember the lessons they provided for us.

For Graham, he had a life with Grace ahead of him. He was the one who had been sick, the one who thought he was going to die, and Grace was there for him, nursed him back to health, and they fell in love. His grief is only made worse by his relationship with Ryan.

The two had never seen eye to eye, never really connected as Grace wanted, but through the Doctor and Yaz, the two have been able to find a bond and so, when Ryan calls Graham his granddad, it hits in a way that will leave you on the verge of tears for at least the next hour. (Maybe I texted my brother in all caps that I cried, and continue to cry, over this development in their relationship.)

This season of Doctor Who is maybe the best yet, and it is all thanks to beautifully poignant moments like this.

(image: BBC)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.