“People are intimidated. They think that there’s 47 years worth of stuff they need to know before they can enjoy anything. And what you want to say is, No. Look, there is a blue box. It is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space and sometimes even where it’s meant to go. And when it turns up there’s a bloke in it called the Doctor, and there will be stuff wrong and he will do his best to sort it out and he will probably succeed, because he’s awesome. Now sit down, shut up, and watch ‘Blink.’” – Neil Gaiman
I never intended to become a Doctor Who fan. It just kind of happened.
I’d previously mocked the show as being ridiculous and poorly written but then I really gave it a try. I thought it would be a fun, goofy thing to do with my brother because he loves it so I thought I’d try at least one series of New Who (as the reboot is called) and see if I liked it enough to continue.
Thanks to a brother who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of spoilers, I knew pretty much every major plot point before I’d even gotten started. I thought that might affect how much I liked the show. I mean, any element of surprise was gone, right?
As it turned, out there were plenty of surprises, just in different forms than I’d imagined. I didn’t think I would like Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal because I’d seen a few episodes before and he didn’t seem quirky enough. I was surprised to realize that his Ninth Doctor was by far my favorite. I thought I’d like Amy because, well, she’s pretty so I thought maybe I’d have a crush on her. Surprisingly, though, I despised her. I thought I’d hate Eleven for being too odd, but I loved him. No wonder, his intensity and temper remind me of Nine.
But the biggest surprise was definitely that I liked the show at all. To quote Madame Vastra, “I made the most elementary of errors. I fell in love.” I ended up liking it so much that I watched all seven series in under three months. I felt weird about this until I realized that I do this – this Too Much Fandom thing – with everything I love. I get really, really into it. When I love a book, I binge-read. I immerse myself in its universe for days and days, irritating everyone around me by talking about it constantly. Why should it be any different with another medium?
So why did I fall in love with Doctor Who? I can’t pinpoint a particular episode or appearance of a character/plot point / et cetera that made me go, “Oh my Gollum, this is cool!” because there wasn’t only one. There were a bunch of little reasons.
The companions, for instance, of which Donna Noble is my favorite. This never fails to horrify my brother: he says she’s annoying, she’s stupid, she’s unimportant. But that last part is exactly what I love about her. Donna is ordinary, utterly ordinary. She’s not exceptional; each day of her life is identical to those lived by millions of other people. Nothing in her life is ever unbelievable or truly unexpected or – dare I say? – fantastic.
Until she meets the Doctor. William Shakespeare was right when he said that some “have greatness thrust upon them”. Many of my favorite stories feature protagonists who thought they would always be nobody special. We’d hardly call Harry, Frodo, and Katniss ordinary, but at some point in their lives they certainly were. It’s the same with the companions.
Donna was a temp in her thirties who still lived at home. Rose had a dead-end job in a store, while her friend Mickey was a mechanic. Martha was a med student. Even Jack was fairly normal. I know he’s an immortal fifty-first-century conman and all that but the immortality bit didn’t kick in until he traveled with the Doctor. These five went on incredible journeys through time and space but once upon a time, they were ordinary. (And honestly, they retained a lot of that. My brother complains a lot about Rose running off and messing up timelines, but I don’t mind that so much. Normal people make mistakes. Normal people do foolish things because they don’t have as much experience as the Doctor.) I can relate to that – yes, I think I’d like to become Someone but at the moment I’m just a normal teenage girl sitting in her living room, writing this. I’m not particularly important.
But because Doctor Who and a million other stories, I can dream. I love stories where I can pretend I am one of the characters. (This is, by the way, the reason why I don’t like Eleven’s companions that much. They’re all too special. They’re so perfect and while that may be a good thing to aim for in real life, in writing that is called a Mary Sue. Flawed characters are much more interesting.) I never really grew out of having imaginary friends. I just replaced them with stories that I lose myself in.
My inner film score geek was thrilled to find that Doctor Who has great music. The composer, Murray Gold, is my new favorite and I hope he stays on for a long time. His use of leitmotifs (recurring musical phrases) is especially brilliant, putting me in a certain mood every time I hear a theme or its variation. Who doesn’t feel on top of the world when they hear “I Am The Doctor”?
Sad, pitiful people who don’t like this wonderfully goofy show, that’s who.
Sometimes I still find Doctor Who exasperatingly ridiculous, though. One thing that bothers me is the cheesiness. It’s frustrating how often, just as things are getting really good, something stupid appears. The two-part story in “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” with the Slitheens is a good example. Now, I appreciate humor, maybe even slightly crude humor sometimes (my family would probably say all the time!) but in my opinion the episodes would have been much better if the Slitheen hadn’t been farting aliens. I mean, really, who told the writers, “Yes, yes, that sounds like a lovely idea”?
And that’s not all. As I’ve told my brother perhaps far too often, I don’t like the “not really!” mentality of the show. I hate how the writers write themselves into corners but always manage to wriggle out through some barely plausible plot twist.
The Daleks were all exterminated, but apparently “all” doesn’t have the same meaning in the Whoniverse because some were still around. Mickey and Rose are permanently stuck in an alternate universe but, like, not really – they can still cross between worlds when they need to warn the Doctor. The Doctor is the last Time Lord but did we mention the Master? River’s timeline always runs backwards to that of the Doctor, except for when it doesn’t. Rory died for the gazillionth time but thanks to the Doctor, he’s feeling better now.
To me, that’s taking the easy way out. I hate when writers don’t want to deal with the consequences of losing a character. They don’t have a way to further the story without that character so they bring them back to their previous state – whether that means the character gets their life, memory, or whatever back. Way to commit. I miss Donna so much but I am very happy that (so far) she is gone. Bringing her back would take the emotion out of her story and make it worthless.
I have my complaints, but ultimately I still come back to Doctor Who because of, above all, its zaniness. As a huge fan of Roald Dahl and Terry Pratchett, I appreciate a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, it can make me sad but it can also make me laugh uncontrollably. I love that combination.
It’s just weird. Seriously, what other shows are even remotely like it? Where else will one find a fez-wearing, bow tie-loving, screwdriver-wielding alien who saves the world in a box that is bigger on the inside? Or a sword-wielding interspecies lesbian couple working as detectives in Victorian London? Or statues that kill you and aliens made of fat?
So yeah, I was surprised to find that I liked Doctor Who. I never would have thought I’d look forward to it, but now I can’t wait for the fiftieth anniversary special, the Christmas / regeneration special, and seeing what Twelve is like! (Now that I’m caught up, of course, I realize that I don’t have any way to watch the episodes when they come out – we don’t get the BBC. Stupid TV.) In the meantime, of course, I could watch Classic Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, et cetera… that’s yet another thing I love about this show. It’s been around for so long that it’s really hard to run out of stories!
What do you think about Doctor Who? And remember: whatever you do, don’t blink.