Sunday, July 28, 2013

How (and Why) I Became a Whovian

Unless you live in a cave or the jungles of Bora Bora, chances are good you know someone who’s a Whovian. That is, a huge fan (and by huge I mean reaching levels of geekery you never imagined) of the BBC series Doctor Who. For years, I’ve had mixed feelings about Doctor Who.

It's bigger on the inside. Really.
I wanted to like it, I really did. After all, who wouldn’t love the story of a man (who’s really an alien) flying through space and time in a blue police call box (it’s bigger on the inside) with a collection of plucky companions? And it was a bit of a throwback for me because I remember catching bits and pieces of earlier incarnations of The Doctor on PBS as a child - all I could recall was that he had floppy hair and a really cool scarf. I learned later that this was The Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, who was pretty nifty.

And who wouldn’t love the concept of a character who, because he’s a Time Lord, never truly dies? Instead, when something really bad happens, he regenerates and changes his appearance - leading to the idea that the show could go on FOREVER, which it practically has.

But I just couldn’t get into it. Sure, I loaded Doctor Who into my Netflix queue, and tried watching a few episodes, featuring The Ninth Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston. I just couldn’t get there. Eccleston seemed too goofy, almost as if he was trying hard to be clever, and the aliens were kind of cheesy. OK, some of them were REALLY cheesy.

But my friend Trina, who is a die hard Whovian and even has this awesome TARDIS dress, told me to stick with it. She said, “Give it a chance, just get through the first season. Things will change.”

Meh, okay. Whatever.

So I stuck with it. And you know what? Something very odd happened.

I started into Doctor Who thinking it would be a light and fluffy show about a time/space traveler and some aliens. And instead, it turned into something deeper. Somewhere near the end of Season One - right around the time I began to actually LIKE Eccleston’s Doctor - it stopped being about aliens, and more about friendship, loyalty, love, and sacrifice.

Once I met David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, it kicked into high gear. Tennant manages to take a character who isn’t even human, and give him some degree of humanity. The Doctor’s Companions - Rose, Donna, the amazing Martha - help him in this journey. As Martha says, at one point, “Sometimes you need someone. You need someone to stop you.”

Sure, sure, it’s a Sci Fi show and you have to spend your disbelief a little - okay, a lot - and the Doctor himself, as a character, does have his faults. He does bad things sometimes, although he tries to tell himself the end justifies the means. But it’s all part of the show’s evolution for me. I never get bored (and I’m wrapping up Season Four), like I normally do when I binge watch shows on Netflix.

Another thing I really love about Doctor Who is the way the show normalizes racial and sexual differences. There are a number of interracial couples - and it’s No Big Deal. No reference is ever made to skin color, because in The Doctor’s world, it doesn’t matter. Likewise, sexual preferences are just another aspect of a character’s personality, but never is used to define them. The absolutely dreamy Captain Jack Harkness is dashing, daring, and will bang anything with a pulse and an interest. He hits on EVERYONE, sometimes with success, other times not so much - and then he simply moves on. Other characters have made references to their same-sex partners, and it’s never anything of great relevance because it’s normal.

Other things to love: the time travel (Shakespeare shouting EXPELLIARMUS or Agatha Christie solving a mystery), the scary monsters (weeping angels had me hiding under a pillow), the gadgets (dude, I need a Sonic Screwdriver) and The Doctor’s jacket, which (like Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement) has an endless selection of Things We Need inside it.

I love the way the female characters, in particular, are given plenty to DO. Obviously, they’re secondary to the Doctor - it is, after all, his story and they are his Companions - but Rose, Martha and the others are perfectly capable of holding their own. Rose, who started out as The Cute Blonde, turns into a formidable force who is integral in the saving of the universe. Donna - who is a bit grating at times - is one of the most important people in the world, and it’s because of what she ultimately does to save the Doctor himself. Martha Jones, medical student, is stunningly brilliant and fearless, and goes on to work for UNIT, a secret agency that monitors alien activity. River Song, who I’ve just met recently but am well aware that I will see again, is incredible and brave and strong. These women don’t kick ass because they are the Doctor’s Companions - they are his Companions because they kick ass.

Finally, I love that watching Doctor Who is like playing Six Degrees of British Actors - so far I’ve encountered cast members from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and (be still my heart) The Walking Dead.

Tonight I’m going to watch the final two episodes of Season Four and - I’m reasonably certain - say goodbye to David Tennant. The Doctor will regenerate, and I’ll get to meet Matt Smith. I hope the journey is as great an adventure as it’s been so far.

Even if it’s not… now I get it. I’m not going to run out and buy a TARDIS coffee mug just yet, or wear a pair of Sonic Screwdrivers as earrings, but at least now I understand why people do.

Because it’s been brilliant.


  1. David Tennant is my absolute favourite Doctor, Chris Eccelston second, but I couldn't get used to Matt Smith.....
    I ended up buying the DVD's of the 9th & 10th Doctors...and I think I might be a bit of a geek as I have a tardis in my aquarium!!

  2. I'm old school. Tom Baker. Of course, David Tennant was more than awesome. Then, I did get to meet and interview John Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen.

    Oh, and I'd suggest a TARDIS key necklace. Talisman, symbol of protection (or at least the promise of a quick escape).

  3. Thank Goddess for Hulu! That's what got us hooked on The Doctor. Loved the David T version better than Smith and had a hard time getting used to Peter C, tho I like the Scottish thing and his occasional hard rock guitar riffs. Hulu has to be our Savior for any new episodes, however. We ditched Cable (just too much $$) so no direct BBC America. :(