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A Whovian at Hearts

Appreciating the complexity of Doctor Who

By Jessica NorrisPublished 2 years ago 6 min read

Warning: the following contains spoilers for Doctor Who

You know you're a Whovian when... (select all that apply)

1. Dr. Who Christmas specials are on your Christmas movie watch list

2. You own one or more sonic screwdriver replicas

3. You have a favorite doctor, or you have specific reasons why you like many doctors and can't pick a favorite

4. Angel statues in cemeteries make you nervous (Blink)

5. The following poem makes you sad/solemn: "Roses are red, the TARDIS is blue, the Doctor once said 'Rose Tyler...'" (Doomsday)

6. You understand the Time Lord regeneration cycle of grief

7. You have tried to explain the show to someone who has never seen it and weren't able to because the show is "bigger on the inside" (not originally my dad joke)

In the last ten years, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who have heard of Doctor Who. When I was a teenager, finding a fellow Whovian in Western New York was a big deal. They were few in number. Now people have at least heard of it, even if they wouldn't classify themselves as true Whovians. But the conversations can still be saturated with blank looks and brush-off statements from those who have never seen the show or who really don't care for it.

Technically, Doctor Who is a science fiction TV series if one could actually classify it. It's about an alien called the Doctor who travels through time and space and saves worlds. Or as Donna put it, "He saves planets, rescues civilisations, defeats terrible creatures. And runs a lot. Seriously, there's an outrageous amount of running involved." (The Doctor's Daughter)

It's a show about the Doctor saving the world from dangerous alien threats like the Daleks, the Cybermen, or the Slitheen. And we see it all through the eyes of the Doctor's companions who each steal a special place in our hearts. My personal favorite would have to be Martha Jones, a clever med student/doctor who walked the earth, told a story, and saved the world. (The Last of Time Lords)

But it's also a show that has mastered the art of not taking itself too seriously. The superb acting transports you to a place of pure fear when a companion is facing a Dalek for the first time, and sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that it's a tin can with a plunger arm. Doctor Who has a knack for the absurd and the comical. It's part of what has aided the show's longevity. It's also why people cock eyebrows at it and think it's lame. You're telling me that this show is about stopping the world from being destroyed by aliens that fart a lot when they're stuck inside human skin suits? How weird is that? (Okay, so maybe showing your friends "World War Three" might make them think the show is a bit odd. But if they keep watching, you may have converted fans for life.)

Yes, it's a show with funny characters that follows a predictable formula. Everything starts in the same place. Or as Canton put it, "So, we're in a box that's bigger on the inside, and it travels through time and space?" (The Impossible Astronaut) But Doctor Who is so much more. But it is hard to explain.

Let me give you an example. In Doctor Who Season 9, Episode 2, "The Witch's familiar," the Doctor saves a little boy on a battle field. The boy asks the Doctor if he is the enemy to which the Doctor replies, "I'm not sure that any of that matters. Friends, enemies. So long as there's mercy. Always mercy." The boy takes his hand, and the Doctor leads him to safety.

Sweet. Even sentimental. If you had watched the entire episode, perhaps you would even describe the moment as powerful. But to understand the true gravity of that moment, you would have to go back years.

Davros is the boy on the battlefield. And that's a name powerful enough in the Doctor Who world to send a chill over me or a flash of anger. Davros. The one who would grow up to create the Daleks, an evil alien race bent on exterminating everyone who isn't a Dalek. Davros' actions led to the destruction/disappearance of the Doctor's home world. He's the one to blame for taking away from Doctor everyone of his own species that he ever loved. He is why the Doctor stands alone as the last of the Time Lords (The Stolen Earth and all episodes since the reboot)

Davros is one person the Doctor would be justified in hating. The moral conflict starts in Season 9, Episode 1, where the Doctor finds a young Davros facing certain death. He could leave Davros to die on the battlefield. Time could be rewritten for a happier future, where the Doctor never lost his people. He could have everything back. Everything he ever wanted. All he would have to do is walk away.

But he doesn't. One could argue that if any character in Doctor Who deserved to die it would be Davros. But the Doctor chooses to show mercy. He chooses to save Davros' life, even though he knows all that Davros will become. He makes this choice in full knowledge of its consequences.

It's moments like this that display Doctor Who's significance. It's about so much more than fighting aliens, witty banter, and time travel. Rather, it uses all that to get at deeper questions. It explores the gravity of choice and the complexity of life, and shows bravery in the face of danger. It shows courage and hope in the darkness. But with any TV show, one must invest in the story and characters to discover these deeper connections. Maybe that's why it's so hard to explain to someone who has never seen the show.

I don't know for sure. All I know is I'm a Whovian at hearts. And I'll keep watching my favorite episodes without giving tuppence what other people think. That's also my best advice for other people. Don't let all your Whovian friends convince you the show is brilliant or convince you thoroughly to never watch it. Watch it, and decide for yourself. And if you come back to the party with a banana or wearing a fez, we'll all know and welcome you with open arms.

Episode References:

Season 3, Episode 10: Blink

Season 2, Episode 13: Doomsday

Season 4, Episode 6: The Doctor's Daughter

Season 3, Episode 13: The Last of the Time Lords

Season 1, Episode 5: World War Three

Season 9, Episode 2: Witch's Familiar

Season 4, Episode 12: The Stolen Earth

Season 9, Episode 1: The Magician's Apprentice

Season 2, Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace

Season 5, Episode 13: The Big Bang


About the Creator

Jessica Norris

Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.

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