A Gooey, Saccharine Love Letter to Doctor Who
Peter Tatara - December 22, 2006
Every Monday, everyone around the office is talking about one thing. Battlestar Galactica. But I just don't get it. I can't become involved in the story, and while everyone's slobbering over Starbuck, I've got a thing for Boomer. In an all-too-fast summation, Battlestar Galactica doesn't do it for me. However, there's something else on the Sci Fi Channel's Friday night lineup that gets me all gooey. Doctor Who.
If you've read any of my writing as of late, more often than not, not matter the subject, it slips for a sentence or two into an adoration of the Doctor. I half remember watching my father watch ancient episodes of the back and white serial on PBS during my youth. If memory serves, in one, the Doctor battled a T-Rex. Other than this isolated image, though, I can't bring up any other recollections of the show. I mean, I was a kid, and it was the '80s. He-Man was on.
However, I've since grown up and outgrown He-Man -- even that flashy remake they made not long back. Yet, at the same time, I've developed a taste for another vintage. It, as you may have guessed, is Doctor Who. I started watching the BBC's 21st century reimagining of the Doctor off and on during the summer. It was fun. And, one day, when Sci Fi held an impromptu marathon, I was hooked. Since then, I've been unable to miss an episode, and I tune into any of the old series on PBS whenever they're broadcast.
Blank stares, huh? I get that a lot at work. Let me explain Doctor Who. Doctor Who is the story of an immortal man with two hearts who ambles through time and space inside a big, blue box. He's a Time Lord, a member of an ancient, omnipotent race, and after living for so long and witnessing both the birth and death of the Universe, he's seen -- well -- everything. To shake things up, the Doctor's come into the habit of selecting a human assistant -- more often than not a pretty little miss -- and zipping around the cosmos watching his companion experience the breadth and depth of existence for the first time. It's watching humans learn, grow, love, and overcome our underdeveloped minds that makes the Doctor smile.
Hard to swallow? Exactly. Doctor Who takes a tremendous amount of suspension of disbelief to be taken seriously, and that's very much the point. Not a grim and solemn affair, Doctor Who is bright, colorful, and fun. Airy and often preposterous, Doctor Who is a story of delirious joy -- and the times it goes grow grave, as they are so unexpected, they stab both the Doctor and the audience, wrenching forth awful emotions.
Have I explained Doctor Who at all? America's got Star Trek. England's got Doctor Who. Makes sense now? No? You get that there's some guy traveling through time in a blue box, but you don't get the allure?
The Doctor goes gallivanting around the Universe in search of the beautiful and the disgusting, and he, on a weekly basis, has a run-in with an evil alien, ghost, monster, or robot. The Doctor's the epitome of the small and the quick, and his adversaries, without fail, are archetypes of the big and the slow. Doctor Who's the story of one man overcoming overwhelming odds with just his brain. The Doctor's able to outthink intergalactic overlords and mechanized legions. Sure, the Doctor's an immortal genius, but he doesn't let that show. He's the everyman. He's you. He's me. By his wits alone, he's able to beat gangsters made out to toxic gas and Martian ivy trying to remodel Earth after its home. The Doctor's crafty, smarmy, and cute. Unless, of course, his companion's in, in the Doctor's eyes, real danger. If this happens, he digs deep, doesn't dick around, and reveals just what a Time Lord can do. (This happened recently when the Doctor fought the Devil. The end result? The Devil was sucked into a black hole.)
The above is only the most casual of sketches of Doctor Who. There's a good -- great -- deal more background and backstory, from the Doctor's robot dog and magic screwdriver to his habit of being killed and getting right back on his feet with a different face, but if I were to continue to talk about the Doctor, it'd only turn (more) gooey and saccharine and ultimately become a love letter to a fictitious man. Then, I'd have to explain it all to my girlfriend. Again.
So, my recommendation? Click on the Sci Fi Channel or BBC America. While Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and Lost are all in vogue, if you can't get into the Monday morning water cooler conversations -- and even if you can -- there's a Doctor you should see. Did I mention he has a robot dog?