Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Dr. Who

I first became familiar with Dr. Who about a decade ago, when a former roommate of mine (who also, it should be noted, introduced me to the Myers-Briggs personality test as well as to the deeper meaning of Hebrew letters, so this was certainly an influential friend [1]) showed a large variety of black and white classic episodes of the show, but where the show had not been resurrected into the present, so I was left largely without a context or without a great deal of relevance. Since that time I have seen perhaps a dozen or so episodes (including two of them tonight) that have also lacked a narrative flow and context, leaving me to appreciate the series because its hero is not terribly unlike myself (a bit of an improvisational thinker, passionate and intelligent, and with a fondness for hanging out with younger women) yet without getting a sense of the story as a whole.

There are a lot of reasons to thank the creators and actors and writers of Dr. Who, and it is worthwhile to discuss at least a few of them today. First, Dr. Who represents a synthesis of a variety of different genres of entertainment in a unique combination. For one, it is an example of British (comedy) television, with all the witty humor that entails. For another, it is a notable example of children’s entertainment (that is, the show was originally designed to appeal to little ones) yet it is a show that appeals to a great many adults (especially those of us who are kids at heart, I suppose). It is also one of the most notable shows dealing with speculative fiction on television. The combination of these elements is certainly something that is rare, if not unique, and accounts for its appeal especially for those who appreciate two or three of the elements that form the core of this particular show.

I have a rather personal reason to thank Dr. Who, and that is for making it legitimate for an eccentric but decent fellow to be friends with young ladies [2]. This is especially true if one considers that the Doctor is supposed to be hundreds of years old, yet he shows a fascination with befriending children, teenagers, and young adults. Most of the time, that sort of behavior will earn one at best the suspicion of others, yet the Doctor does not come off as threatening, even if he has a lot of technological gizmos, travels in a nearly constant experience of danger, and hangs out with people one tenth his age. Yet he does this without getting any nasty threats of police action or restraining orders or getting blocked on Facebook, or having his police box (also known as the Tardis) prohibited from being within 1000 feet of a school. Seriously, how does he do it? Even more cheekily, his fondness of the company of younger ladies is a pointed and frequent area of commentary on the show, but is portrayed as an eccentric but not deviant sort of behavior, which makes sense given that the Doctor is shown as noble, resourceful, but not a predatory sort of person.

There is at least another way in which Dr. Who has served its audience well, and that is dealing in a humorous but humane way at the limitations of humankind and our fears and anxieties. The Doctor is shown as being the last of his kind, more or less, which leads him to seek intimacy through serving humanity, even with all of the complications that entails (whether that means doing so privately and secretly or dealing with the problems of celebrity status). The enemies of the Doctor show the fears of technology taking over and removing from us our vestiges of humanity, even as we are dependent on technology to increase our capabilities (even the Doctor faces this dependency when it comes to the Tardis or his sonic screwdriver). Also, technology has its limitations (like the sonic screwdriver’s inability to deal with wood), and every possible decision that can be made has limitations as well as consequences. Dr. Who does not duck moral dilemmas, but shows its characters as flesh and blood beings who die, choose to stop traveling at some point and settle down roots, and seek the opportunity to regenerate when their time is over. In that sense, they are no different than the rest of us, even if their life is far more full of drama and incident than most of our lives. And to think, all of this was originally designed for children. Just don’t blink.

[1] See, for example:

[2] This can be a problem for mere mortals like me:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Dr. Who

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