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(Doctor) Who Ya Gonna Call?

If you’ve already watched Doctor Who and didn’t like it I’m probably not going to win you over. I get it; it’s not for everyone! But if you’ve been avoiding new Doctor Who because the words “Doctor Who” conjure up memories of some guy on PBS in a long scarf and a weird hat, read on.

I was like you once. To be specific, I was like you up until October of 2015. Friends had tried to tell me that the new Doctor Who was different, and better! But I couldn’t get the half-glimpsed terrible 80’s BBC special effects out of my head. Through cultural osmosis I already knew that “Doctor Who” (as I then thought he was called) could be played by different actors, and had a time machine that looked like a blue phone booth.

A person decides to watch Doctor Who. In the next panel he is entirely bedecked with Doctor Who paraphenelia.

Pretty much exactly what happened to me.

Then in October of 2015 I decided to actually watch an episode of the new show. I decided this because Netflix’s synopsis of the very first episode basically said “Shop window dummies come to life, terrorize London” and I was in the right frame of mind to find that kind of thing extremely funny.

So I watched the first episode. And the second. And the third. The comic to the left basically describes me over the month of October.

Now, a year later, I’m wearing a polo shirt with the Tardis emblazoned on it. (I also have a dalek one). I have a collection of Doctor Who Lego figures, and a collection of Doctor Who Pop figurines. I have a sonic screwdriver. and I have a lot of new friends on Tumblr.

So, why? Why did a regular, everyday, Star-Wars-Liking nerd suddenly become a full-fledged “Whovian”? Here’s some of the main reasons.

The Doctor (that’s his name, inexplicably. It’s not “Doctor Who”, even though that would make sense.) is an optimist, and a gentle hearted hero. In the words of the man who currently runs the show:

…[W]hen they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun–they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter–they gave him a box from which you can call for help. And they didn’t give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat-ray–they gave him an extra HEART. They gave him two hearts! And that’s an extraordinary thing.
There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”
Steven Moffat

His usual first response on seeing a new, terrible alien that wants to kill him is “Oh, you…are…beautiful!” Granted that’s usually followed by “Run!”, but that’s beside the point. The entire show is built around the premise that humans are worth protecting, and that we last a long, long time. Millions of years,in fact. And we spread throughout the galaxy. The Doctor, himself hundreds (or thousands) of years old, thinks we are beautiful.

Also, the show is the perfect catharsis for adult fears. I know this sounds like a strange reason to like a TV show, and it is. I watched the last three episodes of Season Nine, holding my infant daughter in my arms and mostly crying like…well, like her. Some of that undoubtedly came from sleep deprivation, but most of it was from the last three Episodes of Season Nine. The Doctor is insanely powerful and inventive, can get out of just about anything, and has a habit of winning when others die. But occasionally even he suffers losses. If he can make it through situations like that then so can I.

Loss is ever-present in Doctor Who; the show is built on the premise that the Doctor himself “dies” every few seasons and is regenerated into a new Doctor. His beloved companions are all too mortal and leave him every few seasons as well. For all that he’s a happy-go-lucky alien, he carries those wounds, and goes on. Sometimes that’s exactly the kind of hero I need: one that keeps going.

Okay, back to happy reasons to like the show.

Douglas Adams wrote a few scripts for the show back in the long-scarf days. In fact, two of them (one unused, one un-aired) got mashed together to make Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You know how Professor Chronitis in that book seems to be immortal, but they never explain why? Well, now you know. He’s a Time Lord.

Douglas Adams’ DNA is deeply woven into Doctor Who. One of the Doctors casually mentions that Arthur Dent is a “lovely chap”. The Doctor sees a hooloovoo wandering around a planet. The Heart of Gold and the Tardis are essentially the same ship with different paint jobs. If you love Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll love modern Doctor Who. They share the quintessentially British ability to mix Sci-Fi and humor in a way no American show (other than maybe Futurama) has ever quite pulled off. I know I just said the show is cathartic and all about adult fears. It’s also hilarious and tremendously quotable.

Last, but not least, by no means least, is the fandom. By and large I avoid fandoms. I’m not sure why. But for the most part I never want to talk to someone about something we both like. This is not the case with Doctor Who. I will talk to anyone about Daleks vs. Cybermen. I will discuss the merits of the four modern doctors at length. I have spent hours scrolling through Tumblr, looking at what probably amounts to gigabytes of badly photoshopped Doctor Who memes, and loved every minute of it. (Here are some of the best ones. But they’re probably only funny if you’re already a fan of the show) By and large the whovians of the world seem to be silly, happy folk, and eminently welcoming.

So, if you haven’t yet, give it a shot. The entire series is on Amazon Prime these days, in the States at any rate. Come for the British guy fighting mannequins, stay for the pathos and humor. And know that when you go online looking for someone to talk to about what happened at the end of Season 2, you’ll be among friends.

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Nate Dickson lives in Utah and writes software for a living. When he can get a few moments away from work, school, and raising kids he writes things and plays board games with his wife. It's a good life.

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