I would sell my soul to come up with an idea like Doctor Who.
Yes, I would take an eternity in damnation, away from loved ones, baking in flames, to create a character like the man with the Sonic Screwdriver. And as I roasted, I would smile. Oh, how I would smile if that was on my resume
To think only three-months ago, I could not tell you the difference between a TARDIS and a Dalek (a TARDIS is bigger on the inside and a Dalek has a weird slimy octopus-like monster in it that likes to “ex-term-in-ate”). As a science-fiction geek, Doctor Who was already in the background for me. I knew who he was, had the basic gist of what it was about, but I never really considered giving it the time of day. I had enough sci-fi geek stuff with Tolkien, Star Trek, Joss Whedon, DC Comics, Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica (the new one, not the old one), Red Dwarf, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars, thank you very much. My cup was full, please try peddling your fantasy wares and monster costumes with zippers elsewhere.
I can even say I tried one or two episodes a few years ago. I am a fan of the TV writing of Steven Moffat (Coupling is hilarious and I love Sherlock) and when I heard he took over the running of the show (and it was one of his favorites), I decided to give it a shot; but I stopped after the episode of Daleks in WWII and when they emerged in different colors and bigger. I just didn’t understand the threat. They looked (dare I type it) silly… and in different colors? So what? They are white and red now? Whatever.
Oh how naive I was then…
To Begin With..
I needed a way to fall asleep.
About three months ago, I was busy on this blog, creating a new novel on it and I was working on the editing of A Jane Austen Daydream (which is out now in paperback and eBook). Then when you add in jobs, little kids and life in general… Well, turning my brain off at night was not always the easy thing to do. Most nights, I would lay in my bed, my mind working on what I had to do the next day, creating my schedule (which I would probably forget in the morning while making the kids’ lunches for the day).
Frankly, I needed something to turn my brain off and give me a good night’s sleep. One of my favorite couples brought up the show to me again, arguing (which I believe was the third time that they did it) that I should give it a chance. It was on Netflix (which I had on my iPhone) so with a simple “What the Hell” I began. I started with the very first episode of the new series; there was Rose being chased by mannequins, a little fun… and then…
It was after the episode “The Unquiet Dead” when the Doctor visited with an old Charles Dickens that it was done for me. Come on! It was a ghost adventure staring Charles Dickens! I would have kissed the show for that.
And over only a few months I experienced what all of his other fans did over the course of seven years. Time was on fast forward (like being on a TARDIS). I was jumping from magical dream to dream.
- I freaked out over the little kid with the mask asking “Are You My Mommie?”
- I laughed at the episode “Love & Monsters.”
- I was terrified of the Weeping Angels (still am).
- I attempted to wrap my brain around the genius that is the storyline (and planning) around River Song (still do, actually).
- I cried when David Tennant left the show (And wasn’t Donna awesome in that season?).
- And I finally understood the evil that are the Daleeks.
So a show that was supposed to help me sleep was doing the opposite. As my wife would sleep next to me (with the occasional snore), I would be watching one to maybe two episodes a night. It became almost my favorite time of the day, when the rest of my world was asleep and safe, and I could run away in the TARDIS for another adventure with the Doctor.
Yes, I am now as hooked as a child on sugar, and I want my own Sonic Screwdriver… now!
The Possibilities Are Endless
When I am inspired by an idea or a story, I don’t just enjoy it, I devour it. I want to immerse myself in it. It’s like a mechanic with a car, I want to get in and see how it works, know every bit and screw in it. And that was me with the Doctor (which is what everyone calls Doctor Who for those that don’t know the show… Oh, and why the “Who” we don’t know yet; it’s a series 7 thing).
The thing that overwhelms me and inspires me the most about this show is that anything can happen. It is a show with no limits. Yes, there are some rules that must be followed, but some of the best episodes have been when even those standbys have been broken (An episode almost entirely without the Doctor is one of the best ever- “Blink.”).
Let me give you a recent example of how this show can do anything.
There is an episode in series 7 called “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” Yes, dinosaurs… on a spaceship. Wait, that’s not all! It is a show that also has in it Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, two bumbling robots, and a father/son bonding storyline. AND in the world of Doctor Who it all makes sense.
Yes, it makes complete sense.
In Doctor Who, you are only limited by your imagination. Everything can be explained. You want a fight against the devil? Sure, why not! You want sharks flying in the air as part of a variation on A Christmas Carol? Wonderful, sign me up. You want to write an episode called “Let’s Kill Hitler!” and fill it with little people hiding in a robot person in Nazi Germany? Perfect.
As a writer who worships the world of the imagination, I am completely floored. Not only do I want to watch more, learn more about the show (and how such a creative idea came to be), I want to write for it. I don’t typically say this around television, but I would love to write an episode of this (And Steven Moffat I have some ideas if you want to contact me).
Do I need to talk about hell and flames again?
The Genius of the Character
As wonderful as the openness of the plots are, it would not work if the Doctor was not there to hold it together. And what is magnificent about the character is that the writers go to so much trouble not to tell you too much.
Yes, we know he is a thousand years old, but how much do we know about his past, his previous life. Did he have kids? A wife? What was his role exactly with the Time Lords? He had a falling out with them, we know that happened during the war, but there are still a lot of questions there.
Here is what we do know as fact: He is the last of the Time Lords, an alien-race wiped out in a war with the Daleks. He is traveling through space and time in a ship called the TARDIS. It looks to us like a Policeman Box because the control that changes its look is broken (the Doctor has never bothered to fix it), and he loves the inquisitiveness of the human race. He finds us fascinating. So he likes to have one lucky soul travel with him, while he acts like an adventurous tour guide.
Beyond his knack for finding adventure there is a lot about this character I adore. He wants to help, he has a wonderfully inquisitive mind. He doesn’t see beauty like we do; there is beauty everywhere for him, even in the grossest creature (For example, when confronted by a minotaur that was scaring people to death he thought it was beautiful). More importantly, when confronted by a monster, he will do his best to understand and possibly save them first. Oh, if we could all be like that with things that terrify us or disgust us here on this planet! And, he never, ever uses a gun.
Over the holiday season a friend of mine actually said to a pastor (this is true, I was there), “When I imagine Jesus, I like to think he is like the Doctor.”
The Never-Ending Story
Let me get this out of the way. I wrote a novel a few years ago called My Problem With Doors. It was based on a nightmare I had around time travel, for I thought then the idea of traveling through time (with no family, no roots) was a terrifying ordeal.
For the Doctor though, it is not terrifying, it is exciting, making the show for me almost the antithesis to my own book. In the Doctor’s hands my novel feels like a weak reaction to my dream. Jacob should be enjoying his journey. Who else gets to experience all of time? That would be the Doctor’s argument
(That’s not to say I regret my book; no, it’s awesome [it has pirates, gladiators and ninjas, come on!], so let’s move on.)
Doctor Who is constructed in a way to be a show that never ends. Even when an actor wants to leave the show the Doctor simply “regenerates” into that new actor. Tada! We then begin fresh again. It is a show that has been on the air in some way or another for 50 years; and can continue to be on the air for my kids and my future grandkids (assuming the writers that come on after Steven Moffat don’t make some serious mistakes).
Last Christmas, I got Blu ray boxsets of series 5 and 6 (which I plan to re-watch) and even a Doctor Who cookie Jar (the TARDIS goes off each time you take a snack!). Yes, the Doctor has exited the television and has become a part of my life, from the wallpaper on my computer to the audiobooks on my iPod. All in a matter of three months.
And, now when I look at the stars at night, I can’t help but wonder where the good Doctor is, who he is saving right now. Yes, I must admit, the universe would be a little darker and emptier if the Doctor wasn’t out there somewhere.
If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, my new books A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!… Oh, and Steven Moffat you can leave a comment below if you want me to call with episode ideas (please).
Hi Scott! I’m a huge Doctor Who fan and loved your post. I live about two miles from Cardiff where Doctor Who is filmed in the BBC studios and on location in and around Cardiff. Last year my son (he’s also a fan of the show) went to the Doctor Who Experience. I put a post on my blog and here’s a link:
That is… wow.
Thanks for reading!
Responses like this is one of the reasons I love the internet.
Great post! I remember my first experience with Doctor Who. My dad was watching the Weeping Angels episode. I walked past him to go to the kitchen. When I saw a particularly scary and enthralling section, I stopped midstep to watch. Suddenly, without realizing it, I had forgotten all about eating and ended up watching the episode with my dad. It was an amazing bonding experience, one I don’t get that often.
I really need to start watching the episodes again. It also helps that I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, who has written two episodes for Doctor Who.
Thanks! I’m glad you liked the post.
The fact that Moffat asked a writer outside TV to come on to write an episode like that gives me a sliver of hope that someday I might get a chance… Of course, I’m not as cool as Neil Gaiman (I can’t wait to see what he does with Cybermen!).
See? I knew I liked you.
My 3 year old’s favorite pillow is a TARDIS. More than a few shirts in my wardrobe involve the good Doctor. And I was completely agreeing with your bullets there. 🙂
I have grand plans of building a TARDIS cat tower for my two kitties. And I just might have to do some Whovian cosplay this year at MegaCon.
That is all awesome. I’m still deciding when my 5-year gets to see it. So far he has only seen “Dinosaurs on a spaceship” Because it was dinosaurs… on a spaceship!
If you enjoyed Coupling, check out another Moffat masterpiece, Joking Apart.
I will! I never heard of that one.
If you enjoyed Coupling, check out an earlier Moffat masterpiece, Joking Apart.
Doctor Who was a creative education for me when I was a kid. I’m talking the 1970s here, BTW – in case you think you’re conversing with an infant or a victim of a time accident.
In the 1970s, it was set on Earth and it would make mystery, suspense and horror out of anything possible. Then there were its central tenets – a box that was bigger inside than outside and could travel in time, a man who was possibly 700 years old (as he was then). These encouraged an imaginatively inclined child to question absolutely everything about the world and how it could make new stories.
One of my most precious possessions was a book called The Making of Doctor Who by Malcolm Hulke. In it I discovered the history of the show, the actors who had played the part before the present incumbent – and the totally brilliant idea of regeneration. Yes, this show cared that there was a story explanation for the fact that they had a new actor – unusual even now.
Over the years, I’ve followed Doctors of all shapes and sizes, seen various reboots. Some of the Moffat stories are very fine indeed – real challenges to all of us to write better stories. Doctor Who is part of my creative DNA – without it, I’m sure my imagination would be a much smaller place.
Incidentally, you might like this homage post I wrote last May after a Doctor Who DVD indulgence … http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/doctor-who-and-the-infinite-possibilities-how-original-ideas-take-time/
Cool! I’ll check it out.
Dr Who is awesome. I used to watch it with my dad back in the 80s and loved it for that. When the new series started up a few years back, we’d ring each other about episodes. Now my dad is gone and I still reach for the phone when watching.
Cried when David Tennant left, not happy about losing Amy, think of myself like Donna’s grandpa Wilfred when I look up at the stars, and CANNOT watch a weeping angels episode without my hands over my eyes!
Can’t wait for the next season to start and for an episode by Scott D. Southard!
Thank you for reading. What a beautiful response!
Oh, and the last line was fun! LOL.
I’d have to say this is the most informative thing I’ve read on what exactly is at the core of the Doctor Who phenomenon. I’d seen scattered episodes of the original series, but nothing of the recent stuff.
So thanks for the enlightenment on what all the fuss is about!
That’s me. Educating people, person by person, on the glory that is Doctor Who… LOL. Seriously, a great and imaginative show. I love it. Check it out. Cheers!
Love Dr. Who. Love. It. Got a scarf in proper TARDIS blue for Christmas two years ago, and gave my husband a flask in proper TARDIS blue in return. Glad you’ve joined the Who-verse!
That is awesome. Someone at my son’s school had a TARDIS lunchbox, almost debated it even though I haven used a lunchbox since I was a kid.
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Welcome aboard kid, me on the other hand; I have been watching it since the very first episode in November 1963, I was seven and it was terrifying and it was great and I still love it today
Thanks! I haven’t done the old school shows yet, gotta check them out.
You should definitely check out the classic series. They are really good and you learn more about the Doctor’s past but Netflix only has the specials.
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Was at Pizza Hut the other night and the waitress had a Matt Smith pin on her uniform shirt. I struck up a conversation and she blossomed, telling me before I left, “It’s so nice to meet a fellow Whoovian!” (I never thought of myself that way before!!!! LOVE it!!!)
That is great!
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Really happy with the new casting of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. Great choice. This post was about why I became a fan of the show last year… Enjoy. Allons-y!
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I was right there with you watching Rose and the Doctor being chased by mannequins. Every time the Doctor says “Run!” I’m right back there again. I like a lot of different flavors of TV, but the Doctor is a special part of my life. Thanks for the wonderful article.
Thanks! Glad you liked it!
I’m still figuring out how I feel about the new doctor. Something seems off, there doesn’t seem to be the hint of joy in adventure in his eye that the others had (especially Matt’s Doc). The spark that makes the Doctor. Hopefully, in time things will fall into place, but so far it is surprisingly disappointing.
I’m betting the kinks will work themselves out. I always have to be dragged kicking and screaming to a new Doctor, but so far I’ve always been glad I did.