Today, I give the floor to Doctor Who author Simon A Forward. I confessed to him that I have never watched Doctor Who, and asked him to write a post about why I should.
Simon A. Forward
So you’ve never seen Doctor Who.
Maybe you’ve been living on another planet. Maybe you just don’t care for all that silly science fiction stuff. Maybe you’d heard it was just a kids’ show? Maybe you thought it was some boring medical drama dealing chiefly in amnesia. Whatever the case, what on earth could possibly tempt you into giving the show a whirl?
What’s it about?
Well, as a writer you should be able to encapsulate your story in a single sentence. Alas, I fear this might be challenging in the case of Doctor Who, what with it having been in existence for so long, with a long and rich (sometimes passably coherent) history behind it. Perhaps our best bet would be to start with that well-known acronym, TARDIS:
Time And Relatively Dangerous Improbable Situations.
Okay, it’s not the best of tag-lines, I’ll grant you, but if you happen to tune in for any random episode, the above is about all I can tell you in terms of what to expect. It’s the nature of the beast. It defies summing up or pigeon-holing. It’s the most varied, unpredictable creation on TV and the only thing you can be a hundred percent sure of is that its central hero, the Doctor, will – barring the occasional hiatus – be back. Like Bond or the Terminator. Except minus the misogyny and alcoholism or the tendency to pack big guns and drive into police stations.
To be fair, time travel is pretty much the limit of his common ground with the Terminator, but like James Bond he does love his gadgets and every so often he returns with a different face, so even if you don’t like the current one, just stick around – there’ll be another one along any year now. He also has a bevy of women falling in love with him, although that’s a fairly recent development and probably connected in some way to the fact that he’s growing progressively younger with each regeneration. Like Benjamin Button, I suppose, but in place of some clever CGI they have different actors play the role because, you know, it’s cheaper and, well, it’s complicated. All you really need to know is that he started out old and wrinkly and at his current rate of rejuvenation there will in all likelihood come a time when fancying him will be altogether too strange and probably illegal. So, if you’re the sort of viewer who likes a bit of eye candy in your dramatic leads, well, by all accounts you’ve missed the really handsome one but, even if incumbent Doctor, Matt Smith, can’t hold a candle to his predecessor, now is a good time to get on board.
On a similar note, hetero male viewers should also be aware that the Doctor never goes anywhere without a sexy female companion. Well, there were a few exceptions and if you want examples, just say the words Bonnie Langford to a Doctor Who fan. But our focus is on reasons to watch and the current companion is Amy Pond, played by the very lovely Karen Gillan (Google her). News is she’s going to be leaving soon (no, I’m not crying, honest, I just have something in my eye), so again now is the time to look in on the series.
And if you don’t like science fiction, don’t worry. Science doesn’t come anywhere near this show. Sure, the Doctor’s a bit of a technophile, but his gadgets are more of the sort you might knock together as part of some Blue Peter project, using washing-up-liquid bottles and sticky-back plastic. And his preferred ‘weapon’ is a special kind of magic wand which, owing to clever application of the term ‘sonic’, foxes us into the belief that actual physics is involved. And if you do like science fiction, well, you get to laugh at the wildly speculative nature of it all, superior in the knowledge that your adventure yarn would be better researched. Although it’s probably worth bearing in mind that the engineers who design rollercoasters probably have nowhere near as much fun as those who sit back and enjoy the ride.
Anyway, together the Doctor and companion(s) travel together on whirlwind adventures. Anywhere and everywhen. You never know from one week to the next whether they’ll be on an alien world, in some historical setting or in Cardiff. No other show offers that level of excitement.
What’s more, they do all this in the TARDIS.
Think about that. Even if you haven’t watched the show, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered that word. The series mythology has spilled over into the English language and ‘like a TARDIS’ is a valid simile for anything with a significantly roomy interior. Most other shows can only boast a ship of some kind. Star Trek goes and names its principal mode of transportation after another ship and, let’s face it, ‘Enterprise’ was already in the dictionary long before Gene Roddenberry had his vision. But Doctor Who makes up a word. Creative genius.
It’s a magical word at that. It could so easily have been BOITOTOSLABATAITAS (AMOEBA). Bigger On The Inside Than On The Outside Shaped Like A Box And Travels Anyhwhere In Time And Space (Although Mostly On Earth, Budgets Allowing). I guess sooner or later that could have been shortened to Boite and that wouldn’t have been so bad.
Because that, ultimately, is what Doctor Who is. A box. A Box Of Delights. And every time you dip into it – like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.
Simon A Forward is the author of several Doctor Who books and audio dramas as well as novelisations for the BBC’s Merlin series. He writes original works of SF and Fantasy for kids, YA and adult readers while also running his own Evil organisation.
Author website: www.simonforward.co.uk
Evil website: www.evilunltd.co.uk