Year of the Doctor

The title of this piece is a slight misnomer. It should probably be “50 years of the Doctor”; however, for all intents and purposes it has indeed been the year of the Doctor.

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Last weekend, Whovians around the world gathered together to watch a very special episode of the BBC’s evergreen series Doctor Who. I myself had the very great pleasure of watching it at the cinema. The atmosphere was wonderful; there were fezzes and people in costumes everywhere, people were pointing their sonic screwdrivers into the air (likely by way of a salute) and my inner nerd was humming with joy. As the lights went down people were cheering, showing their excitement as Day of the Doctor started.

The episode opened with a shot of a policeman walking by a sign that said ”I.M. FOREMAN” – almost exactly the same shot as in the first episode of Doctor Who, 50 years ago. The action then switched to showing current companion to the Doctor – Clara Oswald – teaching at Coal Hill School. Two classic references within thirty seconds and that’s when I knew just how special this episode was going to be.

Doctor Who has had a massive cultural impact upon the whole world in its 50 years of life. People from all over the globe gather for conventions dedicated to the programme and talk endlessly about current plot theories, share memories of their favourite incarnations of the Doctor, and indeed dress up as their favourite Doctors and villains from the series. It’s practically a religion to some people. In point of fact, I know of a couple of people who put ”Time Lord” under Religion on the national census – but that’s a whole other story.

A small portion of the time, Doctor Who is written off as a kids show. I must say that I think that this is completely unfair. Whilst it is, of course, enjoyed by kids there is also a huge and dedicated adult fan base to the show because this a show that appeals to the kid in us all: the kid who wanted the possibility to explore the stars, or travel back in time, or save the day. It’s still all there, but we get a knack for suppressing these high flying dreams as we get older.

Perhaps as iconic as the Doctor himself are his enemies. If you say the word ”Exterminate” to any Whovian, this will immediately conjure up an image of perhaps the Doctor’s most well known enemy – the Daleks. Those dreaded mechanical aliens with a squishy, almost brain like alien contained within their metal cases. The Daleks also made an appearance in Day of the Doctor. Of course they would, you can’t celebrate 50 years of the Doctor without the Daleks. In some of the episode’s most spectacular sequences we saw a huge scale battle of the Daleks fighting Time Lords in the city of Arcadia on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey.

The Time War was a plot device that was introduced when the series was revived back in 2005 by Russell T. Davies. The Doctor’s home planet had been decimated by the Doctor himself, wiping out all of the Daleks and all of his people in one moment. This gave the newly revived Doctor a slightly darker edge: he had committed genocide against his own people to save the universe from descending into hell. This has played on his conscience since it was brought back and has been used as a plot device many times, perhaps most notably in David Tennant’s swansong ”The End of Time” where the Time Lord high council tried using the Doctor’s arch nemesis and fellow Time Lord the Master to bring themselves back to complete their ”Ultimate Sanction”.

Doctor Who is often referenced in contemporary programmes such as The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory and Futurama, making it clear that the show is universally known and loved by millions of people. But why would so many people latch onto a slightly kitsch British science fiction show? What is the appeal?

Well, as a Whovian, let me offer some perspective.

Ever since I was young, watching repeats and VHS videos of Doctor Who – yes, as far back as the good old VHS – the mysterious Time Lord known as the Doctor has always been a new kind of hero. He travels across time and space in his fantastical time machine, helping those who need it, taking along an ordinary person as his companion who is allowed to take part in all of his adventures alongside him. He battles with his brains, and abhors guns and violence. No problem seems to be insurmountable to him. He never fails to think of a solution to save the day, even if it is very last minute and makeshift.

To me, the Doctor has always been a representative of and a force for good. He represents everything that people can do right, if they put their minds to it. There was a line in Day of the Doctor that summed it up nicely. The Moment’s conscience, in the form of Rose Tyler said:

”You know that groaning, wheezing sound that the TARDIS makes? It brings hope to everyone that hears it.”

That, I feel, sums up the Doctor nicely. He brings hope to people; and, furthermore, he gives them an outlet for their creativity. They get to go dressed up as him to conventions, to write endless fanfiction about him, to go onto message boards and debate the meaning of something that was in an episode twenty years ago that could have some significance upon the new series.  I have read many a debate upon message boards and forums dedicated to Doctor Who, and the fans are, without a doubt, some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in the known universe.

This is what made The Day of the Doctor so special – the fans that came in droves to see it on the big screen. It’s not every day that you get to see Doctor Who at the cinema. With box office receipts totalling £1.7M in the UK box office alone, maybe the BBC will finally be getting around to making a Doctor Who film at last.

This year has been pretty good for Who fans. With the remains of series 7, the proms, the Mark Gatiss drama An Adventure in Space and Time which was a delightful look at the inception of Doctor Who, and lots of other little titbits and special things that were spread across the year, I have to say that I am a pretty happy fan all in all.

Of course, we also have a new Doctor starting duties on Christmas day. Peter Capaldi will be taking over from Matt Smith, which I personally feel was some inspired casting. Just how will the 11th Doctor (or is that 12th Doctor now?) meet his demise? From the looks of the promo, silence will indeed fall this Christmas.

But the future is looking bright for Doctor Who. The fan base appears to only be increasing, and I am sincerely hoping that we get another 50 years of adventures across space and time with everyone’s favourite Time Lord, from Gallifrey, in the constellation of Kasterborous.

Authored by Jonas Daniel Alexander

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