Why I am a Doctor Who fan
Posted by shannonclark on May 21, 2007
This is a bit personal.
In geek circles (here in the US) there are two main camps – Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans.
However there is a, much smaller, camp which I am in, Doctor Who fans. With the return of the series to television (and dvds) there are many new fans of Doctor Who, especially in the UK, though also here in the US due to broadcasts of the new series by the SCIFI channel and BBC America.
If you wonder why I am a fan, however, take a look at this incredibly complete guide to everything Doctor Who
Note in particular the links to the complete books (hundreds) and likewise the hundreds of episodes, comics, audio plays and more that make up the full universe of Doctor Who. I’ve personally seen almost every episode (that is still extant) and heard many (though not all) of the audio plays. I’ve read a bunch of the books – but by no means all (though my collection is in the hundred+ range).
Yes, the Star Wars universe has a bunch of books to go along with the 6 movies (and some animated series) plus a mmog. And sure, Star Trek has multiple series, a bunch of movies, and a large number of books, games etc.
But to my mind, Doctor Who is the more interesting series.
For one, it is a series that combines dozens of genres into one – historicals, space operas, somewhat present set science fiction tales. Sweeping stories arcs as well as tightly written individual stories. Lots of humor (heck, Douglas Adams wrote for the series) but plenty of serious stories as well.
And in the recent incarnation Doctor Who is also showing itself to be a very modern series. The companion at the moment is a black female (and her character is a doctor and very smart and capable). Throughout the current run of the series sexuality is also addressed in a much more modern and forthright manner than in either Star Wars or Star Trek (which pretty much ignore any possibilities other than a man with a woman). The Doctor has even had an onscreen man-to-man kiss (well in the doctor’s case “male Galafrayan”) and other characters have very clearly acknowledged other than male to female relationships (in one recent case asking “so do you have a girlfriend? a boyfriend?” of a man she has just met).
It bears noting that in the UK, Doctor Who is a prime-time, aimed at families and especially children show.
And the current spin-off from Doctor Who, Torchwood, which is aimed more directly at an adult audience primarily, deals with sexuality in an even more complex manner (every main character in the series over the course of the first season had some form of same sex encounter, and the main character Jack appears to be in a relationship with another of the male characters – though clearly also open to other relationships – and one episode was specifically about a past relationship the character had with the person whose name he has taken on).
Yes, such things may have happened in some fan fiction set in the other series, but for Doctor Who in the current run this is happening in the “official” canon.
And as a straight, male fan, I’m really happy to see it. I like that my favorite (old) show has returned, with better effects, and is not just repeating the past but looking to the present and the future. Incorporating great writing and taking on modern issues and a view of the future that feels current, not dated (as I find very much the case for Star Trek – and I think of Star Wars as more a fantasy of the past than science fiction of the future).
But what I also really appreciate about Doctor Who is that the underlying message, repeated many times, of the series is to never give up – to always keep trying. To engage with the world, to ask questions, to think of alternatives – even when given seemingly only one choice. And the Doctor Who universe is rarely black & white. There are consequences to actions. Main characters have died – not just ones in a given episode, but long running companions (Adric in the old series).
And in the new series clearly the people running it are fans. They have grown up with the series, are seeped in the lore and the past – in the large and growing universe of Doctor Who. The limitless possibilities of the format tied back together and echoed via reoccurring threads. This linear but not nature of Doctor Who is also one of my pleasures with it as a fan. The Doctor Who universe is growing not just in a single direction but in many, all at the same time. The novels and audio plays (and comics which I’m less familiar with) are exploring the activities of past doctors (played in the audio plays by the actors who played them on TV) while the new series is charting new territories on TV each week.
This is clearly tricky to pull off (and yes, there are debates amongst fans as to what is/is not cannon) but for the most part it is being pulled off – and amazingly well.