“Doctor Who” is a television program about a human-looking alien that travels through time and space in a blue police box. It sounds crazy and bizarre, and, to a certain extent, the show is. However, it is also one of the most beloved television shows in the United Kingdom and has been since its start in the 1960s. Now it is finally catching fire in the United States as the series six premiere broke BBC America records with 1.3 million viewers.
So what is it about a time traveling alien that makes the show so popular across the pond? As Craig Ferguson described in a song on his program, “It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” The show centers around a character called the Doctor, the last of the Time Lord race, who fights evil without truly fighting. He often gives the “bad guys” a chance to stop their evil-doings before he ends their schemes with his mind instead of his fists. It sounds sappy – and it would be – if it were not so well written. There are plots that keep the audience on the edge of their seats and, above all, characters people fall in love with. The Doctor rarely travels alone and the dynamic between the Doctor and his female companions is often the focus of the program. While the show is categorized as science fiction, it is not a cold, unfeeling science fiction; in fact, it is full of drama and comedy as well. Most of the time, sci-fi takes the back burner to plotlines about relationships.
These relationships and the complexity of the Doctor’s character is what have kept people watching since the 1960s. Many different actors have played the Doctor, but unlike James Bond, it is part of the story rather than just actor availability. When the Doctor is about to die, he regenerates as a way of cheating death, but ends up with a whole new body. He is the same person, but he looks different. Regeneration is one of the aspects of the show that keeps something with so many seasons interesting. Different actors, and writers, portray the Doctor in new ways, highlighting various quirks of his personality. At this point in the show, he is over 900 years old with many facets of his character still left to explore.
Currently, the series is on its 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, who made his debut last year with season five. While there are over 30 seasons of the program, it disappeared for a while in the 90s, so the numbering of the seasons restarted with the return of the series in 2005. Steven Moffat, who wrote some single episodes in past seasons, took over as the head writer for the fifth season, creating what some people call a “scarier” era of “Doctor Who.” Moffat has a way of amplifying our smaller fears, such as being afraid of the dark, through his monsters and aliens. He creates intricate plots that cause the audience to both love him for his ingenuity but hate him for toying with their emotions. Moffat considers himself the biggest “Doctor Who” fan in the world, having watched and loved the show as a child. He definitely knows what fans want from the show, but he also knows how to drive them insane. This season will be split in two with a huge cliffhanger before a summer break that will leave fans speculating for months.
Anyone who is the least bit intrigued should get his or her hands on some episodes immediately. The show cannot be described well enough in words; it needs to be watched for anyone to understand why it is so loved. Do not let the factor of over 40 years of episodes be daunting. Starting with the 21st century episodes is enough to understand the current season. A quick Internet search will easily get you up to speed on which episodes are must-sees before you jump into season six.