In a society where teens having existential crises is the norm, everyone is looking to determine the meaning of existence. While many teens are cynical and angry at the world for the cruelty and hateful acts directed at other humans, animals, the environment, and virtually any other living thing, there is one British Sci-Fi show that clearly displays this aggression, and counteracts it with a character who brings hope to humanity, and a reason for the existence of each and every human life. Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction television show in the world, and for good reason. For decades, people have found comfort in the optimistic view of the “mad man in the blue box.” Being a part of the Doctor Who fandom offers a place where even the smallest of human lives is validated.
Doctor Who features an alien from the lost planet Gallifrey called “the Doctor,” who travels through space and time in his time machine, shaped as a blue police box, called the TARDIS (standing for Time And Relative Dimension In Space). Aliens from Gallifrey are called “Time Lords” because of their ability to travel effortlessly through time and space. His race is essentially a race of time travelers. In a war that takes place before the show begins, Gallifrey and every other Time Lord is destroyed, leaving the Doctor alone. Being Gallifreyan, he is able to regenerate into a new body when he dies, which is how the show has had such long lasting success.
To aid him in his loneliness, the Doctor picks up companions, who accompany him in his travels. In these travels, the Doctor and his companions save the world from alien attacks, and the show cleverly places these attacks with real historical events, such as the crashing of the Titanic and the volcanic explosion at Pompeii. Winston Churchill is a prominent character in many episodes.
One companion, Amy Pond, describes the Doctor perfectly when she says,
“He comes from somewhere else. He’s got a box called the TARDIS that’s bigger on the inside and can travel anywhere in time and space.”
No show would be complete without its fair share of villains for the protagonist to defeat, and Doctor Who is no exception. The Doctor and his companions go up against a number of villains, the most popular and frequently occurring being the Daleks. Daleks are cyborgs who are essentially impossible to kill, and fear no one but the Doctor. They are extremely powerful, aiming to “exterminate” everyone and everything that gets in their way of finding the Doctor.
Another frequently reoccurring species of villain are the Cybermen, who are “cybernetically augmented humanoids,” that are created from humans who have been genetically rearranged to be completely emotionless. The existence of the Cybermen begins when humans adapt to the newest technology craze, which seems to be a critique on how our society views technology.
A third species of reoccurring villain is the Weeping Angels, who are a species of “quantum locked humanoids” who move closer to a person whenever he or she looks away (blinking counts!) until they are close enough to touch the person to send him or her to another time period.
There are over 120 villains described in Doctor Who, and they are all defeated or sent away by the Doctor, usually with the help of his companions, who are just ordinary people.
I think the companions are one of the most important aspects of the show. The companions are always human, and always normal, everyday people who have normal, everyday problems. Their presence in the show reaffirms the belief that everyone is important, and everyone has an impact on the world, which appeals to those teens (and adults, I suppose) who are looking for confirmation that their lives MATTER. The Doctor explicitly states that all people are important, which provides viewers, especially those who question the meaning of human existence, with a reason for that existence.
I am personally an active Tumblr user involved in the Doctor Who fandom. From what I have seen on personal blogs and Doctor Who fandom blogs, an important factor of the show is the highlight of the importance of every single human life. The Doctor is very clear in saying that even a normal, seemingly insignificant person can affect the future of millions of people. While in the show, the circumstances are based around alien attacks, the concept carries over into reality (although who am I to say the presence of aliens isn’t reality?).
“I love it [episode entitled Turn Left in Season 4] because it shows us exactly how important her role in the series truly is. This woman who thought she wasn’t worth the time of day, who felt like no one ever noticed her, who wore a brave face even though she was most likely hurting inside..
The most important woman in the whole of creation.
Despite what we may think about ourselves, or how some people look at us, to others, we may be the most important person they will ever meet.”
This post was made in response to the episode in which Donna is called “the most important woman in all of creation.” Throughout the entirety of Donna’s time on the show she consistently refers to herself as “JUST a temp from Chiswick.” Her eventual role on the show as “the most important woman” leaves viewers with the idea that even the most ordinary people can be extremely significant.
When Doctor Who first premiered in 1963, it was enjoyed by children and adults alike. The same can be said for the audience it holds today, as its viewership is spread out over the whole world between a variety of ages and people. While Doctor Who may be the only thing some of these people have in common, they are all a part of the same fandom, or “community that surrounds a TV show/movie/book etc.,” according to Urban Dictionary.
I have personally seen this fandom come alive on the internet, specifically on Tumblr and YouTube, where viewers from all around the world can congregate and discuss something they are passionate about. The fans surrounding Doctor Who are called “Whovians,” and the term is so used and recognized that it is in the Oxford English Dictionary. A Whovian is defined as “a fan of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who.”
Discussions resulting from the show bring people who only know each other online, and occur on all different types of social media accounts. Reddit user Okidoki_Sir asked other Reddit users reasons that they like Doctor Who. The comments were all positive, and contained viewers explaining that the show is so intriguing because “the show highlights the best of our humanity but also showcases our downfalls” through “The Man that makes people better.”
One viewer goes on to explain,
“Steven Moffatt [the director] said that when The Doctor Was created, they could have given him a gun, but they didn’t, they gave him a Screwdriver to fix things. They could have given him a fast car with bombs but they gave him a Police box that you could call for help. They could have made the doctor unmerciful, but instead they gave him two hearts. That’s why The Doctor is so special. That’s why I love it so much.”
Doctor Who constantly reaffirms the belief that all humans are significant somehow, which allows viewers to think about the importance of themselves. The fandom is always available to provide comfort for viewers who wish to talk about the show or how it has affected them. Whovians who participate in this type of online discussion often make friends, as I have done, with viewers of similar interests in the fandom.
Reddit user Misinglink15 says, “It’ll have fun cheesy moments, but then hit you with an emotional punch.” The show offers serious topics in an entertaining, sometimes comical, way, as exemplified by the picture on the left showing the screenshot of an episode.
The fandom provides a space for viewers who might be questioning themselves to connect with other people with the same questions. In conclusion, do the central themes of individual significance and hope in Doctor Who really have an impact on viewers? Does the togetherness of a fandom discussing these ideas help these ideas harvest and grow?