As I write this we’re only 3 days away from the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who. A new season with a new Doctor and a new man in charge of production. Fanboy that I am I’ve been waiting for this impatiently since Christmas. So I thought this was an ideal time to look at what makes Doctor Who so special.
Longevity and Reach
There have been 30 seasons of Doctor Who over a period of 47 years (with the 31st season about to start). That makes it the longest running science fiction show in the world. And it is a world wide phenomenon. While it’s never achieved more than cult status here in the United States, the series is broadcast in over 40 countries around the world.
By accident or design the core concepts of the show allow almost endless reinvention. Of settings, plots and even the central character. This has allowed Doctor Who to revitalize itself and come back fresh for generation after generation. There’s really no other show that has the range Doctor Who has.
During its first run Doctor Who received very little critical recognition and even fewer awards. While it held a place in people’s hearts it was generally regarded as a kids show. However since it’s return it has won BAFTAs, National Television Awards, Hugos and the Saturn Awards.
As the style of the show changed so has people’s perception. It is now recognized as a family show and it’s become more acceptable to acknowledge enjoying it.
But What Makes It Special?
While all I’ve written is factually accurate, it completely fails to explain what actually makes Doctor Who special. And I think that’s because a dry list of statistics and facts just can’t convey the emotions that Doctor Who is so good at evoking. Who isn’t like any other science fiction show ever.
Its philosophy is radically different to US sci-fi. The Doctor is not exactly a pacifist but he doesn’t like violence and looks for other solutions, while most US shows are primarily military in their approach to the genre (Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica).
Nor does it have the pessimism and darkness which is a hallmark of British SF shows (Survivors, Blake’s 7, Doomwatch, Sapphire & Steel). On the contrary even in his most weary incarnation Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is capable of incredible joy and excitement. Something that probably stems from its roots as a children’s show.
Doctor Who is about adventure and excitement and aliens and monsters but above all else it’s about sheer unadulterated joie de vivre.
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