I’m 44. I’m old. I know I’m old because I can remember watching The Green Death the first time around! So I’m obviously just about knocking on ready for my first regeneration. I’m hoping to become a blond next time, because they have more fun, right? Or anyone with hair would do, really.
The thing is, being old and liking Doctor Who is considered nerdy. How nerdy I actually am was brought home to me last year, when I had occasion to go watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory sitcom being taped in Los Angeles. It was the episode where Leonard and the gang decide to build an iPhone app – those who are fans will remember it.
Half way through the taping, they asked the audience to come down to the front and explain what Big Bang Theory meant to them – of course I was front and center and was telling them how, as an app developer myself, I knew lots of Sheldons and Leonards. Then I happened to mention that, although they’d gotten lots of the lingo for today’s episode right, they’d actually gotten some bits wrong. Much to the chagrin of the people I was with, you could have heard a pin drop when I announced this, since they are at pains to ensure that the science and technology they use is 100% correct, and there I was, pointing out stuff they’d gotten wrong. Whoops. Nerd alert.
Anyway, after embarrassing the hell out of the people I was with, it really brought home to me how nerdy and geeky I can be. After all, liking Doctor Who (at least the way I do – my license plate reads “TimeLrd”. My wife LOVES driving my car, in that way all wives who have sci-fi fan husbands do.), can be classed as super nerdy, right? We’ve all had those embarrassing moments of admitting we like this show and want to watch it, and seen the raised eyebrows and bemused glances of those we are talking to, yes? Even with the resurgence of Doctor Who in the last few years, and how it’s now questionably (by some people) “cool” to be into it, you still get those looks, right? Imagine what those looks would like from people *before* Doctor Who made its triumphant return in 2006 (always assuming the person you were talking to even had a clue what Doctor Who actually was) when we were still talking about a show where the walls wobbled when someone closed the door hard.
I used to be slightly embarrassed when someone asked me what my home made sonic screwdriver was.
But then something happened, and all that embarrassment stopped.
I took stock of my life, and made the conscious choice that I was going to stop being embarrassed because, upon reflection, I didn’t have anything to be embarrassed about. A lot of the time, I was embarrassed because I, – or more critically, the person I was with-, thought I should be. But now I’ve actually looked at what Doctor Who and shows of its ilk have done for me, I am very much of the opinion that I have nothing to apologize for, and everything to be pleased about.
I’m the last of 6 children. My parents loved me but by the time they got to me, they were tired. They just gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted and while at the time, this freedom was great, it also wasn’t particularly great in terms of role models to look up to, or the kind of involvement that helps shape a young minds thinking.
Enter Doctor Who – my favorite show in the world right from the moment I saw that massive maggots lolling around in The Green Death. When I first met the Daleks, well…that was it. They had me at “EXTERMIN…”.
Given the lack of direct parental guidance in my case, I brought myself up, learning my moral code and ethics from TV shows, like Doctor Who, Star Trek and so called “Shiny books”, as my wife puts them (Note – to explain that, I remember the very first time I ever saw the Forbidden Planet’s basement – where all the books are. It’s like a treasure trove of books with shiny and lurid covers. My wife now refers to all science fiction books as “Shiny Cover books”. It’s not hard to see why.). And you know what? Now I look back on it, I think that kind of upbringing is actually pretty cool. Doctor Who and its siblings are rife with morality plays to learn from – the Doctor is a Hero, who actually questions the right to do some of the things he does, agonizes about them, always tries not to kill people and actually has to deal with the implications of some of his meddling – superbly brought out in the last year of specials with David Tennant.
He’s a hero who asks questions before shooting and there are few and far of those these days. He accepts unquestioningly and never makes remarks about a character being gay or a different color. Or species even – the man flirts with a tree for goodness sake! Can you imagine what the religious right would make of that (“Well, obviously, if it’s a female tree, then it’s fine… but a man and a male tree? That’s against God’s law, that is.”)?
With this kind of example, I grew up into what I consider to be a relatively decent human being** – I don’t lie, I don’t steal, I don’t cheat and I (try and) look for the best in people. I have hope for the future and truly believe the human race is capable of some pretty great and amazing things. And it’s directly from the roles models of people like the Doctor that I haven’t gone off the rails.
When I look at what’s on TV there days as potential role models – the rise of rubber necking train wreck reality TV, like Jersey Shore or Desperate Housewives, I find that morally authentic heroes like the Doctor are even more important to those people who need someone to identify with. When you look at some of those who are held up as role models these days, like Footballers (Really? These are people who can kick a ball around a patch of grass with 21 other people really well, and we expect them to be morally upstanding? How, exactly, are the two skills related?) , movie stars (yes, Charlie Sheen’s behavior is clearly to be emulated, so we can all Win.) or weirdo pop stars (Lady Gaga. Nuff Said), someone with a clear “Live and Let Live” attitude is suddenly elevated in priority for us to be exposed to.
This year, at the LA Doctor Who convention, Gallifrey, I was stuck by how nice all the fans are. Everyone was polite (with exception of a few cosplayers, who were most put out that, after they spent all that time building a costume, that people might actually want to take a picture of them. ), open minded, gregarious and just generally really easy to get along with. Is that coincidence? Football fans certainly aren’t that way.
Obsession with Doctor Who has never made people resort to violence or bred the desire for blood, with the notable exception of the need for John Nathan-Turner’s blood when he brought in Bonnie Langford, obviously.
The fact is, I’m tired of being made to feel a bit less than everyone else because I like a show that has a strong moral backbone, is watchable by the entire family, but happens to deal with some outlandish ideas like Time Travel and the concept that Bow Ties are cool.
We need more of this kind of thing and a bit less of the condescension towards those people who enjoy it.
Anyway. Be proud. The Doctor is a hero, and as such is to be emulated and you hereby now have permission to be slightly embarrassed on the behalf of anyone who either doesn’t know or doesn’t recognize that. Be careful with the condescension though. Oh, alright, just a bit. But don’t over do it.
**My wife reserves the right to disagree with this sentiment. It is, I am informed, her “right”.