Why the World Needs the Doctor

“When they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And they didn’t give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts.

And that’s an extraordinary thing; there will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”

– Steven Moffat

As I’m writing these words, we’re about a week into 2014 and almost two months into Doctor Who’s 50th year. 50 years is quite an accomplishment for any institution, let alone for a sci-fi television show about a time-and-space-travelling mad man in a blue police call-box! However, my aim isn’t necessarily to celebrate that achievement. I feel as if we’ve already accomplished that, and continue to do so with our coverage of Doctor Who news throughout this 50th anniversary year. No, I want to look a little closer at the reason Doctor Who has had the staying power (minus the brief wilderness years…) it has enjoyed over the past five decades; and I believe that reason is hope.

You see, this world needs the Doctor. This world, which is still pretty wonderful, always stands just on the precipice of calamity and tragedy. Not convinced? Look at the unrest in the Middle East… fairly close to a “never ending, bitter war,” minus Daleks and Cybermen, of course. Or perhaps the frequent school shootings in America; children killing children because they’ve entered a state where they believe no one cares about them or that they’re led to believe that being different is somehow wrong. A good portion of this world has lost its hope.

Am I suggesting that Doctor Who is the answer to world peace? No, not quite. However, I am suggesting that much like the Doctor does in individual lives on the television, Doctor Who can be an agent for change and for bringing hope back to our world. Perhaps the show has never intentionally set out to have a social agenda (leave that for Torchwood ala Children of Earth and Miracle Day), but it has never intentionally shied away from tough questions and concepts that can be applied to the real world either. Always facing impossible choices and always being brave enough to find the way to do the right thing, even at great costs to himself. That is a trait that would be well served if passed on to those who watch the program.

Yes, this world needs the Doctor because this world will always need hope. Who better to give it to us than “the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes, the dreamer of improbable dreams.” The Doctor, and by extension the writers of the show, always give us something to take away each episode: whether it is a character lesson or reassurance that it’s okay to be “good weird.” I firmly believe that watching Doctor Who enables the viewer the opportunity to engage in hope weekly. And the Doctor is a hell of a great example for our children to watch and learn from! I was completely stunned, as I sat in a packed theater here in the states on November 25th to see The Day of the Doctor, at the number of children who were there to take in the 50th anniversary special. I have a feeling that American culture could benefit from its children watching the Doctor instead of the other mindless slop that passes for children’s entertainment these days (or the unattended viewing of adult programming by children, for that matter).

So, why has Doctor Who endured for over 50 years? Hope. The Doctor was designed as a hero who always brings hope. And at the risk of being a pessimist, we’ve never needed hope in our world more than we need it now. Long live the Doctor and may he always bring hope wherever the TARDIS lands, be it on Gailifrey or our television screens!

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  1. TimeChaser says:

    A very moving and true statement. One reason I still love Doctor Who is how the Doctor is portrayed. He survives and saves people by using his knowledge and a multi-tool. He does things by his own rules rather than working within an authority structure, like Star Trek, Stargate, and other series. He’s not interested in bedding all the women, he’s captivated by the wonder of the universe.

    If there is one man we should all strive to be more like, its the Doctor.

  2. TonyS says:

    Last year was the Doctor’s 50th year. We are in his 51st. Apart from that very good article 🙂 Spot on.

    • mrjohnm says:

      TonyS, I thought the same thing when I first read the article, but then I started thinking that the anniversary wasn’t until Nov. 23rd and the writer assumes the anniversary year starts on that date. If this means we still have a year of celebrations to enjoy, so be it!

  3. Christine says:

    Just watch ‘Turn Left’ again and you just can’t but confirm this statement! Yes, we need hem allright!

  4. thisisadam says:

    The Anniversary year was last year, hence all the celebrations that took place. This is obvious.

  5. Steve C says:

    Bit of a silly mistake to make, the BBC celebrated the 50th anniversary in the run up to, in other words during Doctor Who’s 50 year. Whereas your TARDIS has a problem with its helmic regulator if you think anyone will be considering this year, it’s 51st as the anniversary year.
    Perhaps in america they do the birthday thing arse about face but not here in the UK.
    The Olympic year is the year in which the games are held, not the one after, same thing applies. Doh!

    • Nick Kitchen says:

      It’s not really a mistake or the point of the article. I hope that wasn’t the only thing you took from it…

  6. TonyS says:

    The BBC and fandom celebrated the longevity of “Doctor Who” in a manner of ways, culminating in a Special shown on 23rd November 2013: 50 years after the first transmission of “An Unearthly Child”. In other words: on the 50th Anniversary of the start of the programme. In the same way that I celebrated my 50th birthday on the date I was born 50 years previously. The programme (and I) then commenced our 51st years. That is the way it is done. No mistake by the BBC over timing.

    Is debate over whether it is 50th or 51st really the best we can come up with? (Ending with a preposition: how shocking!)

  7. hyncharas says:

    It’s a noble sentiment and I understand where you’re coming from… but at the end of the day, many people will read it and reply “The Doctor’s not real – he’s a fictional character”.

    I’m not trying to diminish your intentions, though much of society believes that fiction has no bearing on the attitudes of reality, no matter how forthright it is. Many of us here, including myself, agree there are qualities in The Doctor that the rest of the world could learn from; the problem is getting enough people to recognise them is no easy task.

    • Nick Kitchen says:

      You make a good point, but I would argue that society is much more susceptible to influences from pop culture. Pop culture almost always draws from fiction, be it TV, movies, or literature. From an American perspective, it seems that it is only necessary for any given intellectual property to gain enough traction to stay in public consciousness. You can see the effect that Star Wars and other properties like the Hunger Games has had on current culture, and you can deduce the impact that Doctor Who could have if it hit mainstream culture.

    • Philip Bates says:

      I know what you mean, but more fool the ones who do simply pass it off as ‘he’s a fictional character.’ Frankly, those people annoy the heck out of me. I think they miss the point of fiction.

  8. Nick Kitchen says:

    Thank you all for reading and conversing about my feature. To address the 50th year issue, mrjohnm hit on the head. From my perspective, the 50th year started on the 50th anniversary date. Granted, a perspective is an opinion and we’re all entitled to one. Whether the 50th was celebrated leading up to the 23rd of November or after is hardly important or the point of the feature. I just hope those who saw and made comment regarding the 50th took away more from the article than just that, because it was just a minor passing comment.

    • TonyS says:

      Agreed, Nick. And I do regret my first post now. The point is the way that fans and others have celebrated the 50th anniversary- not the way we count to or from it. On the plus side, this did generate a lot of comment, which is no bad thing when it was so positive.

    • Philip Bates says:

      I did see it, but figured your POV. And I think that’s fair enough. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant article, mate!

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