Back in August, Mashable announced that the British sci-fi classic “Doctor Who” had finally “won over America” almost 50 years after the TV series originally began. While I suppose I ought to be glad that you chaps have finally caught on to one of the jewels in British TV’s slightly tarnished crown, I’m a little concerned. You see, having witnessed the whole My Little Pony “brony” trend, I’d really like you to like Doctor Who for the right reasons. Or, failing that, to at least be able to fake it in polite conversation. So here are five things you really ought to know about the Brits’ favorite Timelord show.
1. The gentle anachronisms are part of the appeal. Take the Tardis, Doctor Who’s sentient time-travelling spaceship. Feel free to drop into conversation that it is based on the police signal box, a commonplace sight when the series launched in the ‘60s, as the police had no phones or radios (imagine that, small children!). I love the thought of an earnest copper stepping out from the chase to call for backup from a small, blue phonebox.
2. Even we Brits realize that the special effects are still not very good. Admittedly the FX are an awful lot better than they were in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In fact, this is a big-budget production from the BBC’s point of view. But it’s all still, well, a little bit cardboardy. And we quite like it that way.
3. “Doctor Who” is extremely scary when you’re five. The show has always owed a lot of its popularity in the UK to its classification as “family viewing” and a corresponding early evening time slot. Cross-generational appeal is a difficult trick to pull off (as evidenced by my seven-year-old’s “Top Chef”-gained knowledge of foaming and sous vide). In Britain, my kids would be watching “Doctor Who” and liking it. Even if it’s from behind the sofa with their fingers in their ears.
4. We do realize the Daleks aren’t very compelling baddies. The Doctor’s best-known extra-terrestrial enemy resembles a human-sized salt-shaker holding a sink plunger with which he threatens to “exterminate” you. This threat is somewhat undermined by the Daleks’ general lack of mobility, leading to the old joke that all you have to do to escape a Dalek is to find a set of stairs. (Although in the series’ post-2005 incarnation they did develop flight – phew). Still, not that scary, unless you are five (see point above).
5. So, what’s in it for the adults given that we’ve just established Doctor Who’s credentials as a non-scary throwback with bad FX and rubbish villains? At the end of the day, it all comes down to the appeal of The Doctor himself. He is just one heck of a cool dude. But not in a Fonz kind of way; more like a Steve Jobs kind of way. More like the way we ourselves would be cool dudes if we were time-travelling, human-like aliens from Gallifrey. If only.