Monday, July 2, 2012

The Creation of a New Whovian

Doctor Who has been a fixture in the SFF community for nearly half a century, with a fanbase that seems to grow daily as more people discover (or re-discover) the marvelous things waiting just outside the doors of the TARDIS. I had always had it on my to-do list to watch the revived series from start to finish, having only watched some scattered episodes, and with the advent of summer I finally found myself with enough leisure time to devote some of it to Doctor Who.

I half-jokingly asked my 13 year old brother if he would like to step away from his beloved, top-of-the-line computer for an hour or two to watch some British TV show he had only kind of heard of, and was surprised when he actually flopped down on the couch next to me. He knows his SciFi well enough, having played countless hours of Mass Effect, Half-Life 2, and tons of other games, but it’s all been limited to his own generation of SciFi, without much attention paid to anything that came before. I was a bit nervous about his reception of the show—he prizes dark and gritty storylines and flawless CGI above all else, and I knew that the Doctor wouldn’t deliver in those areas. I hoped the show’s other strengths would capture my brother’s imagination.

That was last week. We have now just finished the second season, and he is hopelessly wrapped up in the show. He’s even begun making jokes that only fans would get, and last night I felt a twinge of fear when a soft voice below my window asked, “Are you my mummy?” late at night. A little Doctor Who prank he played on me.

Since he went into the show without any preconceived ideas, I wanted to ask him about what surprises him most about it. He told me that he hadn’t expected the range of moods and emotions that the show goes through, as it can make him laugh and feel sad (since 13 year old boys rarely cry), perhaps with a bit of fear thrown into the emotional mix as well, all within a too-brief episode. I was surprised that he was perfectly fine with the campy and sometimes silly villains and various aliens, though he did have a few criticisms about CGI and the fact that he feels the show really ought to be in HD. Indeed, he even liked the old school visions of outer space monsters. It tied him to the tradition of Doctor Who.

I think it’s that tradition that is one of the most exciting things about his newfound fandom. He’s now got something in common with people different from his friends at school—he is a part of the Who community. He’s a new member, yes, not having grown up with the show, and there are a few facts that most Whovians take for granted that are completely novel to him. He was shocked and a bit annoyed when the Ninth Doctor became the Tenth, remarking, “But I liked the other guy just fine!” and for some reason hadn’t expected the Doctor and his companions to go all around space, thinking that they would just travel through different parts of Earth’s history. And let’s not even talk about the idea of a new companion. He’s discovering the Who universe for the first time, and there is so much for him to explore.

My brother has joined a continuum of Doctor Who fans, and while his experience of the show as both young and American is wildly different from the experiences of fans who have been watching since the beginning, he, and others like him, will be the ones to help carry the show into new territory as it goes on. His experience of the show mirrors the adventures of the Doctor’s companions—both are traveling with the Doctor out of their own time and world to new and exciting places where anything can happen next.