intellect and romance

Do you know a good Doctor?

I'll start this post off with a solid explanatory lead: My wife likes Doctor Who now.

To those who don't know who Doctor Who is, the question is not so much one of who, but of what, where, and when.  Doctor Who is a BBC program that has been running on the BBC on and off since 1965.  It's about an alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels around the universe in a time (and space) machine called the TARDIS.  Each episode, he gets out in a different location and either has an adventure or stops evil aliens from taking over the universe.  Often times, he comes in contact with historical figures like Mme. Pompadour or William Shakespeare and helps them have an adventure or stop evil aliens from taking over the universe.  The Doctor (just "The Doctor") usually has a female companion on these journeys, with whom he shares a lot of unresolved sexual tension.  They've kept it running by making it canon that whenever the Doctor is dealt a fatal wound, he transforms into a different actor.    The modern era of the show starts in the mid-2000s.  I started watching on season 5, when the new Doctor Matt Smith debuted.

My wife, having heard about the show from nerd friends of hers, started on season 1, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billy Piper as the companion.  These were the episodes I'd never seen, as the group I'd hung out with in college when they were first airing was more into Japanese pop culture than British stuff.

Boy I wished I'd switched friends.  Doctor Who has always operated on a tiny special effects budget, which necessitated the main baddies looking like giant vacuum cleaners with toilet plungers stuck to their sides.  As a result, the writing as always been incredibly sincere, to make the folks at home believe that angry vacuum cleaners were really a threat to all life in the universe.  I like that sort of narrative sincerity.  These days, a lot of the most popular media is made by people who have encyclopedic knowledge of other popular media, and somehow, it always feels like they're winking at the members of the audience who also have encyclopedic pop culture knowledge.  Doctor Who operates under the philosophy that everything and everyone is important, and should be respected as such, no matter how goofy or rushed.  Indeed, half the time the Doctor himself only solves the main problem by roping together a bunch of garbage into a science fiction machine that's never been built before, plugging it into a wall, and hoping that it'll work in a way that saves everyone's life.

Craig Fergusen, the former host of The Late Late Show, is a Scottsman and a Doctor Who fan, and summarized the show better than anyone else I've ever met when he sung (yes, sung): "It's all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism!"  And, because everything ties back into politics these days, I feel like brute force and cynicism are the dominant philosophies running the world right now.  Everything is terrible and the only way to make it better is for good people to punch the bad people in the face.

Well I don't cotton to that.  And only partially because that doesn't work.  You can't out-cynicize the cynics, and you can't punch evil into submission without becoming a cynical brute yourself.  Trust in the sincerity of good intentions, in intellectuals and romantics, and tomorrow will be a time worth living for, even if you don't get to see it yourself because you've sacrificed all your blood to a space vampire to mark her with your alien DNA so the rhinoceros-alien-cops who have come to arrest her will teleport the hospital you're in out of quarantine on the moon and back to Earth so all the people inside won't suffocate to death inside the forcefield.

That's why I'm glad I get to watch all the back episodes of Doctor Who now with my wife.