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I’ve always hated science fiction. A Wrinkle in Time frustrated my 9 year old mind. I groaned through Ray Bradbury in 8th grade. My best friend’s Star Trek obsession puzzled me. I didn’t watch Star Wars until I was in college. What’s more, aliens terrified me. Even as a teenager, I had nightmares if I encountered space creatures on screen.

So I’m the last person who should like Doctor Who. But ever susceptible to hype, I started watching it in May. It was weird and campy yet oddly compelling. That first day, I watched three episodes. Four the next day. My family thought I’d lost my mind, because it was all I talked about. I plowed through all seven seasons of the new series in a month plus started the classic series. Not to mention endless hours of rewatching episodes, DVD commentaries, and more.

If you’re a sci-fi phobe like me, don’t be afraid to try Doctor Who. The show exterminated my preconceived notions of what science fiction is supposed to be:

1. Aliens Are People

Doctor Who emphasizes that (almost) all species are people. Everyone from humans to Time Lords to talking trees to homo-reptilia are sentient beings capable of joy, sadness, fear, and pain. The Doctor treats everyone he meets with respect. The only creatures he kills indiscriminately are those devoid of emotion and mercy, like the Daleks or the Cybermen, and he makes exceptions even for them.

It’s a different perspective than the big-green-head, evil, take-over-the-world aliens that dominate TV and movies. By its emphasis on the equality and worth of different kinds of people, Doctor Who exemplifies what’s best about science fiction: its ability to make social commentary in an indirect yet understandable manner.

2. All The Feels

The variety of Doctor Who monsters is fun, but I stuck with the show on the basis of the character drama. I love the Doctor, because he is a desperately lonely man haunted by the death of his species, the Time Lords, and constant guilt of the collateral damage he unintentionally inflicts every time he tries to save the universe. Yet he manages to find joy and adventure in the smallest of things and can’t resist helping anyone in trouble.

He travels with companions, each of whom develop a unique, meaningful relationship with him. The companions make the Doctor relatable to the viewer. I fell in love with the Doctor alongside Rose. I was his best friend with Donna. I grew up with him with Amy. And when each companion inevitably leaves the Doctor, I fall apart. I never would have imagined sobbing into a pillow over an alien TV show.

3. Living History

Doctor Who was intended to educate children about history when it debuted in the 1960s. While it’s known more for science fiction now, historical episodes still play a significant role in the show. History buffs like me will salivate at the opportunities posed by time travel. We meet Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Van Gogh. We travel to Pompeii on the eve of its destruction, the London Blitz, 17th century Venice, and more. My personal favorite is solving the mystery of Agatha Christie’s 10 day disappearance in 1926. Even though the inclusion of monsters is (presumably) fiction, Doctor Who brings the past to life and humanizes historical figures in a way that few other books or movies ever do.

4. Laugh Riot

Doctor Who is a show intended for all ages to watch. It reminds me of Pixar films and even The Simpsons in that it has layers of humor. There’s plenty of physical comedy to please young kids (and, I’ll admit, me). But there are also jokes meant for adults, for readers, for film buffs, for clever people. What other show will feature Shakespeare subtly coming on to the Doctor, to which the Doctor wryly says, “And 57 academics just punched the air!”? My favorite comedic moments often feature Donna, the fourth series companion. Such as:

“Donna: I finally got the perfect man. Gorgeous, adores me, and hardly ever speaks a word. What’s that say about me?

The Doctor: Everything. Sorry, did I say ‘everything’? I meant to say nothing. I was aiming for ‘nothing.’ I accidentally said ‘everything.’”

Doctor Who never fails to make me laugh, even if I end up crying a few minutes later.

5. Intelligence Is Valued

How refreshing is it to watch a TV show that values brains over brawn? Most save-the-universe adventures feature a hero wearing tights who looks like he spends more time at the gym than a library, carries huge guns, or can run at the speed of light. The Doctor is played by actors who are unconventionally attractive and generally dresses more like a lawyer than a superhero. He is largely subject to the same physical limitations as humans. Rather than wielding a gun, he carries a sonic screwdriver and saves the world with his knowledge of science, logic, and the vagaries of “human” nature. Neither is the Doctor infallible. He makes huge mistakes and is frequently saved by his young human companions.

What’s more, Doctor Who expects the viewer to be intelligent. You can watch it for the glitz and glamour alone, but it is full of subtle clues, themes, and symbolism purposely placed to tantalize the viewer into analyzing every detail until the big secret is revealed months or even years later.

In summary

Doctor Who has something for everyone. It will make you laugh, make you cry, make you think. It has shown me that my preconceived notions of science fiction may be wrong and that I should give Star Trek or Robert Heinlein or Firefly or Douglas Adams a try. If I can tear myself away from Doctor Who, that is.

When Alison isn’t rewatching Doctor Who, she blogs about YA novels and manga on her website.

This article was written by a Hypable user! Learn more and write your own right here.

  • Laura Jurgensmeyer

    This. This is perfect. Great article!

    • AlisonCanRead

      Thanks Laura!

  • http://booksandsensibility.com/ Jess

    I’ve also never really been one for tried and true Sci-Fi (does X-files count ? ) but I’ve heard so many people talk about this show. I’ve seen a few episodes from each season, maybe I’ll have to watch a few more.

    I did see the spin-off show Torchwood it was a fun show.

  • Nadia H.

    I started watching Doctor Who a while ago. Made it all the way through season 1 and 2. In the middle of season 3 I got tired of Daleks and I stopped watching, but I couldn’t agree more with this article.

    • PrisonerZero

      Season 5, 6, and 7 have a lack of Daleks with them either being in one major episode or a small cameo appearance.

      • Nadia H.

        I see, then I might reconsider, and start watching again. Just skipping the rest of season 3 and season 4 for now. :)

        • PrisonerZero

          Don’t skip Season 4. its amazing

        • Esmeblabbed

          PrisonerZero is right – you’ll miss some really great episodes!!!

          • AlisonCanRead

            I agree with the others. While Rose is my favorite companion, my favorite Doctor Who episodes are in the third and fourth series (as well as David Tennant’s last two episodes after the fourth season). You really shouldn’t skip season 3 or 4. My favorite episodes of season 3 are Shakespeare Code, Human Nature, Family of Blood, and Blink. Season 4, I loved Unicorn & the Wasp, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight, and Journey’s End.

          • Minna

            Don’t forget series 3′s final three-episode arc, and Turn Left in series 4! (Also, I’m pretty sure after the Daleks in NY during season 3, there aren’t any more till series 5).

  • Amalia

    I’m the same way! For years I didn’t even try Doctor Who, just because it’s science fiction. And now I’m a huge fan… Never really thought about why that is. You make some great points!

    • AlisonCanRead

      Thanks Amalia!

  • Dana Alley

    This article is right on. LOVE IT! Very nice job :)

    • AlisonCanRead


  • Remy Quist


  • Simone

    ALL OF THIS. That is all.

    • AlisonCanRead

      Thanks Simone!

  • SitsUnderWaterfalls

    I’m sorry, haven’t read the article yet, but your first sentence made me cringe. Oyyyy, the Wrinkle in Time saga was *my jam* in fourth grade; I don’t know where I’d be without Charles Wallace me and Meg Murray as the cool older teenage sister I always aspired to be. And Ray Bradbury is a poet and a heartbreaker! I liked Fahrenheit, but it was Illustrated Man that grabbed me by the ventricle and wouldn’t let go. Goddamn, and you call yourself a nerd.

    Then again, I don’t love Doctor Who. In my opinion, it’s mildly amusing, and I do enjoy it enough to keep watching, but it’s, you know. You know what it is? It’s a fairy tale. It’s magical, and slightly patriarchal, and has archtypal characters, but we’re okay with it because the symbols speak to us, to childhood us. It’s good versus evil with a magical trickster and a innocent, youthful, beautiful girl versus the cold and hardend and scared. But it’s not science fiction, and it’s not nearly as deep as it pretends to be.

    • Fae

      I just want to stick up for the writer of this article here:
      Just because you label yourself as a “nerd” and enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time and Ray Bradbury, does not mean that someone else who has a different opinion than you shouldn’t also be able to label themselves a nerd.
      It’s great that you loved those things growing up. And it’s fine that you don’t see Doctor Who in the same light. In fact, it’s great to explain why you think Doctor Who is more fairy tale than sci-fi. But don’t start off by blatantly chastising their opinions just because they are different than you.

  • Basilikon

    Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land is my personal recommendation), Douglas Adams, and Firefly are all excellent additions, and are sci-fi that non sci-fi fans can enjoy. :)

  • HilariousCucumber

    Great article! You should give Firefly a try because it’s not so much scifi as a western set in space. and there are only 13 episodes. and no aliens.

  • Starlight

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    very nice article

  • Mirra

    Did any one else notice Martha was completely absent from this?

    Otherwise, great article!

  • Kelly

    I love firefly, I watch the whole thing at least once a year. And also agree with everything you said about the doctor.

  • crazysimon

    don’t tear yourself away from it – spread your resources. spend TIME. become a GEEK. ;) it’ll be worth it, you’ll see.

  • IndraYunus

    all them feels!!! your timey-wimey-humany-thingy is dead on. FANtastic article

  • Ghostkid31

    Doctor Who has opened my eyes, it’s incredible!

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