make that 8.2 million and 1

Why is it that I’m pretty the only one I know who watches Doctor Who? Show Me Scifi makes the point that the BBC would be smart to partner with the SciFi channel (or I think perhaps BBC America would also be a good choice?) and offer the episodes as they are available, rather than making American viewers wait six months or more before they can see them. If I actually watched live TV this idea would make me very very happy, but the wonders of broadband and file sharing have made my days of watching commercials and only seeing what’s available through my local cable company a distant memory.

Doctor Who Series 3

Right now Doctor Who is regularly killing the competition in the UK ratings (the third season premier netted 8.2 million viewers) – I think partially because it is well promoted by the BBC and is offered on a major channel. Many US television watchers seem to be wary of science fiction/fantasy shows – I think they are afraid that the gimmicks and fantasy elements will detract from the quality of the storylines, or that enjoying watching a show about aliens, time travel or magic makes you some sort of social freak. My very best friend almost cannot be convinced to try watching or reading things that smack of science fiction. There are a few shows, such as the X-Files and currently Heroes that seem to have the ability to cross that mental boundary for a lot of people, but I think that is partially because of the way in which they are promoted, and partially because in those shows, like any good television, it is the relationships between the characters and their personal development that make the stories work. Battlestar Galactica is the best current example of a show that exemplifies good writing, character, and plot development. However, since it is named for a space ship and is, in fact, about people flying through space fighting robots, many people are not willing to even give it a chance – though those who do invariably end up loving it.

Battlestar Galactica

I think an automatic bias against science fiction shows either a fear of the unknown or a lack of imagination (sorry best friend). There are a million beautiful stories to be told about the human race as it is today, our faults and foibles, strengths and weaknesses, passions and heartbreaks. Many of them have been told, many are being retold in amazing ways. The best science fiction and fantasy tells a beautiful story about people just like any fiction, but it also adds new environments for them to interact with, and new types of situations that will push them along in the aforementioned character development. The human race has recognized this for thousands of years – how else did we get myths such as King Arthur and the stories of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses? The elements of those stories illustrate a culture’s values, fears, definitions of beauty, and hopes for the future, and all of them share a wonder and fascination for the unknown. What if there really was a lady in the lake waiting to give the most worthy a magic sword? What if there really were supernatural beings playing out their little soap operas in the sky? What would that mean for you and me?


The art of storytelling has always been (at least in part) about taking something we know and talking about it in a knew way – to entertain, to enlighten, to provide an escape from the mundaneness of everyday existence. It has the power to allow us to step into someone else’s shoes, at least for a while – which is pretty freaking awesome if you ask me. This power was the catalyst for my love of books as a small child, and I have never lost my joy in it. It gave me much needed mental relief during some difficult times in my life, and has provided me years of entertainment. I do tend to be a enjoy-it-on the surface type of reader, who plows through a book at lightning speed and then moves on to the next one, so it is a welcome surprise when I come across a story that I can’t rush through, that forces me to meditate on the themes presented, to allow connections to be made that aren’t immediately apparent. It is at these times that I understand why people become English majors, and envy them to some degree. I love working with technology, I love creating something that will be useful or beautiful to someone and then seeing it take on a life of it’s own – people have an amazing ability to take a tool and re-purpose it in surprising ways – and I think I would enjoy taking those loves and abilities and applying them to a more traditional art form.

The X-Files

Perhaps the part of me that loves to explore new things and create new technology is the part that fosters my love for science fiction/fantasy as well. The human race is accomplishing amazing new things every single day, things that would not have been imaginable a thousand or even a hundred years ago. My job would not have existed – in fact I probably would not have even been able to get a job that wasn’t outside the scope of traditional women’s work. These things have been accomplished because there are always people looking ahead for the next scientific breakthrough, the faster car, the smaller computer chip. We want to know how far we can go, and we aren’t going to stop expanding, learning, developing. Science fiction speaks to that part of us – suppose we do make it out of our solar system, what then? What if there really is life out there? How we will react if they are like us? How will we react if they are not? If we solve the human race’s money problems and there is suddenly enough food for all, what then? Can these stories provide insight into how we can even get to that point?

One thing that history has certainly taught us is that the future is almost never what you think it will be, so perhaps all of our projections and speculations are moot. We are not likely to create a robot race that will annihilate our species, and there are probably not thousands of alien life forms out there that look exactly like us save a set of pointy ears or nose ridges. What truly awaits us probably has not even been imagined, and we will have to improvise when we get there. But stories today of how we will improvise tomorrow give us all the chance to put ourselves in the shoes of our future selves, to mentally practice what we will do when tomorrow becomes today.

Doctor Who certainly falls into the fantasy genre rather than science fiction, but it is escapism at its best. Who wouldn’t love to be carried away into space and time by a singularly charming alien with a British accent, having amazing adventures and saving the world umpteen times?


Plus, David Tennant is very tasty.


12 Responses to “make that 8.2 million and 1”

  1. 1 GrantTLC
    April 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Beautifully put. I’ve always wondered why some minds simply refuse to see beyond the limits of their own lives, why people aren’t curious, how they can simply accept the life their five senses deliver and never seek to peer beneath the veil, ask questions or ever feel the need to explore. Science fiction, for me, is much more than spaceships and aliens – it is a reflection of the awakened human desire to explore beyond our boundaries, to imagine, to dream.

    Doctor Who is currently popular for many reasons, not least because it is the grandest, oldest and most adaptable series ever created; it fits any shape you want it to become. This modern series is lovingly written, acted with skill and polished until it gleams by teams of people who CARE about their creation – a rarity in a world saturated with Reality TV and other scraps of cynically manufactured screen-product: Peter jackson’s LOTR films were the same, and attracted people by the million, if not billion.

    It was gone a long time, but you can never keep a good series down. Let’s hope it stays a while longer.

  2. 2 GrantTLC
    April 6, 2007 at 7:30 am

    PS: I’ve added your blog to my blogroll, so that my loyal-yet-miniscule readership can share in your Dr Who adoration; I know they’ll love what you’ve written. Hope you don’t mind!

  3. April 6, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Great post!
    It really does suck that so many here are wary of SciFi. Ratings are ratings though and when SciFi channel does its best to kill good shows like Battlestar Galactica by
    1) changing the time to late Sunday night
    2) going on an 8 month hiatus

    Even the specialty channels seem to be messing things up. BBC puts Doctor Who on at a normal hour and now that the show is back (woohoo!) there has never been an 8 month hiatus.

  4. April 6, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Thank you for your kind words! I’ve been going through some frustrations lately trying to explain the lure of SciFi to the initiated, but it does help knowing that there are kindred spirits out there. I am a new convert to Doctor Who, and have yet to see any of the older series, but I look forward to it. Thankfully Netflix has quite a few of them.

    Of course I don’t mind you linking to me:)

  5. April 6, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    I admit I never understand what SciFi is thinking, but thankfully they seem to at least allowed Ron Moore and his cohorts a mostly free hand with BSG. I’m actually more likely to catch it on Sunday night since sometimes I have a life on Fridays, but almost never on Sundays, but since I download all my eps it doesn’t matter much to me what night it comes on, I just have to work really hard to avoid being spoiled. One wonders what the ratings would actually be if the networks figured out and reported the figures for alternate viewing methods.

  6. 6 Jenn
    April 17, 2007 at 2:59 pm


    Seriously. I check here and check here and still nothing. 😉

  7. 7 GrantTLC
    April 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I think that’s my fault. Sorry. I had a habit for a while of killing authors simply by getting into their works. I got into Asimov, he died. I became a huge fan of Star Trek (I was young!) then Roddenberry died suddenly. Arthur C Clarke must’ve cottoned on – I stopped reading his work in disgust when he released 3001 (senile old fool). He’s still alive to this day…

    Now I think my talents are alive again, this time on the Internet. This is the second web-site I’ve linked to on my blog – no, actually the third – that has suddenly stopped producing. They may be dead, for which I apologise profusely.

    God hates me. :(.

  8. 8 sgg
    April 20, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Please don’t blame yourself – I fully plan to post again soon, but the universe has been conspiring against me, and a pressing deadline at work has been taking up all my gray matter.

  9. 9 GrantTLC
    April 22, 2007 at 1:15 am

    That Universe! Always getting in people’s way! Why can’t you just leave us all to blog/game/watch TV in peace!!! *shakes fist at totality of baryonic matter*

  10. 10 Jenn
    April 25, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    What? British? Charming? Tasty? I’m missing out?????

  11. August 16, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    david is hott
    very tasty..
    dr who is the best show in the world.. and DOT FORGET IT:P

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