I don’t remember the first Doctor Who story I saw on our local PBS station as a kid back in the nineteen eighties—I think it was City of Death—but what I do remember is that I thought it was pretty dumb, and after a few minutes, I went off and did something else. Along with Blake’s Seven, Doctor Who was a show that my parents watched on Saturdays; I never paid too much attention to it. A few months later, I watched with rapt attention, transfixed as the prone figure of the Fourth Doctor, surrounded by people I’d never seen before, confess that this was the end, but the moment had been prepared for, and he changed, literally, into someone else. I was fascinated by this idea of regeneration, and from that moment on, Doctor Who has been a huge part of my life.
If you were to ask me why, as I’ve asked myself every so often over the years, I’d be hard-pressed to give you a good answer, because truly, like the Doctor, the answer changes from time-to-time, depending on where I am in my life. At one moment, it’s because Doctor Who is a familiar, comfortable distraction, a way to get lost, if only for an hour or so, and to put the so-called real world on hold. At other times, Doctor Who is inspirational, providing just what I need at any given time, helping me find where I need to go. Ultimately, I think the answer always boils down to one thing: Doctor Who is fun, but more than that, Doctor Who—and the Doctor himself—embodies the kind of life and the kind of person I want to be.
Rose Tyler put it perfectly in The Parting of Ways:
It was a better life. I don’t mean all the traveling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life…. You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say “no.” You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can’t!
I have not always lived up to that idea, which is not to say that I haven’t always tried. I’m not the Doctor (as much as I’d like to be sometimes), but truthfully, I’m not even sure the Doctor himself can or has always lived up to the expectation that his friends and companions and all of us at home have of him. In the end, we’re all fallible, trying to do the best we can with what we have, whether we’re a Time Lord or just an ordinary human being.
That being said, what I love about Doctor Who is that it’s something that could happen. I think Russell T. Davies talked about this at one point. Unlike Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or Firefly, there’s always a chance, no matter how small, that any one of us could find ourselves in the right place at the right time, turn the corner, and come face-to-face with the TARDIS. There’s always the chance that we can step through those doors, and then—!
I don’t think that will happen for me, which is why I’m not waiting for him. That’s OK, though, because in the end each and every one of us is responsible for making our own adventure, fighting our own monsters, and righting wrongs, and saving the day. That’s what the Doctor has given me. But now it’s time. Here we go again!
Happy anniversary, Doctor Who! Thanks for everything, and here’s to another fifty years of exciting adventures together!
Daniel is the owner and Managing Editor of Time and The – !. He's been a fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker regenerate into Peter Davison on his local PBS station as a kid. He launched Time and The – ! in 2011 after having the bright (?) idea to watch every Doctor Who story from the beginning and blog about it. (Yeah, he's way behind.)