Friday, July 11, 2014

Who what?

Everybody wants me to love Doctor Who.  It is a geek phenomenon and I don't get it.  My Facebook feed constantly features pictures of people dressed up as the Tardis, making cakes like the Tardis, or doing other crazy Tardis related artwork.  All kinds of people that I really quite like wax romantic about the wonders of the Doctor and insist that it be enshrined as the second best of all things (behind Firefly, naturally).  They keep trying to build playlists for me so that I can spend just a bit of time seeing the best of the Doctor and hopefully become as addicted as they are.

But the plots are preposterous!  Pretty much every episode is resolved via a technologically ridiculous deus ex machina, and even once you accept all the basic stuff required for the show to work like time travel and Time Lord regeneration and the Tardis and all that nothing makes any sense.  The characters aren't even compelling as there just isn't any grabby about them, no edge, no harsh reality.  The defence against these criticisms tends to revolve around the idea that many / most episodes are pretty terrible but there are a few really good ones, honest! and that doesn't seem like a strong argument to me.

Finally this week all became clear.  Val told me that Doctor Who is not an adult show even though it is nearly all adults that gush over it.  It is a children's show that adults happen to love.  Suddenly all the pieces fell into place.  The show lacks that gritty edge because they can't show swearing, sexual attraction, or violence and they are in situations where all of these things really should be happening.  The characters have personalities like those in children's cartoons - clean, sanitized, simple.  The solutions and problems are very reminiscent of the cartoons Elli watches like My Little Pony or Johnny Test.

Now that might all sound like a savage dismissal of the good Doctor but it isn't.  There is nothing wrong with shows aimed at children and nothing wrong with liking those as an adult.  However, if you try to judge Doctor Who as an adult program it is going to look ridiculous whereas if I judge it against other children's programming it looks like sheer genius.  Once you accept the norms of children's entertainment Doctor Who does a lot of wonderful things.

Doctor Who fills a very interesting niche.  It is a show loved by children who want to watch terrifying aliens through their fingers or in snatches when their faces are not hidden behind a pillow.  It is also a show beloved by adults who enjoy a world where the Doctor's odd blend of pacifism, irreverence, and genius always save the day.

I don't like it though, and you can't make me.  Hah!

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