What's So Special About Doctor Who?

There are lots of things we Brits do rather well. Like weather chat, self–loathing and snooker. But science fiction shows? Not so much. There's something lamentably juvenile and unadventurous about our back catalogue. Just look at our miserably safe Doctor Who. My colleagues disagree, but I've never understood the appeal.

It first aired around the time people thought robots were about to put dusters and toilet brushes out of business. And when baby boomers weren't dreaming of metal maids, they were having nightmares about nuclear obliteration. So a programme about a regenerating, daft Time Lord with reassuringly English sensibilities and a magic screwdriver made sense. The Doctor was a fantasy hero who fitted in well with the thinking back then. Not now.

When the BBC decided to revive Doctor Who it seemed like they might do more with it. Of course, they pimped the visual effects, hired some lovely actors and slicked the script. But the atmosphere is a flat, tired ode to a concept that shrivelled in the late 80s, for good reason.

Good American sci-fi (Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse and Star Trek, etc) has proved the genre can deliver on parable and intricate plotting. In comparison Doctor Who's family fest feels like a silly, kiddie apology. That's not to say that the resurrected version shouldn't have paid tribute to the original's whimsy, just that it could have done so much more besides.

This side of the Pond, programme makers don't believe science fiction can be made substantial (though, interestingly, the opposite is true of our authors. Think of the futuristic parables spun by JG Ballard and Will Self). We're even slightly embarrassed by it, so everything we do ends up painstakingly, knowingly naïve and twee. Take the Daleks, supposedly the most evil beings in the universe. Even with their multicolour makeover (as premiered in the Winston Churchill episode) they look about as threatening as blind kittens.

Yes, we get it; as a kid you used to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks came on screen. But children don't know any better, and you're all grown up now. Really, an enemy with an egg-whisk attachment and a Vocoder--though it might make your brain's nostalgia lobe prickle--should not have you using upholstery as a shield.

From what we've seen of the newest Who starring sweet, bouncy Matt Smith, it's still doing nothing exciting. Several hours into an iPlayer research mission I've had enough. Snappy dialogue can only take you so far and it doesn't make up for the fact that Doctor Who is just goodies versus baddies with nothing in between. If that was enough, why has no one thought to put Scooby Doo on prime time?

Is it just me? Does anyone else think Doctor Who's overrated?

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Aug 05, 2013
I find it really really boring
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Jun 29, 2010
Not at all. Honestly, I do enjoy Doctor Who as well as BSG, Stargate Universe, Fringe, and Firefly. Seriously, do you happen to be the one who loves to see the darkly & serious endeavour of your so-called good American sci-fi week in and week out?
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Apr 13, 2013
fuck you amir this series sucks
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Jun 25, 2010
I think rather boring science fiction like the example you used yourself, Battlestar Galactica is overrated. With Doctor Who you finally have something else than the old-fashioned spaceships and aliens science fiction. Doctor Who can be that kind of sci-fi, but it can also be romantic comedy (The Lodger), Whodunnit? (The Unicorn & The Wasp) beautiful tragedies (Vincent and the Doctor) and so much more. Sure, if you like your science fiction serious, Doctor Who is probably not the show for you, but if you like it a little different, with endless posibillities, you'd understand why so many people adore it.
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May 02, 2010
Then why is it one of the longest running Sci-Fi shows ever? You really are missing out on the best show around. But everyone to themselves I guess.
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Apr 13, 2013
because they have no other ideas but stupid doctor who
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May 02, 2010
Doctor Who is mostly for families with young children, we're adults! hence why we prefer series like Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Universe, Fringe, and dare i say it, Eureka
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May 02, 2010
I'm with you way to overratted
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May 02, 2010
She obviously missed flesh and stone last night. Probably too busy watching reruns of cancelled shows like firefly and enterprise.
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May 02, 2010
Ruth, you're really missing out on one of the best British TV shows ever. Maybe it's just not your thing, and I'm not going to go crazy about you not liking DW.
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May 02, 2010
Ruth, I suppose we are just wired differently, I do like the good Doctor, but the American examples you champion leave me stone cold. I know the world and his dog seem to like BSG, but I just think it is laughably bad! Come the end it turned out that half of them were Cylons who didn't know it? It also falls in with the likes of Lost and Heros (again neither of which I can pallet) with the concept that the story arc is everything, and if an episode does nothing but leave you bored and confused, it's OK, as come episode 22, it'll all make sense. Sorry, if I plan to invest 30, 45 or even 60 minuted in a TV program, I expect to get some instant reward for my effort, not just to left scratching my head as to why such ponderous, cryptic dirge is so well liked by it's fans. I've even tried to give Caprica a chance, but only lasted 6 episode before I claimed my life back. So in comparison, I much prefer the good Doctor, who will deliver salvation in 45 minutes. If you think it would benefit from plodding pace and cryptic hints of thing to come in three months, then I truly hope you are a very small minority.
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May 01, 2010
It's not over rated.
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May 01, 2010
Sadly I cannot agree. Not only is Dr. Who now a full, emotionally rich adventure series for the family, but Star Trek ceased to be "exciting science fiction" years ago. J. J. Abrahm's reinvention of Star Trek as a movie in fact has many similarities to this edition of Dr. Who: side lining years of complex continuity (often alienating for new viewers) and gradually re introducing them at a comfortable pace. No longer afraid of complex problems or ideas (witness Blink for the best TV approach to the side affects of time travel) this show is in my mind not over rated. Two points I'd add: first that this new series had overcome the "boys only" vibe the old show had. Second, my wife and kids who had no time for the old Who cheerfully watch this program. Just accept that Doctor Who and Battlestar are not for the same demographic. Thanks.
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May 01, 2010
Ruth has it right.
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May 01, 2010
Couldn't agree more. (well except with Dollhouse being good sci-fi)
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May 01, 2010
You are so wrong. It's been completely brought up to date with modern times, it's doing plenty new, not just "a flat, tired ode to a concept that shrivelled in the late 80s".

The Cybermen were updated so that, rather than preying on fears about organ transplants as they once did, they now target fears of technology taking over, and refer to themselves as an "upgrade" to "human.2".

The Daleks might not be the most terrifying thing around any more, but everyone still loves them. They're terrifying to anyone in-universe who knows them, and are more just about a great story.

Then you've got so many newer monsters, particularly those created by new head writer Steven Moffat, that ARE terrifying, especially to children but many more besides.

The Empty Child, with his creepy cry of "Are you my mummy?", the Clockwork Droids, who could appear at any time, with only a tick-tock to alert you to their presence. They could be hiding under your bed right now.

The Weeping Angels - that still terrifies me, and it's the only way I feel able to connect to stories of kids hiding behind the sofa. When I was younger if something scared me it just scared me, there was no enjoyment to be had. But Weeping Angels - ANY statue out there could come to life and send you back in time to "live yourself to death" - or, as we've seen more recently, just snap your neck - they can move at light speed, they're simply terrifying. Just last week we learnt that an image of them can come to life and do the same - so kids can't even look away from the TV with those things on, or else the Weeping Angels will come out and get them! That's what they're thinking. Fantastic.

And how about the Vashta Nerada; any given shadow in the world could contain invisible, microscopic "pirhanas" that will attach themselves to you and eat you alive. Now, never mind looking at statues, you can't even step out of the light.

If Doctor Who was as bad as you say it is, it wouldn't be one of the most popular English television programmes of all time.
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May 01, 2010
I do have to say you are insane. Doctor Who is exactly what you said in the article its a family show. I sit down every week and watch this with my children, at a time when families are seperated this show is something all can watch, you want deep watch BSG you want effects watch Star Trek. Doctor Who is really a kids show. Surely you must remember what it was like to be kid when life was easy when life was goodies and baddies. Let us have Doctor Who without all this claptrap.
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May 01, 2010
My GOD BLASPHEMY fire this person right now, doctor who is british staple sci-fi and its here to stay, i been watching right from peter davisons years. Thanks for possibly turning away some new viewers aswell
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May 01, 2010
I'm sorry, did you just refer to the new battlestar, dollhouse and shows like Enterprise as 'good sci-fi' sorry, but you lost your argument right there. Give me a show that's held on for fifty years like doctor who (no trek show has lasted more than 7) and I'll give your argument credit. Unfortunately, like all my fellow reviewers I'm forced to say: Sorry... It's just you
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Apr 30, 2010
Agreed, Dr Who is overrated.
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Apr 30, 2010
I watched Doctor Who in the old times, especially the Tom Baker years. Yes, it was silly and frivolous and all that, but a good way to spend an hour on a rainy Saturday (when my local PBS station aired them). If you think the new Doctor Who is just more of the same, then you probably think Mr. P's frozen pizza tastes the same as real pizzeria pizza. The jury's still out on Matt Smith, but David Tennant brought depth and complexity to The Doctor that that character has never known. As for "parable and intricate plotting", you must have totally passed on the Doctor Who spinoff, Torchwood--a brilliant and decidedly adult sci-fi series that easily put the best of American sci-fi to shame (including Dollhouse, which I liked, and BSG, which I really didn't).
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Apr 30, 2010
I watched the original "Doctor" back in the 60's and find that after several re-inventions it still holds tons of appeal to me. Just like "The Thunderbirds" it's enjoyable, entertaining and has several underlying political tidbits that keep my interest. My hubby on the other hand just doesn't get it, but then again everyone is entitled to their opinions.
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Apr 30, 2010
Um...only everything?
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Apr 30, 2010
I am sure people will complain and shout about this because it is against their opinion.



Though while I disagree, I quite enjoyed reading this article. Oh and regarding the threatening thing, my little brother is quite scared by the new doctor who enemies (new meaning the make overs).
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Apr 30, 2010
Its just you . personally I feel they have done more with the plot in the new Who . They really can not put the Doctor into the anti - hero role so he is stuck with being a hero , but whats wrong about good old fashioned good vs evil . save the moral dilemmas for real life . The do try to put the doctor in positions where the right choice is unclear and even put him in a bad light at the end of "The Waters Of Mars " episode bottom line is I and many others enjoy the show
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