So many children’s bedrooms up and down the UK and around the world must look similar to this one, in our home.
In the recent celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the BBC drama series Doctor Who, the question has been posed: why do you think Doctor Who is so popular?
Since everyone in our house loves the Doctor, I’ve asked myself this question. And I concluded that we love the Doctor because:
* As a fictional character, he is a perfect combination of science and religion. He has the Christlike qualities of power, knowledge and goodness; combined with the vast possibilities of science. He plays into our archetypal longings for balance and justice in the universe, plus our thirst for knowledge and our fascination with the potential of science and our quest for empowerment.
* he has power over time. Time, death and the ageing process are among those things we cannot control, though we dream of doing so.
* he engages us on a spiritual level. He represents the perpetual battle between good and evil.
* the character of the Doctor, with all this power, knowledge and goodness, contains both playfulness and gravity. We respond at a deep level to paradox. Every one of the eleven actors who has played the Doctor has at some level combined the weight of ultimate responsibility and moral integrity with a quirky, mercurial quality. And the twelfth Doctor seems set fair to carry this same quality.
* we are always learning new things about the Doctor. He always retains his mystery.
* the Doctor is essentially lonely and poignant. He loves, and he evokes love. Yet he can never become emotionally attached to any one human – not without tragic repercussions or complex tampering with the space time continuum.
* he regenerates, just like nature, just like the Green Man, a symbol of rebirth, found in many cultures from many ages around the world.
The Doctor is all these things and more.
And we love him not only because of all this, but because of the genius of all those involved: the executives, actors, writers, directors, producers, monster-creators, technical people, visual and special effects people and composers and musicians. They will have overcome everything that human weakness can throw at them, during the fifty years of the programme’s life, as we saw only too well from the Adventure in Space and Time episode about BBC executive Sydney Newman, actor William Hartnell, producer Verity Lambert, and director Waris Hussein.
It all seems summed up in David Tennant’s cry: “I don’t want to go.”
Yet the archetypal power of this fictional character, his relationships, his story represents for many our dream of transcending those limitations and that frailty.