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Give it to me straight, Doc (2017)

2017-04 Psychologist.jpg

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Psychology: Madman with a Box Travis Langley (Ed.) Sterling; 2017; Pb £9.99

You either love or you hate the Doctor. Like the royal family, Brexit and Jose Mourinho, there are very few people who are neutral on the subject.

As for me, growing up with a neighbour who was a fanzine editor and leading light of the appreciation society (fan club? Please!), I had met Jon Pertwee and Bakers Tom and Colin before I was out of my teens. There was no way I wasn't going to take a peek at this book. Delightfully, Katy Manning, the actress who played his assistant Jo Grant in the very first episode I saw, at the impressionable age of six ('The Daemons', fellow Whovians!), lends Doctor Who an introduction to the tome.

Rather disconcertingly, given the programme's very British credentials, editor Dr Langley and his intrepid contributors are all American. Were they up to the job? Affirmative, as K-9 would say. In fact, this is a cracking read.

They know their Who inside out and the science is impeccable. Much of it concerns subjects close to my heart and they hit the bullseye every time. In exploring the Doctor's personalities (he keeps regenerating, of course), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is rightly exposed as being of low reliability and thus, inevitably, validity, but it is still presented as useful for shorthand descriptions. Personality factors are revealed building to 'The Big Five' and beyond. Post-traumatic stress disorder's effects on the Doctor when the series returned to our screens in 2005 shine a light on his behaviour. Jungian archetypes are evoked in finding out why those weeping angel 'statues' that attack you when you blink are so damn scary.

In fact, dipping into the index gives an idea of the book's sheer scope. It veers from 'death' to 'cuddle hormone' and from 'evolutionary perspective on love' to 'reconsolidated memory'. This isn't the first time Dr Langley has pulled this kind of thing off. He has taken the same approach to Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Trek plus other phenomena, while those who came before him tackled Harry Potter and The Simpsons. Nevertheless, this is an exceptional example of what must now be regarded as a legitimate genre.

So, I'll race you to write a book on the psychology of Shameless, The League of Gentlemen, Happy Valley and, naturally, Doctor Who Part Two. I could get Steve Pemberton to do the foreword. He's been in all of them.

Reviewed by Dr George Sik, a Consultant Psychologist at eras ltd


Q&A

We speak to Dr Sarita Robinson, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, whose chapter from Doctor Who Psychology 'Who makes a good companion?' can be found on our website

In psychological terms, what does the Doctor get right in how he selects companions?

Psychologically, the Doctor's companions tend to be outgoing and enjoy meeting new 'people'. Considering that the Doctor is always travelling, it is essential that his companions have great interpersonal skills. The Doctor is also keen on helping people out in times of crisis and so his companions need to have a high degree of empathy but also to be resilient.

Sometimes the Doctor doesn't seem like the kind of person who would be overly bothered about having a companion. Why does he?

The Doctor has nearly always travelled accompanied. On the rare times we see him without a companion he has appeared to become less empathetic. We know that friendship networks are very important to help us remaining mentally healthy. Interestingly Missy (the female regeneration of the Master) has suggested that the Doctor's relationship with his companions is not 100 per cent equal and the Doctor sees his companions more as a type of faithful pet. However, psychologists have found that having pet ownership can improve your physical and mental health. So even if the Doctor does not think of his companions as equals, they still serve an important role in his life.

What other parallels are there with psychological research on companions?

Nearly all of the Doctor's companions have a positive experience as a result of travelling and appear to grow as a result of being exposed to new cultures and civilisations. Even the Doctor's companions who have been through a marked period of trauma appear to show evidence of post-traumatic growth. For example, after the death of Adric, Nyssa leaves the TARDIS but chooses to work on the hospital ship Terminus to help formulate a cure for Lazar's disease. The Doctor is very emotionally attached to his travelling companions and does want the best outcome for them. For example, even though Donna has had her memory wiped of her travels with the Doctor, the Doctor returns on her wedding day and gives her a winning lottery ticket as a wedding gift.

Am I right in thinking you have your own Doctor Who claim to fame?

Well, I'm in a DVD extra on the Day of the Daleks talking about our memory of old TV shows.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Sik, George (April 2017). Give it to me straight, Doc. The Psychologist .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Sik, George. "Give it to me straight, Doc." The Psychologist [add city] April 2017. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Sik, George. "Give it to me straight, Doc." The Psychologist, edition, sec., April 2017
  • Turabian: Sik, George. "Give it to me straight, Doc." The Psychologist, April 2017, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Give it to me straight, Doc | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Give_it_to_me_straight,_Doc | work=The Psychologist | pages= | date=April 2017 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2018 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Give it to me straight, Doc | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Give_it_to_me_straight,_Doc | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2018}}</ref>