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Doctor Who, in its glorious eccentricity

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2012-08-18 Calgary Herald.jpg


There are statistics, damned statistics and Doctor Who statistics. And now, on the eve of tonight's tongue-in-cheek Doctor Who special The Timey-Wimey of Doctor Who, comes this little nugget: according to Entertainment Weekly, Doctor Who topped Modern Family and Dexter in 2ou to become that year's most downloaded series on iTunes.

By now Doctor Who's revision of history has become an old story. Dennis Potter Award-winning playwright Russell T. Davies decided to resurrect his childhood TV hero in 2005. His BBC overseers told him the idea was ludicrous, destined for the dustbin of history, and that perhaps he should stick to something more down-to-earth — like his earlier work, Queer as Folk.

Davies shrugged, did it anyway and the rest, as they say, is TV history.

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect," the Doctor famously said in the 2007 BAFTA Award-winning episode Blink. "But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ... stuff."

Three years later, Davies handed off the day-to-day chores of running the show to Sherlock writer Steven Moffat and, if anything, Doctor Who has only grown since then.

Tonight's special is a homage to Doctor Who's rather elastic interpretation of time and space, not to mention British eccentricity.

The Doctor — played in his present incarnation by the irrepressible Matt Smith, at 29 the youngest person to play the Doctor to date — has referred to the Laws of time and space as, "Wibbly, wobbly, timey-wimey stuff."

That's not intended as a slight to the life works of Stephen Hawking, or Einstein for that matter, but rather a playful acknowledgment of just how effortless and joyful Doctor Who makes time travel seem.

As a lark, some scientists have calculated how long it might take, at the speed of light, for TV signals to reach distant planets and civilizations. Wouldn't it be fun if say, at some point in the distant to very-distant future, an advanced civilization in another universe might happen across The Timey-Wimey of Doctor Who and think they're watching a documentary?

Of course, actual scientists — as opposed to Doctor Who addicts, casual TV viewers and anyone with a sense of fun and imagination — will argue that the so-called "inverse square law" of radio and TV transmissions makes that unlikely, if not impossible. The further away one is from a signal's source, the more refracted and degraded that signal becomes.

Then again, actually thinking about the science goes against the whole purpose of a program like The Timey-Wimey of Doctor Who. The idea is to kick back, have a little fun and try to imagine things as they should be, not as they are. (Space - 7 p.m.)

Caption: Smith: Youngest Dr Who yet

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  • Title: Doctor Who, in its glorious eccentricity
  • Publication: Calgary Herald
  • Date: 2012-08-18