Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell

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FIFTY years ago, the television showed a policeman walking past an old painted hoarding for a Totter's Lane scrap merchant called "I M Foreman". On Saturday, the same thing happened again. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, Day of the Doctor, echoed the inconsequential-seeming opening of the first. It was a time-trip, if you like: a fictional wink but also a suggestion that - at least in this universe - everything fits into a pattern.

Why, when other shows have come and gone, is Doctor Who still so powerful? Why - of all the daft things that have come and gone on television over the years - does this preposterous soap opera about a man flying around in an old phone box fighting aliens inspire such devotion? For a start, though it did not start out that way, Doctor Who is itself a time machine. Every generation grows up with its own Doctor. Almost every adult watching brings a back-story charged with emotion. That, I think, is why the show in its current incarnation so insistently brings back characters and themes, with Rose Tyler looping back in yet again, or the tangled genealogy of River Song unfolding over years. They know that nostalgia is a structural rather than incidental part of its appeal.

Also, it's bigger on the inside than on the outside. On the outside it's a Saturday afternoon kids' show with puckish jokes and rubber aliens. But on the inside, its themes are human fundamentals.

The main thing - the touch of genius - is that it is not about the plasticity of time, which is what a show about time travel might superficially tend to. It is much more often, rather, about its irrevocability. The Doctor, condemned to immortality, is perpetually bandaging a wound that he can never staunch.

It's about somebody immensely powerful who is, in all the ways it matters, finally powerless. It's about someone who changes but stays the same - burdened with memories yet a puzzle to himself. It's about someone who never travels without a companion but who is, finally, appallingly alone. And it's about what, in that context, moral responsibility looks like. Saturday's 50th anniversary episode begins with Jenna Coleman writing a quote from Marcus Aurelius on a whiteboard: "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be: be one."

The presentation may be babyish, in other words, but the themes are not. It's a story for children with an adult freight, a story about humans looked at from the perspective of gods: which is, give or take, what a myth is. It's a sad, wry, hopeful baby universe that nourishes the fantasy that - at least somewhere - everything fits into a pattern.

Wouldn't it be pretty to think so? Here's to it.

On the outside it's a kids' show with puckish jokes and rubber aliens. Inside, its themes are human basics

GRAPHIC: Space cadets: Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith in the 50th anniversary Doctor Who

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.: Leith, Sam (2013-11-25). We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell. London Evening Standard p. 15.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Leith, Sam. "We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell." London Evening Standard [add city] 2013-11-25, 15. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Leith, Sam. "We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell." London Evening Standard, edition, sec., 2013-11-25
  • Turabian: Leith, Sam. "We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell." London Evening Standard, 2013-11-25, section, 15 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/We%27ve_all_got_a_Doctor_Who_story_to_tell | work=London Evening Standard | pages=15 | date=2013-11-25 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 December 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=We've all got a Doctor Who story to tell | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/We%27ve_all_got_a_Doctor_Who_story_to_tell | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 December 2021}}</ref>