Image: Painted illustration © Jessica Pigott
Author: Jessica Pigott
Welcome to the Who-niverse, it’s bigger on the inside
Doctor Who is the longest running sci-fi programme ever. It first aired in 1963 and, more recently, returned to our screens for a new lease of life from 2005 to the present day. The story told is that of the Doctor, an alien called a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He journeys through time and space in the TARDIS – his ship – that has the appearance of a blue police box from the 1960’s, oh and it’s bigger on the inside… Throughout the series the Doctor has travelled with many companions, who help him defeat the variety of monsters he meets whilst saving worlds, people and generally righting wrongs.
The Doctor has had thirteen different faces over time – one per actor. In order to incorporate this change of actor, the original story writers came up with a nifty trick for the Doctor; he can change his face by regenerating. It’s a Time Lord process in which they take on a new body and new personality instead of dying or being seriously injured, so you could say it’s a form of reincarnation, although all the faces of the Doctor are still the same person inside. Because of the vast amount of time travel that happens in the show, a couple of different Doctors have met each other, the most recent occurrence of that being the fiftieth anniversary episode, in which the 10th (David Tennant) and 11th (Matt Smith) Doctor both met the elusive War Doctor (John Hurt). Today’s Doctor is the twelfth, played by the Scottish actor Peter Capaldi.
Doctor Who is one of the most popular television shows in the UK, and is quickly growing in popularity in most of Europe and America ever since its “rebirth” in 2005. Since then there have also been a couple of spin-offs produced by the BBC, such as Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and K-9, all of which involve characters and companions from the initial series.
My favourite episode of series 8 so far – so the series happening right now – is “Mummy on the Orient Express”, which aired on the 11th October. It was written by Jamie Mathieson, who has written many episodes of the series Being Human, but had never written for Doctor Who before.
In this episode the Doctor and his current companion, Clara, have landed on the Orient Express train, only this is the future so it’s a space train! Everyone is dressed in 1920’s style costumes and they’re enjoying their journey… Until an old woman calls out for help from the decaying mummy that’s approaching her, or that’s what she claims at least – no one else can see this monster and so no one believes her, until she dies 66 seconds later. Of course the Doctor soon picks up on this and (from the old woman’s description and some help from fellow scientist passengers) names this creature as the Foretold, a mythical being that only shows itself to its victims, killing them 66 seconds later. He befriends the train’s engineer, just as Clara befriends the first victim’s granddaughter, and they try their best to save the passengers… Or do they?
As you now know, the Doctor is an alien, and what I love so much about this new Doctor (apart from his fab accent) is the fact that he is so, so alien. Since I started watching the show in 2005, the first three new actors had been made to portray their character as someone who loves the human race, however stupid they can be, and who tries their best to save the individuals. The guy however, is different. So far in this series he’s had an identity crisis after regenerating, told a schoolgirl she was unimportant, been called a “good Dalek” (that’s for me to know and you to find out!!), orchestrated a bank robbery, potentially ruined Clara’s love life, abandoned her at the worst of times, and lied to many people about being able to save them. He is far more about the bigger picture, trying to get the human race to try things for themselves instead of relying on him to save the Earth time after time. He’s rude, arrogant, and has already been slapped quite a few times, but underneath it’s so obvious that he misses when he had the appearance of a young and (some say) handsome man, Clara loved him and part of him still loves her. Now though, and speaking as a psychology student, the Doctor has changed from clinical to research, and it doesn’t matter that much if a few people die during the process. As Moriarty once said “That’s what people do”.
The Doctor then, despite all that, is fantastic. He’ll show you a different way of living other than “taking the bus, eating chips, watching tv then going to bed”. There are so many wonders out there to explore, monsters to defeat, civilisations to rescue. Be you with “Fantastic” 9, “Allons-y” 10, “Geronimo” 11 or the “Shut up” 12, grab your nearest screen and welcome to one of the best things television can offer you. New episodes are on BBC 1, Saturday night, 9:30 – Enjoy, it’ll be the trip of a lifetime.