With filming for the highly-anticipated 50th anniversary special under way, fans of the BBC television show Doctor Who have taken to social media to scrutinize every little detail of production stills being released. I confess, I’m one of them. A Whovian, as we call ourselves. And I will be waiting in breathless anticipation when the BBC celebrates the golden anniversary of the longest-running science fiction show on television.
Doctor Who premiered Nov. 23, 1963 on the BBC network in Great Britain. It chronicles the adventures of a space- and time-traveling alien, a Time Lord named simply “the Doctor,” and his (usually) human companions. He explores space and time in his sentient, bigger-on-the-inside ship called the TARDIS. With his companions, the Doctor faces a variety of foes while working to help ordinary people, save civilizations and right wrongs.
The show ran continuously from 1963 until the late '80s, with one television film in 1996, with eight different actors playing the Doctor. (Time Lords “regenerate” into new bodies when mortally wounded, a handy plot device used to pass the torch between actors.) In 2005, the show was rebooted and added three new actors playing the title role.
I was a late bloomer to the show. Though it played on PBS here in America in the ’70s and ’80s, I did not get hooked into this fantastical world of the Doctor until 2008, after several of my friends had recommended it to me. It only took two episodes for me to become a devoted fan, gobbling up both “classic” episodes and the newer reincarnation of the series. Along the way I learned some valuable lessons about life, the universe and everything.
1. There’s no point in growing up if you can’t be childish sometimes. Too often, as adults, we let the real world turns us cynical and pessimistic. Sometimes we just need to let the grown up slip away and regain some of that childish innocence we had when we were children. Run through the grass barefoot. Play with dolls. Have a tea party with friends.
2. Everyone is important. This is one I struggle with, especially when it comes to myself. I battle depression every day and sometimes, when it feels like the world is caving in on me, I have to remind myself I am important, too.
3. Time can be rewritten. Of course, we don’t have a fancy time machine like the Doctor, but we can rewrite the past in other ways. A heartfelt apology for a past wrong can be offered. Forgiveness can be given. A fresh start can be had.
4. Not all victories are about saving the world. Even the smallest victories, such as achieving a personal goal, is every bit as important as the world-saving victories.
5. Nothing is impossible, just highly unlikely. Even then, those highly unlikely things can become likely if you just persevere.
6. Stand up for what is right, no matter the odds. Don’t ever give up on your personal convictions.
7. The bad things in life don’t spoil the good things. Learn from the bad memories and cherish the good ones. When life throws you for a loop, take out a good memory and relive it. Don’t give in to the bad things in life.
8. The most ordinary person can change the world. You could change someone else’s world for the better and never know it. Be a positive force in the lives of those around you.
9. The best weapons in the world are books. The knowledge within books are the best arsenal you could hope to have.
10. Be proud of your beliefs… and your fashion sense. Your beliefs make you who you are, not what kind of clothes you wear. But it’s OK to be proud of both. After all, bow ties are cool.
Of course, there are many other lessons to be learned from Doctor Who, such as angel statues are things to be feared, the adipose diet isn’t a good idea and despite their appearance, Daleks can climb stairs, but it’s the ones you can apply to real life that have stuck with me. And in 50 years of traveling through time and space with the Doctor, I know I’m not the only one whose life has been affected for the better by Doctor Who.