No, just the Doctor

August 20, 2008

I have happened, this summer, to see a few dozen episodes of the show Doctor Who. I still can’t make up my mind about the show.

There are obvious problems with it. It isn’t particularly concerned with internal consistency, or even making sense. The main character, the Doctor, is the “last of the time-lords” – even though it makes no sense to be the “last” of a race that has the ability to time-travel. He possesses a “sonic screwdriver”, “psychic paper”, and a “TARDIS”, all of which are basically magic. None of the science in the show makes any sense.

Also, the acting is not particularly good, the writing is often silly (though these two seem to work together – the characters do seem realistic, because they act like normal people would act in these situations – i.e. really wooden and stupid and not very eloquent), and the way the Doctor gets out of danger is often completely implausible – for some reason his enemies always let him monologue for fifteen minutes and never shoot him even when they have the opportunity.

Still, the show is fascinating, despite all this. My theory is that this is because the situations and worlds it presents, implausible as they are, are extremely creative and you can’t help but watch them play out. Take the Vashta Nerada – a race of tiny gnat-like creatures that resemble shadows and disguise themselves in and as shadows and eat everything. Basically tiny flying piranhas. And they have taken over a library the size of a planet. And the Doctor has to find a way to get out of the library alive.

Anyway, I think this says something about how powerful mythopoeia is. The power of the story can make you forgive the silliness, the absurdity, and everything else – you can treat that part as if it was “so bad it’s good”, but the world-building parts are actually “good”.


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