Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Writers Can Learn from DOCTOR WHO

I'm a big fan of Doctor Who. Like most Whovians, I don't like every single episode. I have my favorites, just like I have my favorite Doctors and my favorite companions.
So what exactly makes Doctor Who so great? And what exactly is Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is a BBC science-fiction series that has been around for over 50 years--even before I was born--although there was a long break between the late eighties and 2005 when the new series began.

Doctor Who tells the ongoing story of the Doctor: a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and the last of his kind.

The Doctor is hundreds of years old, and he’s seen a lot of terrible things. He has a lot of enemies, like the Daleks and the Cybermen.  He’s lost a lot of friends along the way, which makes him very lonely.

That’s why the Doctor likes to take people along for the ride. These special people are the Doctor’s companions. They get to travel with the Doctor is his time machine, which is called the TARDIS.

TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. On the outside, the TARDIS looks like a blue police call box from England in the 1960s. It’s much bigger on the inside, though. Sometimes bigger than others.

The Doctor’s real name is a secret he must keep, because if it falls into the wrong hands… Actually, I don’t know what would happen, but apparently it’s something really bad.

When the Doctor dies, he regenerates and turns into someone new. So far 13 actors have played the Doctor, and each one has brought something different to the role.

Some people say that this is what makes Doctor Who so great: because the Doctor can become anyone, the show can be anything… Except apparently a woman, but that's something I hope will change. I've even written a first episode for her, and I've entitled it "Madam with a Box," a play on somethin the Doctor sometimes calls himself: a "madman with a box." I'd like to someday create a Kickstarter project so I can turn Madam with a Box into a fanfic graphic novel. Someday... 
Anyway, remember how I said that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside? Well, I think that what makes the show great is that the show itself is bigger on the inside.

The show makes you feel, and it makes you feel BIG time.

For example, I’ve never seen a more romantic couple on TV than the 11th Doctor’s companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams.

He dies over and over for her, and as the Last Centurion he waits over a thousand years to guard her in the Pandorica. And when Amy has to choose between Rory and all of time and space, she chooses him. “Together or not at all.” Try to beat that, any other TV couple out there.   

Looking for something scary? Try the episodes entitled “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” “The Time of Angels,” “Flesh and Stone” and finally “The Angels Take Manhattan.” I don’t know of any other show that’s made thousands of viewers too scared to even blink.

Looking for something funny? Donna Noble probably would win a funniest companion competition, and one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on TV was near the end of companion Donna Noble’s storyline in the episode entitled “Journey’s End.” Of course, it very soon becomes one of the saddest things ever. (Maybe that's a spoiler, although soon after Donna Noble is introduced as a companion we're told that something very sad is going to happen to her. The only spoiler here, really, is that it's true.)

And that’s what makes Doctor Who so great! It makes you feel so much and so deeply.

You fall in love with the characters. You feel their terror and sadness and joy. In a way, everyone who watches Doctor Who BECOMES the Doctor’s companion. We’re all onboard the TARDIS for this wonderful, scary, funny, exciting ride!

So it’s not that the show can be anything; it’s that the show can take your emotions ANYWHERE, and it does.

There's a lesson there for any storyteller: don’t let the audience half feel things. Go as far as you can. Make your story like a TARDIS: bigger on the inside.

And that’s why I love the “Madman in a Box.”   


Anthony J. Langford said...

Been a fan since I was 5. Loved the 70's Dr. Who, when the show peaked. I think the new series is pretty good. The current doctor is awesome, but David Tennant was great too. Something very special about a show that can last for 50 years, even with the break. Its unique in the world.

Shevi Arnold said...

Yes. I loved it when I was a kid, too. Tom Baker was my Doctor back then. Now I think it's a tie between Tom Baker and David Tennant. My favorite companions, though, are Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song. I miss the ensemble.