The casting of the Thirteenth Doctor as female has led to a great deal of words being said across the Internet and the world about Doctor Who, and it has caused me to reflect, not on the decision--which I think is wholly right and proper--but on the general question of why something that happens in Doctor Who--a Children's Television programme--matters, and what its place in the world is. And why I revulse internally when I hear it referred to as one, even though that's exactly what it is.
The Programme. Speaking of it in that way seems to rob of it something in my mind. I'm under no illusions as to what Doctor Who is-- actors walking a world of cardboard and fibreglass playing a role, telling a tale, making a show, aimed at a specific audience for entertainment. It is not meant to be a personal saviour or greater social touchstone or totem.
But, as with all the greatest stories, so it is, anyway. At least for me, and I daresay others, it's transcended to the level of cultural and personal canon. Its reach is strong; its legacy long.
For myself, youth was cold, hard and lonely. In my childhood, society did not reward the introverted, social awkward, above-average thinking type children. It wasn't "cool" to be that way. Derision, scorn and ridicule were my constant companions with rare exception.Life was a series of defensive actions, of retreats, of isolations.
When I came home, however, there was Doctor Who-- and it was no mere children's show. It was home.
Never mind the monsters, or the dodgy sets-- be it ever so humble, the TARDIS was home. Its owner, The Doctor, was at once mentor, friend, inspiration and aspiration.
Here was someone who took you as you were, be you a Scottish highlander, a Savage from the future, an intellectual peer or even an awkward chameleonic robot, and let you into his world, and faced a universe or terrors with you, and opened your mind. He exhorted you to stand up for your beliefs, to be unafraid of taking the unpopular position, and to revel in your wits and cleverness, and to sharpen yourself mentally.
Doctor Who, for all the talk of "behind-the-sofa" scares, was still a fundamentally safe space. A place where one could be oneself, and just get lost in a journey of the mind. A surrogate family, be it the UNIT crew, or just the TARDIS duo / trio / rare quartet.
It was a retreat, a sanctuary-- and still is, even if I need it less these days, having found my feet and my voice--feet and voice that it helped me find. When friends, parents and teachers did not understand, or could not relate, there was The Doctor, and those rare few who had also found him, who had understood, who could related, and be related to.
This is why I take it seriously, and expect things of if I know I have no real right to. I expect the Doctor to always be a force of inspiration, challenge and security. A force of genius, and madness and creativity that says it's all right to be you, no matter who you are. It's why I expect a Children's TV show to be bold, and be daring, and push where it can, and not play it safe. Because I know I can't be the only one who needs the Doctor, who needs to be inspired by him... or her.
At the very real risk of selfish appropriation, and of sounding like an entitled fan, I believe that the show has grown, like it or not, beyond its initial remit. For many who are touched by it, it's not just a TV show, it's a light, a force, something unique in a sea of superhero / vampire / zombie / action / military programming. When it's on form, it is a beacon of ideas, hope and solace.
That's why, whenever anyone says it's just a "Children's Show", I wince inside, because my feelings and emotions make it so much more to be. Calling it a children's show just seems reductive, dismissive, and diminishing.
But, even as I write that sentence, I realise I am a fool.
"Children's Show" is not a curse, or a mockery.
"Children's Show" doesn't mean unimportant, or frivolous, or somehow unworthy of great care. It means the exact opposite.
Children's shows set the tone and the stage for people's future. They shape who we are to become, and how we view and interact with the world. And as a child, I was very lucky to have found the Doctor. Doctor Who changed my life, and still does, every day.
I hope that Doctor Who continues to be the Children's show, as long as it stays the one that it has always been--a modern, science fantasy Aesop's Fable with a strong hint of Grimm's--a parable of kindness, eccentricity and excitement that leads its youngest viewers forward to the future in good stead.
So, as the Doctor might say, it should take that label of "Children's Show" and wear it with pride, because it's the most important label in the universe.
Having successfully invaded both America and Canada from her home base in Windsor, Paisley has become horribly corrupted by the world. She hates active voice and wished to god Twitter had an edit button but is now glad to be rid of that place. Dedicated to "creating the greatest 'Ship of them all", she ponders horribly terrible, idiotic things for your amusement.