A Trip to the Doctor
November 13, 2010
I am a proud, card-carrying nerd. I have always been proud of my nerd credentials.
Nerd, as in I know what the "T" in James T. Kirk stands for. Nerd, as in my most treasured T-shirt has R2-D2 on it. Nerd, as in I actually had a Timex-Sinclair 1000, and felt like a real hacker when I got my first Commodore 64. Nerd, as in when my computer shuts down it says "I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."
As a nerd who suspects he may be turning British, there is one glaring omission in my nerd credentials: the longest running science fictional television program of all time (1963-1989 and 2005-present), the classic BBC-TV series Doctor Who. As a teenager, I saw a few episodes of the show on PBS but never really bought into the series, largely because of the laughable special effects. I have heard nothing but rave reviews of the BBC revival of the series, including vastly improved special efffects. So, I have started with the 2005 revival, and plan to work up to the current series, then return to the older episodes.
So, who is Who? The Doctor is a Time Lord, one of a race of very long-lived humanoid aliens from the planet Gallifrey who travel in space and time using a vehicle known as a TARDIS. The Doctor's TARDIS resembles a blue British police box and is larger on the inside than the outside as a result of "Time Lord physics." When they are mortally wounded, Time Lords undergo a process of regeneration which alters their physical appearance as well as aspects of their personality. The Doctor is currently in his 11th incarnation, portrayed by Matt Smith.
Like all good heroes, the Doctor has sidekicks and nemeses. The Doctor has human (occasionally humanoid alien and even a robotic dog) companions who travel with him through space and time, solving crises and fighting bad guys. The most iconic of these "bad guys" are the genocidal cyborg Daleks, a race of slug-like alien creatures living inside armored robotic shells whose catchphrase "Exterminate!" sums up their feelings about any non-Dalek life-forms.
Given the very long life of the television show, its spin-offs (in the form of the BBC programs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, associated novels, comics and radio dramas), and the paradoxical nature of time-travel, the mythos surrounding the Doctor and the Time Lords is especially rich: the fabled Time War with the Daleks, the renegade Time Lord "Master", meetings between incarnations of the Doctor, and the trans-dimensional lost love of Rose Tyler.
So why don't you grab your sonic screwdriver and jump into the TARDIS with me? I'm sure those Daleks are up to no good somewhere in time and space.