Why Do Readers Love Doctor Who?


When it comes to Doctor Who, I am so late to the game that it’s a little ridiculous. Especially since I already assumed it would be my sort of thing. I mean, everyone I like seems to like it, from more notorious fans like Neil Gaiman and Craig Ferguson to just about every blogger I’ve started following in the past year. (I’m just starting Series Three, so this post will be based on my observations to that point.)

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Doctor Who seems like a reader’s show. Not directly, because it’s not based upon a work of literature, nor does it reference them. None of the characters is a novelist, or a publisher, or a poet, or even a librarian or bookseller. But most of the people I know that enjoy Doctor Who also seem to rather enjoy a good book. So what is it about this show that appeals to readers?

1. Time Travel

I don’t mean the ability to literally travel through time (although I’m sure some of us would jump at the chance!). However, watching The Doctor and his companion (Can I just say “Rose”? I’ll probably always picture her when I think of a companion.) travel to different time periods is similar to the feeling a reader gets when opening a new book. There’s something about being a stranger in a strange land, that thrill that you get when dipping into someone else’s life, that mirrors The Doctor’s travels to new places and eras.

2. An Overarching Storyline

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a sense of history in a series. Some shows, like Modern Family, can be watched from the middle of the series without it affecting your understanding of who the characters are or where they’ve been. Each episode stands alone. As much as I enjoy Modern Family for what it is, though, my favorite shows are the ones in which you get to really know the characters, where they’ve come from and where they’re going, and Doctor Who is an excellent example of this. My favorite book series are the same way: sure, you could read a single volume alone or out of order, but you’ll get so much more out of the story if you start at the beginning and work your way through to the end. There’s something so rewarding about sticking with a story — whether it be on the page or the screen — and seeing how it all ties together.

3. A Catchphrase

Or two. Or three. If I didn’t have to be a responsible parent, I’d love to play the “Fantastic!” drinking game during a marathon of Series One. (I haven’t watched enough of Ten’s scenes yet to determine whether or not “Allons-y!” will be as prevalent. Will it?) How is this literary, you ask? It is, in a fun sort of way, at least for me. I love characters with catchphrases, from Mad-Eye Moody’s “Constant vigilance!” to Sara D’Abruzzi’s “Omigod!” in the Jessica Darling books to “Fat bitch” in The Basic Eight. Whenever I use these phrases (okay, I’ll be honest: I don’t think I’ve ever called someone a fat bitch), I can’t help but smile. It’s a sort of inside joke with myself and any fans that happen to be nearby (usually, none). By the way: If you got all three of those references, we probably need to be friends.

4. Brains Over Brawn

I’m not saying that there’s no action in this show, because of course there is, but violence isn’t The Doctor’s weapon of choice. (If it was, would his sonic instrument really be a screwdriver?!) The idea that knowledge and resourcefulness can be useful in a life-or-death situation is appealing to someone like me who spends lots of recreational time inside my own head. (Maybe all this reading could be useful!)

5. Slow, Kinda-Sorta Romance

That will-they-or-won’t-they can keep me reading sometimes, even when the rest of the story is pretty rough. And I really enjoy the idea of The Doctor having a companion. I hate thinking of him as lonely.

6. Daleks

Okay, this one has nothing to do with being a reader. It has everything to do with their voices — which, since most readers are auditory people, could be considered super-loosely-book-related. Or not. All I know is that every time a Dalek comes on the screen, I delight in shouting, “Exterminate!” even though I can’t do the voice in the least bit. That’s how I know I’ve got an awesome husband: he tolerates my Dalek impersonations.

Note: I may be incorrect in my assumption that Doctor Who appeals particularly to readers. Perhaps it appeals to everyone and I’ve just been hearing from the reading end of the spectrum. If you disagree, let me know why in the comments. Or, you know, you could let me know if you agree, too. I do enjoy hearing it when someone thinks I’m right. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Why Do Readers Love Doctor Who?

  1. You’re on series three?? And I thought I was late to the party because I discovered it only a year ago…! I’m rewatching the whole thing and I the other day I asked myself the exact same question: Why do readers love so much Doctor Who? The show has a non-reader fan base too obviously, but a lot of whovians are also bookworms. It’s interesting I think.
    PS: I love the tension that there’s between some companions and the Doctor. I think 9 and Rose would make a great couple.

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