November 23 is the 50th anniversary of the British TV show Doctor Who, and like all good connoisseur of Science Fiction, I am a huge Doctor Who fan. I’ve been into the show ever since the reboot in 2005. The Sci-Fi channel – back when it was spelled like that – got a hold of it and started playing it after the second season of Battlestar Galactica. It had aliens, time travel, and comedy. I was hooked, and so is the rest of US based sci-fi nerds.
But this wasn’t the first time Doctor Who had tried to make it in America. In 1996, Fox tried to bring back the show with a TV movie. This was going to function as a back door pilot. While that may sound a little dirty, what it actually means is a made for TV movie that – if it gets enough ratings – it will get picked up to series. This was actually how the Battlestar Galactica remake go turned into a series.
I remember that film back in 96. I recorded it off TV, but I messed up the tape somehow and the sound cut out about half way through. It didn’t really matter. I thought the visuals were cool, so I watched my tape a few times even if I wasn’t sure of everything that was going on.
Sadly the views of my tape did not translate to ratings and show wasn’t picked up for series until the middle of the next decade. Cut to now, and I just got done watching some episodes of reboot and it got me thinking. Why was this show canceled back in 89 and why wasn’t it picked up in 96? Why did it take almost 20 years for us to see a proper Dr. Who series on TV?
I think our society wasn’t ready yet for the kind of metaphor that the Doctor represents. By 2005, the Internet had proven it was here to stay, bottom had basically fallen out of space travel, and cell phones were just on the edge of becoming full computers and usher in the Mobile Revolution. My generation’s great journey isn’t going to be one to the west or space, it’s going to be to the inside. We are going to use the web and microcomputers to become Transhuman.
This is what the Doctor represents. He is a metaphor for the Transhuman. He’s a lens for what we can become. His race conquered death through technology, which if you follow tech news, is something that we are constantly brushing our fingers against. He seemingly knows everything about every culture even if he hasn’t been to that place before. This is something that was as a culture or experiencing for the first time with our ability to check Google and Wikipedia at any time from our cell phones. And the technology he uses is so unknowable that it just looks like nonsense when it is being operated, which if you really think about it, is what our technology would look like to any outsider.
Every society throughout time has had to deal with changes and its surroundings. As a way of dealing with this, we create metaphors in stories to explain our “now” to us on a subconscious level.
Our current situation is this: we are becoming more than human everyday because of our constant connection to the Internet and our evolving technology. It’s scary because its new and we need some way of making sense of it. There isn’t a better metaphor for this than the Doctor, who is alway changing and reinventing himself as we must learn to do, all while still having a good time.
Happy 50th birthday Doctor Who, we are going to need you for the next fifty.