I’m American, and because of that my path to DOCTOR WHO likely differs greatly from the ones taken by the show’s British audience. The first references to Doctor Who I’d ever heard were in articles about comic book conventions. A comic book website would post pictures of costumed convention-goers and inevitably there would be an individual with a long colored scarf. For a long time that’s all I knew about the Doctor, he wore a scarf, that’s it.
The current Doctor and his companions
A few months before TORCHWOOD’s season/series two premiere on BBC America, I learned James Marsters (Spike on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) would be guest-starring in the DOCTOR WHO spinoff’s first episode. This made TORCHWOOD required viewing, and it became my introduction into the world of DOCTOR WHO.
I watched the first two seasons of TORCHWOOD before I even considered watching DOCTOR WHO, and TORCHWOOD was most definitely not a children’s show. So when I did start watching DOCTOR WHO, I believed, like TORCHWOOD, the Doctor’s adventures were largely intended for adult viewing. Nothing in the episodes really argued against this opinion. In every episode of DOCTOR WHO, people died. People assimilated by Cybermen, exterminated by Daleks, and slaughtered by various other alien species. If the Doctor shows up, sure he’ll save the world, but before he does, a bunch of people will usually meet their maker. That’s not something we associate with many children’s programs here in the states, so I was a tad surprised when I read this quote from Alex Kingston in an interview with EW.com:
“The one thing I hope is that more children in America get on board. In England, Doctor Who has always been considered a children’s show, at least by children. My daughter and her contemporaries, they feel like it’s their show. Parents are allowed to watch but it’s the children’s show.”
Calling DOCTOR WHO’s current iteration, complexly plotted by Steven Moffat, a children’s show would be like us in the states calling LOST a kid’s show. Perhaps that isn’t the perfect comparison, but it’s pretty close. The current story arcs on DOCTOR WHO often become insanely complicated. The first ten minutes of the season six premiere had to be watched at least twice to fully understand everything that was happening. As an adult, I love when a show challenges me to keep up. But I have to imagine an 8-year old could be left mightily confused.
"I swear your kids won't have nightmares about me. Now watch as I rip this poor woman to shreds."
If DOCTOR WHO’s only crime as a supposed children’s show was to force kids to keep up with smart complex plotting, this entry wouldn’t be about questioning the children’s show label, but rather proclaiming why all children in the US should be tuning into BBC America every Saturday at 9 PM Eastern Time. But do you see that spooky looking guy above? He’s part of an alien race called the Silence and they were the villains for the two-part premiere. Also, they were pretty damn scary.
Not since the BUFFY episode “Hush” have I seen such creepy creatures on my television screen, and I certainly would never consider that BUFFY episode appropriate for a second grader. There was a chilling scene in last week’s episode, “Day of the Moon”, featuring Karen Gillan as Amy Pond visiting a rundown orphanage filled with members of the Silence. The scene was genius, but it would’ve been right at home in an R-rated horror film like THE DESCENT.
Now DOCTOR WHO does shy away from any sexual content (at most there’s a kiss here or there and maybe a line of innuendo or two) and, despite all the deaths, there never seems to be any blood, but do those things alone qualify it as a children’s show? If DOCTOR WHO didn’t have a nearly 50-year long history in the UK and the current version of the show was judged only on it’s own content rather than on what DOCTOR WHO has historically been, would any objective viewer claim this show was made for children? I can’t imagine they would.
Blog-A-Day Challenge: Day 26