Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Mad Man With a Box

About a month into its 48th year of existence, the Christmas special of Doctor Who was watched by 1/6 of the population of Great Britain. I would compare that to some television show for Americans, but there isn't one. Nothing in America is that proportionally popular. Certainly nothing sci-fi or fantasy.

Doctor Who was the first non-news program to air on the BBC after the Kennedy assassination. The show has not been on the air all 48 years since it debuted - only 32 of them - but there has not been a year when some officially sanctioned Doctor Who stories have not come out. And there is no reason why that should ever stop being true. Because there is no way to run out of Doctor Who stories. At least, not without running out of stories entirely.

Doctor Who is a story about a man with a magical blue box that can go anywhere and any time. The man is, for all practical purposes, immortal. When something happens that would kill him, he just changes into a new man and walks away to new adventures.

John Lasseter, with whom I am hesitant to ever argue about storytelling, has said that there is only one story in the world. A man comes into town, and everything changes. By this standard, every story is a Doctor Who story, as every Doctor Who story is exactly that - a man with a magical blue box comes into town, and everything changes.

And so as long as there are stories, there are Doctor Who stories. When the stars go out and the universe freezes, around the last fire on the last world, there will still be Doctor Who stories to tell. And when we are done telling them, at long and final last, in the distance will be a strange wheezing, groaning sound. And out will step an impossible man, and he will save the day.

I believe this. I believe this because to disbelieve this is to disbelieve that stories have power. To disbelieve this is to disbelieve that there is hope. To disbelieve this is to believe that there is such a thing as being alone. I believe this because disbelieving it is too awful to imagine.

This is the story of a story that can never end. This is the story of how a daft idea from the bowels of the BBC in the 1960s changed everything. This is the story of an impossible man, and his magic box, and everything that happened after.

Because there's something you'd better understand about me. Because it's important, and one day, your life may depend on it.

I am definitely a mad man with a blog.

3 comments:

  1. "And so as long as there are stories, there are Doctor Who stories . . . I believe this because disbelieving it is too awful to imagine."

    YES! This. Exactly this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just stumbled across your blog searching for the quote about computers being sophisticated idiots.

    Am utterly fascinated and will probably spend the next few days catching up. (Just warning you now.)

    LC

    (I will argue the "a man comes to town and everything changes" as the one story. I'd argue more for, "Something happens. Things change."

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Doctor Who was the first non-news program to air on the BBC after the Kennedy assassination."

    I'm afraid that's just not accurate, sorry. They certainly showed Here's Harry and Dr Finlay's Casebook after they'd already broadcast the news on the Friday.

    ReplyDelete