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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Doctor Who’ thing of the day: Is ‘Doctor Who’ for geeks?

It seems like an obvious question that Andrew Blair asked yesterday at Den of Geek!, but perhaps it’s not so clear-cut:

Steven Moffat has explicitly stated in Doctor Who Magazine that the show is for everyone, from the casual viewer to the hardcore fan. It’s a difficult balancing act, but one that the show largely maintains. However, I would say it is definitely skewed towards the family audience, as it was at its height during the seventies.

In fact, to find any evidence of a Doctor Who skewed intentionally towards geekdom, we have to go back to when it wasn’t even on television. We have to visit the 1990s.

The New Adventures did contain some stunningly good stories, incredibly earnest political beliefs, and some utterly terrible drawings of Sylvester McCoy on their covers. They were definitively not for children. Some writers even incorporated the Cthulhu mythos into the Whoniverse. The target market for Who had shifted.

Big Finish is aimed right at the craniums of Doctor Who fandom, but unlike the book range, you wouldn’t expect to find it in the high street. It mainly features the Doctors from the eighties and Paul McGann, who are, sadly, not generally popular with the public. For example, despite his sterling work, it is still an act of folly to attempt to convince a not-we that Colin Baker is an excellent Doctor, based on his poll-winning and critically acclaimed work for Big Finish.

Another problem for the range is that the phrase ‘audio play’ doesn’t really have much going for it, as a noun. Not compared with, say, ‘comic book’.

There’s a lot more that, er, very geeky indeed, and then Blair ends with this:

The TV series is for geeks. It’s just that it’s also for the many other people who aren’t. And that’s okay. They’re allowed to, provided they do it behind closed doors when nobody else is watching.

I have such a different perspective on Doctor Who, as an American who only discovered the show when I was a teenager and the rest of the world (as I knew it, at least) was full of mundanes who wouldn’t known a police box if they stumbled into one. I know that the new incarnation of the show gets enormous ratings in the U.K., which is possible only when a show has mainstream appeal, but I’m not sure I get what nongeeks get out of the show.

Perhaps Doctor Who is the Schroedinger’s cat of geekiness: it both is and isn’t geeky at the same time…

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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