Doctor Who is a legendary BBC science fiction drama series. The first Doctor Who appeared on television in 1963 and went on continuously for 26 years till 1989. It was revived in 2005 by Phil Collinson and has completed another 3 years now. It is rumored that there will not be any Doctor Who in 2008 because the actor, David Tennant is going away on a theatre tour. I have watched the three new seasons of Doctor Who and I am hooked.
The Young Wise Old Man
I have spoken previously about the archetype of the Wise Old Man in the context of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Doctor Who takes an interesting turn on the whole concept.
The Doctor is old, very old. He is a Time Lord, a species that can regenerate. When the Doctor’s hand was cut off in the 2006 Christmas special episode, he just … grew it back. And that is not all, the Doctor can regenerate entirely. At the end of such regeneration he becomes a completely new man. Totally different.
Pragmatically speaking, such regeneration is a plot device by which continuity is maintained in a series that runs over 29 years. One actor plays the Doctor for some time. When he is done, he just regenerates and bang! We get a new Doctor played by a new actor.
However, on a plot level this ensures that the Doctor is always young. The Doctor is young in appearance, he is young in behavior. But nevertheless, he is very old. He knows a lot of things. He has been all over the galaxy. And he always has a plan. He has at least some clue about what is going on. Thus, he is a Wise Old man who is young.
In this way, the series cleverly combines the Young Hero and the Wise Old Man into a single character. The character that results is farm more powerful than both. He is a character who young girls can both pine for and depend upon.
Having said that, it is not surprising that the Doctor always travels with a young and beautiful girl who is known as the Companion. The young companion on one hand tends to accentuate the youngness of the Doctor through a similarity in behavior and body language which is certainly that of young people. On the other, it emphasizes the oldness of the Doctor by contrasting how little she knows about the Universe.
What is surprising, however, is that while the Companion is almost always in love with the Doctor, and so it the Doctor, their love remains of a very non romantic kind. In fact, in the 2005 and 2006 series the relationship between the Doctor and Rose Tyler, his Companion was almost that of a father and daughter.
In the 2007 series, Martha Jones, the new Companion does appear to be in romantic love with the Doctor. However, this does not develop into any solid relationship in the series.
Why this may be is because of the mythical nature of the Doctor. The Doctor is a character that is static in time. He does not change much. He does not grow. Whenever he shows signs of growing, he regenerates and we have an entirely new man. His life is repetitive at best. He keeps on fighting the same villains again and again and again. And that is why we love to watch the Doctor. We are in love with his TARDIS, the daleks, the cybermen, his companions and his antics and witticisms and that is why we keep watching him year after year after year.
If the Doctor changes, all this would be lost. We want to see the Doctor as it is.
Not developing relationships is part of this strategy. If you fall in love, you change. You age. Eventually, you’ll be expected to have family. Settle down maybe. We cannot have that for a myth. Just like Superman or Mickey Mouse, the Doctor lives on.