Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I can’t believe how big Doctor Who has gotten. There were so many Doctor Whos left and right at the con in New York this last year you would have thought it was a Time Lord convention (okay, that’s dorky I know). I mean, let’s face it Doctor Who’s sort of geeky, androgynous, quirky-cool thing seems to sell well with select crowds.

I was never a HUGE Doctor Who fan until this new series on BBC got big. And now I find myself sort of fascinated with Who lore, old and new. What always gets me is the SCOPE of British fantasy. I don’t quite now how to articulate this, but for some reason, to me, lots of science fiction and fantasy from the minds of the British always seems so surreal and alien to me.

It’s sort of like Star Wars. Yes, the Death Star is the Empire’s ultimate super weapon, but you kind of felt like everything else in Star Wars was conventional warfare. That is to say there could be a battle and you MIGHT be able to survive it.

I feel like war and fantasy in the minds of the British is the opposite. It’s like of such a magnitude and so outrageous that it feels truly TRULY fantastic.

Warhammer 40k is this idea that conflicts are raging across every planet in the known universe and that wars are being fought on such a scale that fighting sort of seems both inevitable and completely futile and daunting. Judge Dredd? Things are prettly bleak in the Dredd universe, aren’t they?

Even the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sure you’re along for the ride with Arthur and Ford but when they start talking about demolishing and building new planets and Improbability Drives and so on, it’s sort of hard to imagine just one person being able to have much influence on events of such a cosmic scope, isn’t it? (Which, you know, is exactly why Hitchiker’s Guide is so damn funny, but that’s beside the point).

For me, Doctor Who is sort of the essence of this kind of fiction. It’s this very CHARACTER driven story but he’s dealing with these conflicts and problems that are so beyond the realm of human comprehension or even capability to handle that it seems surreal and just a bit campy. I mean look at the Daleks. Their laser beams obliterate ANYTHING, in an instant. There’s literally no defense. The Time Lords go to war but what they use to fight is actually time ITSELF.

Humanity is essentially a small pinprick of light in a vast ocean of darkness in the Doctor Who universe is what I’m getting at here. It’s a very H.P. Lovecraft kind of thing in British science fiction. The end result, I think, is that despite Doctor Who’s writers commitment to their own continuity the show ends up feeling just a LITTLE bit campy and cheesy.

But at the same time, the character ends up being very iconic. It ends up being these simple choices or personal realizations that save the universe in humanity’s most desperate need, no matter how bizarre and overwhelming the odds may seem. Essentially, I think the fantasy in British science fiction is less about CONTEXT and more about ATMOSPHERE.

The exact details of the Who universe don’t matter that much. I mean the details are COOL and fun to follow but at it’s core, it remains a very personal story about choices. And I think that’s part of why people dig it. Despite it being so dorky, Doctor Who is kind of easy-going science fiction. It isn’t that hard to pick up and get into. So no wonder it’s catching on.