Who Knows "Who"?


After forty-odd years of being on television and in popular culture, Dr. Who still requires an introduction, it seems.

The Tardis, by recurrence, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike license

In the July 21, 2008, issue of The New Yorker (the one with all the cover fracas, in fact), Benjamin Wallace-Wells pens an article about Garrett Lisi’s quest for a Theory of Everything, noting that the good Doctor can be a soothing respite for an introverted physicist and his partner:

The weekend I visited, Lisi and Baranyk were getting ready for a party in Reno, forty minutes away, to which they’d been invited by someone Lisi met on a ski lift, and for which they were dressing up as giant rabbits. But most nights they stayed in and cooked. They sometimes watched videotapes of the British science-fiction show “Doctor Who,” but they preferred board games.

Has the Doctor not penetrated sufficiently into public consciousness that the show can be introduced simply as Doctor Who, with the expectation that it will be understood? Or will it always require an appositive to provide needed context for those who might otherwise think some obscure medical drama were being watched?

Perhaps these are just the grumbles of a niche fan who cannot understand his favorite show being relegated to late-night PBS airings. After all, one doesn’t bother to explain Star Wars as “the American science-fiction film based loosely on Joseph Campbell’s work” or Harry Potter as “the British children’s series, loved by adults, about a boy wizard.” Or perhaps it’s just good journalism to provide explanations for anything that might be unclear to your widest possible audience. Let’s go with that.

I’ll have to make a more thorough search of The New Yorker’s archives to see how the show is mentioned, if ever before, in its pages. The online archive is less-than-full-featured, and I despair of installing the kludgy, proprietary interface for the complete DVD set (which I treasure nonetheless), but we all make sacrifices for the Doctor.

(Image courtesy of recurrence, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.)

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