Before I moved to London back in June 2014, one of my favourite ways of keeping my excitement in check was researching my new home. By far my favourite field of study was catching up on UK pop culture, which basically meant that I spent six months sitting down to watch any British movie or TV series I could get my hands on. It was around this time that, to my great surprise, I found myself falling head over heels for a show I’d previously dismissed: perennial sci-fi classic Doctor Who.
If you’ve never watched Doctor Who before, right now you’re probably picturing men in scarves spouting technobabble while being chased by people in rubber monster suits. But Doctor Who is so much more than that, as its huge popularity in the UK and abroad can attest. Fans of the series will point out the quality of writing (and production values!) across the vast majority of episodes since its relaunch in 2005, as well as the top notch performances by both up-and-coming and veteran British acting talent.
So, with Series 9 of Doctor Who arriving on 19 September, here’s a round-up of the five reasons why you need to give this show a chance!
5. It’s scary (but not too scary)
Doctor Who is scary. True, it’s not a horror show in the strictest sense, but a large part of its appeal is that there are several episodes each series capable of driving children (and even some adults!) behind the couch until the monsters leave the screen.
Viewers have been given the heebie-jeebies by all sorts of unsettling interstellar invaders over the years. During the Ninth Doctor’s tenure, the creepiest moments belonged to the gas mask clad children roaming London during The Blitz. Whenever one of these terrifying tykes asked, “Are you my mummy?”, viewer goosebumps immediately followed.
And who could forget the Weeping Angels? Living statues capable of movement only when unobserved, the Angels would go on to bedevil both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Operating on the principle that less is often more, they kept viewers hearts racing just as much when they weren’t on screen as when they were.
Most recently, the Twelth (and current) Doctor faced off against the grand daddy of all nightmare creatures: the monster under the bed. This may sound a little silly (more on how gloriously silly Doctor Who can be later), but thanks to clever execution, this episode tapped into an elemental type of fright even a jaded horror buff would respond to!
4. It’s thrilling
Do you like cliffhangers? Episodes that end leaving you on the edge of your seat, breathlessly waiting to see how the story will continue in a week’s time? If the answer is “yes”, then Doctor Who is absolutely the show for you. The past eight seasons have been filled with so many unbelievable “To Be Continued…” moments, it’s almost unfair to single out only a few.
There was the time the Ninth Doctor declared to companion Rose Tyler that he would come to free her from the Daleks, even as the nefarious salt ‘n’ pepper shakers prepared to attack. With The Doctor utterly outgunned, completely defenceless and lacking anything even resembling a plan, the chances of his rescue mission working out for the best seemed slim at best as the credits rolled!
Then there was the return of series archfoe the Master in Series 3. A childhood friend of The Doctor before he went insane, the Master was believed to be a casualty of the war that wiped out the Time Lords. However, it transpired that the Master had indeed managed to escape this fate, and after regenerating into a younger, healthier body, he departed in the Doctor’s time/space-travelling TARDIS ready to wreak havoc on the Earth!
Topping all of these heart-thumping moments is the cliffhanger towards the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, when he entered his own time stream to save his companion, Clara. This shadowy world was populated only by The Doctor’s known past incarnations… until another, more sinister figure appeared!
3. It’s funny
Unlike other sci-fi shows which play things deadly serious at all times, even the most sombre episode of Doctor Who is bound to make you laugh at least once. The British have a well-earned reputation for writing great comedy, and that’s certainly something that’s carried over to this series.
No matter which incarnation of the Doctor we’re talking about, our always possesses a razor sharp wit capable of serving up some priceless one liners and retorts, and his companions are rarely ill-equipped in this department either. Whether it’s bantering with each other or joining forces against a common enemy, the Time Lord and his friends are always entertaining to watch. It’s not just them either. Many of the bad guys are capable of eliciting the odd chuckle here or there, and the series isn’t above gently poking fun at its iconic villains and their various idiosyncrasies, either.
Fair warning though: if the odd bit of silliness isn’t your bag, then Doctor Who is definitely not the show for you. The last eight seasons have been sprinkled liberally with nonsense and whimsy, and there’s no sign that things are about to change in this regard. There’s been an appearance by Santa (yes, Santa!), Benny Hill Show call backs, cannibalistic garbage bins and more. Some viewers might call this cheesy, but this light-hearted fun is an integral part of the show’s charm.
2. It’s weepy
A big lump – that’s what you’ll find in your throat as you watch some of the more emotionally charged episodes of Doctor Who.
Take the heart-breaking farewell between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, separated forever across two universes. It’s easily the equal of anything you’ll see in so-called “legitimate” drama. That moment where The Doctor’s hologram cuts out before he can finish his goodbye? Oh, the pain!
Or what about when the typically prickly Twelfth Doctor forgives Clara even after she monumentally betrayed him? Tears, people – genuine tears.
1. It’s enough to make you cheer
Above all, the best reason to watch Doctor Who is because it’s so uplifting.
Sometimes this takes the form of dashing feats of derring-do. The show is full of dramatic rescues, like when the Tenth Doctor smashed through a mirror on a white stallion to rescue the Madame de Pompadour from killer robots in 18th Century France.
Other times, it manifests itself in grandstanding speeches about the miracle that is life and the wonder inherent in the universe. For a great example, look no further than the scene where the Eleventh Doctor lectures a parasitic planet about the virtues of love, loss, joy and sadness.
And then there are those times when Doctor Who makes you want to cheer for the simple reason that what you’re watching is just plain awesome, like the thirteen Doctor team-up during the 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor.
But whatever form they take, these rousing moments rank up there with the best pop culture has to offer.