Star Trek and Doctor Who

On this blog, my life is what I write about; a million little and big and stupid things that matter to me. It might seem silly, but a TV show is one of those things that matter, so today and tomorrow I'm writing about it.

It's science fiction, a show with emotions and adventures that kick real life's ass, a show that sometimes makes me laugh, makes me think, and makes me cry. 

Star Trek was the sci-fi show I grew up loving, and I still like it, but the show I'd rather watch is Doctor Who — you know, the space alien who shares a blue box with a pretty woman.

I switched allegiances unexpectedly one Saturday night perhaps 15 years ago. Flipping through the channels available by rabbit-ear, nothing remotely interesting was on, but a modern-era Doctor Who episode was starting on the PBS channel. I'd seen and disliked some of the old Doctor Who from the 1970s, so my intent was to watch and sneer at Doctor Who.

I didn't sneer. It blew me out of Earth's orbit and disintegrated my space-time continuum. Soon as the episode ended, I went on-line to see where to send money, to watch more Doctor Who. No longer a Trekkie, I'd become Whovian.

♦ ♦ ♦

Star Trek and Doctor Who are both sci-fi, but they're very different. First and most obviously, Star Trek is military, with characters who follow orders and have nearly zero sense of humor. Doctor Who is the embodiment of anarchy — the Doctor neither takes nor gives orders, just does what he pleases. And he's funny.

Can any Trekkie tell me the character flaws of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, or the current captain and cast? On modern Trek, everyone has a deep dark secret, but none have weaknesses more serious than Romulan Ale.

On Doctor Who, the Doctor is almost nothing but character flaws. He makes mistakes, and sometimes they're big. He's overconfident. He's often clueless about how humans think and feel and interact. He's a good guy who enjoys saving the universe on a regular basis, but in a bad mood or difficult situation he can be a bastard, and he's willing to kill if it's necessary, with no regret.

He's well aware that trouble follows him everywhere and everywhen he goes, and that inviting a human companion to tag along on his adventures endangers that person's life — some companions of The Doctor have been killed, others irreparably damaged. And yet, once they're gone, dangers be damned, the Doctor soon invites another human to accompany him. 

A last crucial difference is that Star Trek tries to be "serious science fiction" — warp drive and the chain of command work the same in tonight's episode as they did in hundreds of previous episodes. Doctor Who is far less "serious" in that sense; it gleefully changes things 'round if doing so makes an episode more fun, and then forgets those changes next week.

When time traveling in time with Doctor Who, for example, history can be rewritten, except when it can't. Whether and when history can or can't be rewritten changes so fluidly, only The Doctor understands the rules, and you suspect he's making it up.

That's another thing. The Doctor lies, a lot. Ask him anything, but you'll have to decide for yourself whether to believe the answer. 

He's a madman with a TARDIS, and I kinda love that guy. Rewatching the first five seasons of Doctor Who, over and over, was about the only joy I knew for a long time after my wife died.

Being a homebody, a hermit, someone who prefers isolation to mingling with our species, I don't do much emotional bonding with actual people, but The Doctor and a few of his fictional companions have come to feel like friends.

Whether that's high praise or a quiet cry for help, I dunno, but I do know it's been too long since my last rewatch of Doctor Who, and so tomorrow: 

Doctor Who, the first season.



  1. I love them both, but haven't seen any Doctor Who since maybe the last or second to last episode with Jodie Whittaker. (Despite a lot of people, I loved her in the role, even if she was at times trying too hard to channel David Tenant.) I've heard there have been subsequent episodes, but with our current viewing options it's been difficult to track down without having to pay for yet ANOTHER service.

    Star Trek, on the other hand, is all gathered under Paramount+. And I hate to admit it, but I'm REALLY loving Strange New Worlds.

    1. I too thought Jodie was great, and even re-watched her first season. After that, the writing got worse and worse in my estimation, and I haven't yet seen her final season (though I'm sure I eventually will).

      You're watching SNW? Tell me, how awful was the cartoon crossover? I can't bear to look...


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