Monday, September 3, 2012

Doctor Who And Stories; or, Why I Love Doctor Who


This post is about Doctor Who. I'm sorry for all you suffering from Doctor Who social media fatigue, but I happen to love Doctor Who. The show is always this grand adventure that's exciting and hilarious and frightening and heart-rending, and the Doctor isn't so bad himself.

I just really want to talk about Doctor Who, but I have a duty as a book blogger to make it, y'know, relevant, so here it goes.

I can't even really articulate why I enjoy the show so much. Sure, it has its corny moments. My first Doctor Who episode was that two-parter in Season Five with the lizard people that live in the center of the earth, and it was laaaame. And sometimes it danced on the edge of preachy. (See the Doctor's rousing "be the best version of yourselves" speech in the aforementioned episode.) And maybe there are some plot holes. (I'm still grumpy over the whole Donna's-head-will-explode-oh-never-mind! thing.)

But Doctor Who has everything I could ever ask for in a story. At its base, it's sci-fi. Hello, he's an alien who travels in a time machine. Definitely sci-fi. And I love the sci-fi! I love visiting new planets and meeting different species. I love the technology (hello, Sonic Screwdriver and sexy TARDIS!). My mind is blown away every week by all the crazy, ingenious, wonderful NEWNESS.

Tying it into books and stuff: Sci-fi/fantasy is especially ingenious. It should be. As readers, we dive into a sci-fi romp expecting a whole new world, complete with history and technology and culture and societal norms. But really, shouldn't all fiction be like that? Even with contemporaries grounded in ol' Main Street, USA, it's still a new world. It's the author's world, the protagonist's world. To you authors out there, have fun with it! I don't want to visit the same old place populated by the same old people. I want something new and fresh and different, and my customers do, too.

I also love the whole historical/speculative fiction aspect. The Doctor is a time traveler. He can go ANYWHERE IN TIME. Forward, backward, even sideways into alternate universes! In one episode, he takes Donna to the beginning of Earth. In another, he takes Rose to its end. In other episodes, we go meet Shakespeare, travel thousands of years in the future to future Earth colonies, and everywhere else you could think of. It's so mind-bending to think of how things were or might have been or could be.

Tying it into books and stuff: This ties into the above. Do. Something. Different. Make me think about your book long after I put it down. You know how sometimes when a squirrel finds a nut, it'll sit there and just turn the thing over and over in its hands? That's what I do in my head when I come across a fresh concept or scene in a book. A good book should always make its reader sit back and think, "What if...?"

Of course, the Doctor doesn't just have fun timey-wimey adventures. It's not all Adipose and rainbows here. Some of the best Doctor Who episodes EVER are the ones that are legitimately scary. You know the ones I mean. I used to think the question "Are you my mummy?" was adorable (think Dr. Seuss). I laugh at my former self. Oh, and don't even get me started on those supposedly sweet angel statues my gramma keeps in her living room.

Tying it into books and stuff: Scare me. No seriously, scare me. This most easily accomplished in a thriller/horror/suspense book, where you can make me look cross-eyed at every shadow. (It might have Vashta Nerada. Run away!) But you can scare me in any genre. Keep me on pins and needles. Make me truly believe that everything might not turn out okay. It's harder than you think. Readers are notoriously stuck to their expected storylines. Until an author proves to me that he or she is willing to take risks with the story and the characters, I won't believe he or she has the guts to do what I fear. Scare me. Make me want to finish.

Another thing the creators of Doctor Who have done really well is the way the characters change. Those characters go through the wringer, and we can SEE the difference in them. Do you really think a girl can go eye-to-eye with a member of the Silence and not be changed? (Even if she doesn't remember it later.) Sometimes the change isn't always so great. None of the Doctor's companions are able to return to normal life after they leave him. They're restless and hungry for the next adventure, unable to be content. Sometimes the change is amazing, as in the cases of Rory and Mickey. But not one character is the same in the end of their run as they were in the beginning, even if said run is only an episode.

Tying it into books and stuff: Seems pretty self-explanatory, no? Characters should be different by the end of the book. Not the end of the series (though that should happen, too), but the end of the book. It can be a good change, a bad change, or just a change, but I should be able to see it. If there is no change, odds are the story just isn't good enough. If the story was good, the character would change. Either way, if I can't see change, odds are I won't care about the book I'm reading.

Oh, and the romance. Doctor Who is especially good at romance. The best part is that Doctor Who is not a romantic show. It's not a soap opera or anything like that. It's a really fun show that happens to have excellent romances. There's often instant attraction (see: Madame du Pompadour) as the Doctor is very charming, but there's no insta-love. Some romances end happily (Amy and Rory, Craig and Sophie), and some not so much (John Smith and Nurse Redfern, Rose and the "real" Doctor), but dagnabit if we aren't rooting for all of them the entire time. Some are even a happy, out-of-the-blue surprise. (Who saw Martha and Mickey coming, honestly?)

Tying it into books and stuff: Romance shouldn't be rote, and it shouldn't be stupid. The best romances are grounded in something beyond how "hottt" someone is. That is, they should be if you expect your audience to care. Also, while I love happy endings, sometimes a happy ending isn't always the best ending. With love often comes heartache. Even if they make me mad, I can appreciate a book that kills its darlings, so long as the heartache involved is good for the story and good for the characters involved.

Lastly, and this is the theme that's sort of been running through the whole post, Doctor Who makes me care. Doctor Who has a rabid fanbase for a reason. We care about everything that happens to the Doctor. This caring manifests itself in the lines we memorize, the merchandise we buy, the minutiae we obsess over, the art we create. It's fantastic!

Tying it into books and stuff: Duh. A good book will garner fans. If a book does what it's supposed to and makes the readers care, we will support it to the end. That's why I read. That's why I have this blog. That's why I'm on Goodreads and Twitter. That's why I joined Sounis. That's why I sometimes sit at stoplights and just dream about books. Authors need to learn how to make their readers care, and readers need not be afraid to express their love for their favorite books. Go crazy. Maybe your excitement will rub off on someone else.

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Yes, this was all a shameless excuse for me to gush over Doctor Who, but I hope you all enjoyed yourselves. Maybe you even learned something! The comment section is now open. Come on down and gab about Doctor Who, about the art of storytelling, about the joy of reading a really fantastic book - anything you like, really! I leave you with my favorite Doctor Who-inspired song ever.