Honey, I’m a Whovian!
Guest contributor Shane Spangler on how to out yourself as a Whovian to your significant other and what episodes to pick.
There comes a time in all our relationships and friendships that we must, in effect, “come out” as Whovian. Without knowing this about us, our significant people will never know the fullness of what makes us who we are. Further, they will not understand why we make certain noises when we read about the Doctor’s new full-length overcoat, clap our hands excitedly while making comments like, “The TARDIS console is a hexagon again!” or hover over our computer screens late at night waiting for the latest filming photos to be posted on Doctor Who TV.
If you are like my college music history professor, who met his wife at a Doctor Who convention (he was wearing a 20-foot scarf, and she was dressed as the second Romana) this article will most likely be superfluous. However, for those of you acquainted with, or in relationship with, or possibly related to by blood or marriage, a non-Whovian, I offer the following essay to provide helpful hints and techniques in bringing Doctor Who into your important interpersonal associations, and possibly initiating that special someone into Whovianism.
Planning is essential. Don’t make the mistake of jumping into Inferno, or The Doctor’s Wife too quickly. That’s like proposing marriage on the second date, and will most likely frighten people away, rendering any possible future Who-related dialogue impossible.
Firstly, you must set the mood. A good red wine and a tray of some chocolates, fresh, crusty bread and some parmigiano-reggiano cheese are a great way to start. (Or, if you’re under the drinking age, some nice cocoa and biscuits, jammy dodgers, etc.) A small dish of jelly babies could also feature in your snacking array, both as a rubbery, sweet treat, and as a clever conversation starter (Oooh – look! The Doctor eats jelly babies too! Just like these!) Dim the lights, and create an atmosphere worthy of your favorite Time Lord. Then, use your instincts and discernment in choosing an episode of Doctor Who as a good introduction. Given the breadth of subjects and contexts used in Doctor Who since 1963, it is possible to choose an episode that will appeal to nearly any taste, and hopefully pique the curiosity of the Non-Whovian.
If your girlfriend / boyfriend / partner / spouse / relative / special friend (who, for the sake of brevity, I shall henceforth refer to as ‘neophyte’) is the least bit artistic, then by all means, show him or her Vincent and the Doctor. Your arty neophyte will appreciate the “art hater” metaphor of the Krafayis, and the irony of him being blind, afraid, and ultimately impaled upon a painter’s easel. He or she will weep as Van Gogh helps the Doctor and Amy see the star-filled night sky through his eyes. And, the scene of Van Gogh witnessing the fruits of his labors finally appreciated in the Louvre museum, will be moving to any artist, musician, writer, or really anyone who’s ever wondered if his or her life’s work will make any long-term difference. Then, there are the excellent performances by the series regulars, Tony Curran as Van Gogh, and the lovingly recreated scenes of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
Is your neophyte into sport? There’s always The Lodger, which has a “buddy film” feel to it, and a nice football scene showing off Matt Smith’s athletic skills. (Black Orchid has a cricket match too, but leave that one for hardened Whovian friends who “just haven’t seen all the Peter Davison episodes.”) It’s also not too difficult a plotline to follow, even if your special someone is… really into sport.
If your neophyte is a bit of a vampire lover, you can’t go wrong with State of Decay. The direction is tight, the sets are magnificent, and, of course, dear old Terrance Dicks’ script is intriguing, yet fairly easy to follow. All cast members take their roles absolutely seriously, turn in superb performances, and, apart from his awkward rooster-like ambling across the console room in episode one, even Adric is tolerable in this story. By the time you get to the horrible “rocket turns upside-down” model shot in episode four, your neophyte will most likely be so charmed by the show, he or she will laugh it off and ask, when the final credits roll, “can’t we watch another?”
If you have a couple of hours to spare, and your neophyte is interested in philosophy, spirituality and hard sci-fi themes, then show him or her The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. There isn’t a weak performance in the whole show, the Beast looks amazing, the action is tight, music is superb, and the plot is layered with religious metaphors, references and symbolism; some more obvious than others. Or, if your neophyte is Christian, particularly Roman Catholic or Anglican, and has a great sense of humor, show him or her The Face of Evil. Chris Boucher’s satire of Christianity pokes not-so-gentle fun at the dogmas and doctrines of organized religion and the adherents who make themselves slaves to outdated ritual without considering the possibility of a progressive Revelation. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are excellent together, forming a new, slightly abrasive dynamic between Doctor and companion. And then, regardless of sexual orientation, your neophyte will certainly appreciate the near-naked Sevateem Warriors of both genders. Because of the studio-bound “look” of this show, however, I believe it would be better suited to a neophyte who has professed genuine interest in seeing some of the “older Doctor Whos.”
Another sure winner for the non-Whovian, sci-fi buff is The Caves of Androzani. The storytelling and acting are both first-rate, and the direction is the fastest-paced of any of the classic shows. This is not surprising, as it is handled by the wonderful Graeme Harper. Further, Caves ends, as you know, with a regeneration scene, which always whets the curiosity of even casual viewers. Whether to proceed to Twin Dilemma, however, is a matter of discernment. If your neophyte really wants to see more Who after this, it might be wiser for you to suggest watching another regeneration episode, and then proceed to The Parting of the Ways or The End of Time.
If you don’t know your neophyte as well as you’d like, and are unsure about which episode to begin with, then show him or her Blink. This is a perfect introduction to Doctor Who for anyone. It’s scary, smart and funny, and makes a tasty appetizer for “meatier” episodes. And, as a stand-alone, it shows, arguably, better than any other single episode of Doctor Who in nearly 50 years. But be cautious – just because a non-Whovian likes Blink doesn’t automatically mean you’ve successfully made a new Whovian out of him or her.
Doctor Who can also be used as a discernment tool for your relationships. If you’re ready to take your relationship to that next level, or if you want to see if your special someone has long-term potential, it’s time to break out the heavy artillery. (Again, save Inferno for marriage.) Show your neophyte The Krotons. If he or she says, “I love the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, but the monsters are terrible,” you will know he or she speaks the truth. Conversely, if you show your neophyte Paradise Towers, and he or she is terribly complimentary about the production values, the performances and the incidental music, you will know, sadly, your neophyte is either a big liar, is clingy and desperate, or has a serious brain condition. Whatever the case, “you better get OUTTA that relationship.” And the acid test in any relationship would have to be The Web Planet. If, by the end of six episodes of giant maudlin moths, grunting, monosyllabic grubs, and ludicrous larvae weaponry, your neophyte turns to you and says, “I still think you’re great,” then you definitely have a keeper there.
Finally, if you sense your relationship is approaching a breakup, and you want to hurry along the process, then show him or her The Chase, or The War Games. Chances are favorable that he or she will excuse himself or herself during the course of The Chase, and save you the trouble of initiating the breakup. Or, if he or she doesn’t like The War Games, you can say, “I’m sorry, dear, but that’s a deal-breaker.” In either case, say farewell to your now ex-partner, re-start The War Games, and drink the wine or cocoa, and eat the bread, cheese, biscuits, jammy dodgers and jelly babies yourself.