Lords of Time #8: Doctor Who Vs Heroes

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Guest contributor K-Ci Williams continues the series pitting Doctor Who against other time travel fiction.


“Every hero must learn his purpose. Then he’ll be tested and called to greatness.” – Hiro Nakamura

Time travel is an astonishing medium of conveying the wonders of the universe that stretch too far for our reaches; exploited across different types of media. The concept has also perplexed even the greatest minds, and continues to this day. Perhaps our own curiosity for the possibility of undoing past mistakes or to catch a glimpse of the future is what gives time travel the allure of brilliance that has kept it in our culture.

Essentially, the concept of time travel has survived because of how it is constantly rebranded across media: the fundamental foundations of the idea have been changed and altered, used in diverse ways. I must agree with my other fellow contributors, in saying that time travel is magical. The constant rejuvenation of the notion that an individual has the ability to travel faster than the speed of light is what has kept it going all of these years.

In celebration of the most successful time travel television show in current history, the Lords of Time concept is brought to a potentially familiar series, with the challenger being a television show that dabbles in time travel, futuristic artistry, cellular regeneration, levitation and telepathy: Heroes. The notion of meddling in history is heavily emphasised in Heroes, and the diversity in actors and special abilities bring forth this concept in a significant manner. The show’s premise is ingenious and intertwines the alluring stories of each troubled hero to the next as they struggle with the use of their granted abilities. Heroes has the attraction of very different characters with very different abilities, who unite to save the innocent and defeat evil, with witty and complex twists and turns that will have  you on the ride of your life for 77 episodes.

About the Challenger!

Country of Origin: United States

Heroes follows the separate lives of several humans who have developed extraordinary abilities. These abilities bind them; in one way or another they are connected. Each main character’s story is developed separately and as time passes they cross paths and we learn how their stories are interwoven. This is the story of ordinary people who discover extraordinary super powers after a solar eclipse reveals them, and how these abilities affect the characters’ daily lives.

The Lure!

Heroes is definitely worth viewing. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the show is the exploration of all of the abilities the characters are given. Heroes features a host of special humans, each with a different ability. Arguably, the whole main cast are interesting because of their diversity in ethnicity and power. Here are three of the most interesting characters and their abilities:

Hiro Nakamura – has the ability to manipulate time and space. Hiro lives in Japan. His family was killed in the Hiroshima bombing. This gives him the determination to strive for greatness and to achieve his life goal of becoming a hero to many. Hiro must prove to himself that he can save the lives of others and that the gift he has been given is to be used wisely and for the greater good.

Claire Bennet – has the ability of cellular regeneration. She struggles to keep her secret, well, a secret and  even films so called suicide attempts because she knows she can just pop her bones back in and the tissue will regenerate and even though it’s obvious – she is beautiful!

Sylar – His abilities include using his finger to create razor winds. He murders his victims by slicing open their forehead; sometimes taking the brain out as well.

Aside from the array of brilliantly written characters, the use of time travel and the allure of the special effects is what really drew me to Heroes. It’s important to me because it paved the way for Doctor Who, which has inevitably become my most treasured science fiction television series.

Dynamics and Differences!

Doctor Who is in many ways similar to Heroes, but the type of storytelling is not one of these similarities. The circumstances and vantage points from which each series is told separate the unique story structure of Heroes from Who. If Heroes was tonally anything near Who though, it would still fare legitimately well, considering most American audiences wouldn’t have heard as much about Doctor Who as they do now. Who follows the unearthly adventures of the Doctor; whereas Heroes features the earthly day to day struggles of the superiorly abled.

Heroes proves itself a worthy opponent to Doctor Who through its unique treatment of time travel. The notion is not the main concept of the show as has been developed in modern Who, but despite not taking centre stage, it does remain integral to the plot. Hiro Nakamura has the ability to freeze time as well as travel through it. I liken his time travel abilities to the use of Doctor Who’s Vortex Manipulator, because only his body teleports with him when he travels through time and space. However, the use of the Vortex Manipulator is much more sophisticated and opportune with only coordinates required for pin-point precision for the wearer to materialise. At times, Hiro has little control over the destination (similar to Quantum Leap). In this respect, he and the Doctor belong to the same club.

The importance of time travel is a concept that is integrated differently between the two series. In Doctor Who, time can differ depending on the event that has occurred at that point in time. There are fixed points, and some are in flux. The Doctor understands the rules of time travel: Do not interfere with fixed points. Hiro Nakamura knows this as well. In Heroes, time is expressed significantly as something you must never meddle with. However, when Hiro is thrown into another point in time and space, where he knows of its historical significance, he must never interfere. Without spoiling anything for potential viewers, Hiro notices that circumstances do not align with what he knows to be history’s intended course, so he must be the one to interfere so that history remains constant.

Like most successful time travel shows, Heroes utilizes the genre in a very interesting way. We follow the adventures of Hiro as he travels through time, but eventually he ends up meeting his future self. Now, we’ve seen this many times in Doctor Who, most notable in The Three Doctors and The Day of the Doctor. In the former, the Time Lords give as much power as they can to the Doctors in order to have them next to one another. The sheer power needed to keep the paradox at bay is colossal, but this isn’t such a big deal in Heroes. Present and Future Hiro meet and occupy the same space without any problems. However, instances of visiting Future Hiro in an early episode and then revisiting him later on to tell the full story is something that Steven Moffat has used a lot in his Doctor Who writing. In The Big Bang, the Doctor dematerialises and then reappears when speaking to Rory. In this example, we only learn why later on when the second half of the story transpires. It’s all good fun – really – I promise!

The combination of the Doctor and his companions is something that has developed Doctor Who in its fifty year history; the sheer number of allies of the Doctor has given cause for inevitable changes alongside the regenerative Time Lord. The relationship between a hero and his companion is explored in a new light in Heroes. Hiro has his sidekick, Ando Masahashi. Their bond is tested throughout the series, but there is no doubt that both are loyal to each other, as the Doctor and his companions are.

Additionally, a major difference in space travel is what separates the type of stories told in Doctor Who from Heroes. In the former, the Doctor can travel anywhere in time and space which allows an array of stories to be told under various circumstances. In Heroes, the plots are earthbound, hence making the space travel of Hiro Nakamura only on our home planet, isolating the story potential to Earth.

Interestingly, Heroes incorporates the concept of cellular regeneration. It’s a completely different kind of regeneration than Doctor Who, because instead of changing her face, Claire Bennet – aka Invincible Girl – heals the cells in her body to regain her beauty. It’s a strange notion, and there is definitely a contrast in the two types.

Overall, Heroes is an amazing series which actually led me to Doctor Who. If I had never seen Heroes, I wouldn’t have been exposed to science fiction and amazed by the allure of time travel. Then, I never would have had the courage to go out and find Doctor Who. No matter which wins, Who or Heroes, I am content that both are amazing.


  • Plot – 4.5/5
  • Characters – 4.5/5
  • Character Development – 4/5
  • Tearjerkers – 2/5
  • Timey-Wimey Ball – 4/5
  • Plot Point – 3.5/5

 Based on these criteria, Heroes scored 22.5 out of a possible 30. This means that the rankings look like this now:

  1. Steins;Gate25/30
  2. Back to the Future / Life on Mars24/30
  3. Heroes22.5/30
  4. Future Diary 22/30
  5. Quantum Leap -- 20/30
  6. Shadow of Destiny19.5/30
  7. The Time Machine16.5/30

Join us next time when we rake up another challenger. Clue for next article: 6:00AM.