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Lords of Time #9: Doctor Who Vs Groundhog Day

Guest contributor Alice Baker continues the series pitting Doctor Who against other time travel fiction.

doctor-who-groundhog-day

“What if there wasn’t a tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!” – Phil Connors

A character is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. This is called the Groundhog Day Loop and it’s a form of time travel that has been used to death in media. Just like Back to the Future immortalized writing back to the future, Groundhog Day is responsible for making the loop famous.

About the Challenger!

Country of origin: United States

Phil Connors is your average jerk. He’s arrogant, narcissistic and thinks the sun stays asleep unless he’s there to wake it up. However, after going to a small town in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to shoot a Groundhog Day celebration, he discovers that time is on a loop and that he’s stuck repeating the same day over and over again and that he’s stuck repeating the same day over and over again and that he’s stuck repeating the same day over and over again. Okay, I’m done.

The Lure!

Traditionally, it’s quite difficult to enjoy a Groundhog Day loop storyline because most of the scenes repeat themselves, barring slight variations. For this reason, it’s normally played for comedy (as it is here) or drama (life-lessons…yuck!). It’s also true that when you have a good idea and it’s successful, it’s inevitable that it’s going to be copied by a whole bunch of other people trying to do the exact same thing. As mentioned earlier, since we’re discussing the Groundhog Day Loop, it doubles as irony.

Most shows use the Groundhog Day Loop as a plot device to set right things that went wrong the first time or most commonly to help a bad character grow into a better person and Groundhog Day is no different, but it does provide a good pace with a life lesson that isn’t shoved down your throat every five seconds or repeated like the scenes are. This is a comedy, so there’s enough humor to keep you entertained. If you’re in to watching the same scenes repeat themselves over and over again, every time given a new comedic element for your pleasure, then you’ll enjoy this movie. It manages to do the loop correctly and once is more than enough.

Dynamics and Differences

Doctor Who has featured the Groundhog Day Loop a bunch of times (I mean on separate occasions) though. What sets Doctor Who apart and proves its mastery over time travel is how it just neglects what’s done traditionally and puts its own spin on things. The Time Lords use Groundhog Day Loops mainly as weapons for trapping people. A loop is used to protect River from an exploding TARDIS, as well as Jack Harkness and John Hart spending five years in a two-week loop. The Classic series managed to feature the loop in quite the interesting fashion by avoiding the usual usages. The Carnival of Monsters featured a loop that was the size of ten minutes, fooling the passengers on board into thinking they were actually getting closer to their destination. Also, the Fourth Doctor and Romana used a Groundhog Day Loop on the Key to Time to buy themselves more.

However, the Eighth Doctor audio – The Chimes of Midnight – is perhaps the finest story you’ll ever listen to that has the loop in it. Just ask any audio lover. It is both entertaining and funny and it is actually a shame that the story isn’t longer than it already is.

What Groundhog Day did manage to do was scare this author when I realized just how torturous it must be to relive the same day over and over again. To put this in perspective for you guys, Phil memorizes every book in town, bothers to form deep friendships with EVERYONE, mastered a new language, learned to ice sculpt and even taught himself how to play the piano, all in the name of impressing a woman and keeping himself from going insane with boredom. He also tried killing himself, but he just came back the next day…which was the same day really. If you want a little bit of nightmare fuel, the plot of Groundhog Day must span at least ten years. Ten years of reliving the same day? That’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

It also manages to draw a unique parallel with the Doctor’s life. If you were to weigh the time he spends travelling with companions and add up all those years, then that can’t amount to more than 200 years. Given that the Doctor is 1500+ and that he spent the first 400 years on Gallifrey, spent at least 300 defending Christmas Town, it can be said that the Doctor has spent roughly 600 years on his own with the rest of the time also spent defending Christmas Town. He doesn’t sleep as much as we do, so for him the day is even longer. Imagine how bored he gets from time to time. Reading a book in seconds, bi-plane lessons (who wants something like that), all that knowledge didn’t just pop into his head. He must have spent hours off-screen improving his encyclopedic memory. He also must’ve developed a liking for just about everything, even if it is something he isn’t particularly interested in just to pass the time. This might also help to explain his fascination with well – everything!

Score!

  • Plot – 3/5
  • Characters – 3/5
  • Character Development – 4/5
  • Tearjerkers – 2/5
  • Timey-Wimey ball – 1/5
  • Plot Point – 3/5

Based on these criteria, Groundhog Day scored 16 out of a possible 30. This means that the rankings look like this now:

  1. Steins;Gate  – 25/30
  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
  8. Groundhog Day16/30

Join me next time when we rake up another challenger. Clue for next article: Silberman!

Step back in time...

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49 comments
WhoMallow666
WhoMallow666

oh common, Bill Murray in it has to be worth at least 5 points!

aliasbillpardy1980
aliasbillpardy1980

It was worked out that Phil spent a minimum of 80 years in the loop. There is a guy who blogs about watching this movie every day of his life and the different thoughts and lessons he takes from it. This movie is far deeper than you give it credit for. Easily deeper than Doctor Who, but the Time travel element is pretty simple. It's the effect on the character that is important here.

Con in Sydney
Con in Sydney

This is one instance of comparing apples with oranges. Groundhog Day has more in common with films like It's A Wonderful Life than Doctor Who. Perhaps a better comparison of the theme in question would be Goodnight Sweetheart.

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

Remember, people, the rankings don't mean anything about the quality-just how appealing the utilization of time travel is! A movie can still be good and be rated low. Plus, we do have our own opinions.

KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys
KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys

Personally I feel if you knew how long a groundhog day loop would last it'd be pretty fun. You could basically do anything you wanted with no consequences for your actions, learn things in the space of what people would see as a day/no time at all that could take months or years, screw around and learn important things you wouldn't know otherwise. Though Phil Connors didn't know when his would end.

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

There was a brilliant Past Doctors novel which was recently re-released featuring a similar idea to this.  It was called Festival of Death and there was a species which, at the end of their life, goes back to the moment of birth, retaining memories, so that they can improve their life and find the path of perfection.  The human scientist was had killed almost all of this species, using them to power his necroport, which allowed people to die and experience the afterlife.  Why did he do this?  His parents had died in a horrific accident, which he wanted to reverse.  The Fourth Doctor stopped his plan and allowed him to complete it, though warning him.  The harsh thing was, that he was just a visitor in his past body, having to witness events for the rest of eternity always ending in the same outcome, as he had no control.

DasManiac
DasManiac

I'm sorry but this is a disgrace. Groundhog Day is a masterpiece. So is The Time Machine. I don't understand how both of them can be ranked so low.

hybries
hybries

I think you've got a few facts wrong at the end: the Doctor only stayed 200 years on Gallifrey (the Tardis telling him they've been travelling for 700 years in the Doctor's wife) Also, it's been made official in a book about Trenzalore that the Doctor actually stayed 900 years on Christmas, making his current age something like 2100 years old.

Wibbly-Wobbly is John Reese
Wibbly-Wobbly is John Reese

No.... no no no no no no no.

I'm sorry, but no. 16?! This deserves more. Plot should have gotten 4, character development should have gotten 5, timey wimey should have gotten 2, tearjerkers should have gotten 4 and so should have characters.

Muxerman
Muxerman

16/30. Wow! No wonder we have 6 more weeks of winter :P

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

"He’s arrogant, narcissistic and thinks the sun stays asleep unless he’s there to wake it up."

This suggests to me that Bill Murray would make an excellent Thirteenth Doctor.

twoheartsonemind
twoheartsonemind

This is one of the greatest movies ever! It's a classic! I do not understand how people don't like this movie.

There's a film study class at my school, where you basically just watch movies, and they watched it. I was talking to someone in the class later and she said everyone in the class hated this movie. I then proceeded to argue with her about how amazing a movie this is.

ShaynePC
ShaynePC

I wonder if Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure will be on this list.

ShaynePC
ShaynePC

This was ranked way too low. I love this series, but 16/30 is ridiculous for one the great films of its time.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Well, we all saw this one coming from day 1. Keep up the good work.

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

Please do Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The time travel in that is great.

Kylephantom4
Kylephantom4

Next one is Terminator as the doctor in it is called Peter Silberman

Clara Laurinda
Clara Laurinda

I had forgotten how much I love this film. Thank you for an excellent (and witty) article, Alice. As a film teacher, I used this in one of my film courses. It's a beauty.

The Finn
The Finn

*Googles "Silberman"* Ooh, the next one will be interesting if I've got it right! Will Arnie 'be back'?



Gustaff
Gustaff

Only two more articles left before the end. Also I am a huge fan of The Chimes of Midnight.


"I'm a god. I'm not the god." Killer line that one. Also notice how Phil is dressed as the Tenth Doctor: Blue suit and brown coat.

SirStrangefolk
SirStrangefolk

Since the hint is "Silberman", I'm guessing pretty soon

Timhogan
Timhogan

@ShaynePC  Depends.  While I will agree that this film was great in it's time, this is also a study/comparison on Time Travel in movies/television.  This is not overall rating of the movie, but overall rating of how time travel (or in this case time loop) is used and presented in the film.  I don't really disagree with the posters ranking on that.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@ShaynePC  Agreed, over time it has become regarded as a classic movie, it's like many Moffat episodes of Doctor Who in that repeated viewing reveals its greatness

Xaven
Xaven

@Gustaff Two articles left, huh? Wow. It's kind of sad. I like these articles, and now it's almost over. I wonder what the two remaining ones will be about. I've got an idea what the next one will be, if I followed that clue correctly.


Oh, by the way, thanks for introducing me to Steins;Gate. I've watched the series, its OVA, and the movie. Loved it! It's definitely my current favorite anime, and actually the first anime I've labeled as my favorite, as I'm not a person who normally picks favorites with anything.

Now, I just need to wait for the upcoming US release of the visual novel.

Clara Laurinda
Clara Laurinda

@Gustaff  OMG I never thought of that, Gustaff. You are right! Do you think the costume inspired the 10th's outfit (since the film was out in the 1990s) or just a coincidence?

The Finn
The Finn

@Notsosmartguy  https :// en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Silberman <- look under "fictional characters".

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Xaven All good things come to an end I'm afraid and I have other articles I'd like to work on. 

Regarding Steins;Gate, it was my pleasure. I agree. It's in my top 5 easily. Unfortunately I watch dub, so I haven't seen the movie yet, but am really holding out for it. You know there are other ';' series in Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes. Still, hope you've had fun reading this series.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Clara Laurinda @Gustaff Maybe a subconscious image stayed in someone's mind and it eventually leaked out. Who knows?

(Waiting for someone to do the cliche touch nose who knows gesture)

Clara Laurinda
Clara Laurinda

@Gustaff @ClassicWhovian  Yes indeed, and writer-directo-actor Harold Ramis' best film in my opinion. I just learned on this site that Ramis died last week. Awww.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Xaven @Gustaffif you trust my judgment, check out my first impressions. Just type ENIGMATIC BLOGS: FIRST IMPRESSIONS - ROBOTICS;NOTES into google.

Xaven
Xaven

@Gustaff @XavenAh, I understand. Then I won't say anything more about the movie, except that it's awesome. Hopefully, it will get a dub release.


I know of the other two series. I'm planning on looking into them next.