Lords of Time #9: Doctor Who Vs Groundhog Day

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


“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!


  • 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!