I've always had friends who love Doctor Who, the British science-fiction television show, but I could not get into it. I saw the old series on our local PBS station back when I had television, but it never pulled me in. Maybe it was the clunky special effects. My friends would enthusiastically try to explain the show to me, arguing over which actor was the best Doctor. I would blink at them dazedly, wondering how anyone could take this seriously.
When the current reboot of the show appeared on Netflix, I told myself I would try it again and see what all the fuss was about. I tried twice to watch the first few episodes with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. And I couldn't get through it. Both times I fell asleep. Clearly this show is not for me, I thought, and gave myself permission to ignore it.
But my friends kept raving. People whose opinion I liked and respected. People whose recommendations for movies I usually solicited. Maybe I should try one more time.
So I did. I struggled manfully through the first two seasons. I may have fallen asleep a couple of times, but when I woke up, I tried again. While washing dishes or folding laundry, I watched almost the first two seasons until I felt I could solidly have an opinion on the show.
And I hated it. I hated the Doctor's arrogance, and his inexplicable loyalty to one timeline over another. I hated his contemptuous dismissal of his companion's "human morality." I hated the inconsistency of a randomly generated universe alongside discussions of morality, as though the two can exist together.
Most of all - and probably because it's presidential campaign season here - I hated the manipulative way the Doctor claimed two horrifying options were the only choices available, and his companion had to pick one. You must EITHER desecrate human dead OR commit genocide against an alien species! You must EITHER kill your father OR destroy the planet! You must EITHER enslave genetically modified humans OR condemn people to die horribly of disease!
Like I said, the campaign season is making me more than a little hostile to being told my ONLY options are lousy ones, and no, little voter, you cannot question the false dichotomy we've set up; just shut up and pick one. I was so fed up, I found myself shouting at the screen one night: Is this why Doctor Who fans are so rabid? Does this show self-select for sheep?
So I was all set to give up on this show again, but there was still laundry to fold, and looking for a new show would require me to move the stack of wash cloths from my lap. So I kept watching.
And then there was the episode where The Devil tries to convince the Doctor to choose between EITHER freeing this devil creature to harm worlds OR killing the Doctor's friend Rose. And the Doctor refuses to accept the options. "I believe in Rose," he says, and trusts the rescue to his friend's ingenuity.
Hmm, I thought. That's interesting.
And then there was the season with Martha Jones as companion, and her insistence that saving individual lives matters even in the midst of catastrophic death. Her morality was particular and personal, and the choices presented in the episodes began to change.
And then I saw "Blink."
Wow, I said to myself when it was over. That was great television. I may never turn my back on a cemetery angel again.
I can't remember the last time a show scared me AND made me like it.
But what really sold me was Donna. I could not stop watching after Donna. She was played so perfectly - brash and abrasive and immune to the Doctor's charm. Donna made me a Doctor Who fan. In fact, if Donna Noble were running in our current presidential election, I wouldn't be nearly so reluctant to cast a vote.
(But she'd need to have been born in the US first. Or the Constitution would need to be re-written. I'm sure the Doctor could arrange either one of those.)
So now I have watched all the 2005-2011 seasons available on Netflix.
It got me. It has completely, irrevocably got me.
(You are now free to say "I told you so.")