Doctor Who – An American perspective

November 19, 2013 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A guest blog by Siblings


The two of us can never hope to speak for all Americans. However, we do live in the United States and watch Doctor Who, so hopefully that makes us qualified enough to pretend we know what we’re talking about. Probably the two greatest differences when watching Doctor Who here in the States is that the show has more of a fantasy element, and the lack of cultural understanding of the franchise.

Although it technically spans all of time and space, the UK, specifically England, is the heart of Doctor Who. While we don’t live in Europe, the two of us certainly can recognize some London landmarks, and have heard of various other places in the country. However, we’ve never seen these towns, villages, and rural areas in real life. We do not know anyone who has seen them; thus they feel more imagined and less solid. Naturally, everyone in England speaks Irish, Scottish, or one of the many variations on the English accent, but nearly everyone in the past and future also speaks that way. This adds to the fantasy feel of the show because somehow the British accent has become the standard for fantasy movies and television. From a real world point of view, this propensity makes perfect sense, just about everyone talks like that where Doctor Who is filmed. Looking at it from an In Universe perspective, one can only assume that the TARDIS prefers European accents, because even when The Doctor’s companion is supposedly an American, (Peri Brown is the only one we know of, but there may be others,) everyone still sounds quite British. Rather than trying to work around how likely the show is to be English, Doctor Who embraces it, to the point of mentioning it even within the confines of an episode. As Mickey says while hiding in the TARDIS during the Christmas Invasion, “Tea. While we’re waiting for the world to come to an end. Very British.”


To further add to the fantasy feel is the complete lack of knowledge pertaining to what must be everyday things in the UK, but are completely unknown or known by a different name in the United States. For example, we can conjecture that a jelly baby is similar to a gummy bear or the name brand Sour Patch Kids candy, but in order to know we have to look it up. And what the heck is a Jammie Dodger? Obviously it’s some sort of cookie thing, but neither of us recognizes it by sight or name. It may as well be lembas bread from Lord of the Rings. While not knowing doesn’t seem to detract from our enjoyment, it continues the slight fantasy edge that we’re pretty sure the English don’t experience, and it creates one more item to Google later. Maybe it does shortchange us on a bit of fun after all. Would we get an extra kick out of watching The Doctor hold off Daleks with Goldfish or Animal crackers? (Common American snacks for little kids, in case they don’t eat those outside the US.) Yes, we think so, although we confess those snacks don’t look remotely like a self-destruct button.


Our last point has nothing to do with the show but rather where you are a fan. Presumably Whovians in the UK don’t have to try and explain the show to any friends who don’t watch it. Doctor Who is part of British culture. (Random side note: Wikipedia makes it sound as if “Whovian” is more of an American term, do they use a different name in the United Kingdom and Europe?) Some people here complain that the show has gone annoyingly mainstream, but we don’t see much evidence of that. When Sister wears her blue shirt with a picture of the TARDIS and the words “KEEP CALM AND DON’T BLINK” almost no one has any idea what it’s referencing. (Sister: One guy thought it had something to do with the Olympics. Was there a TARDIS in the opening ceremony when the Olympics came to the UK?) Doctor Who is one of those shows that is rather difficult to vocally explain to a friend. “The main character is an alien who looks completely human, but actually isn’t. And he travels through time and space in a machine called the TARDIS that is bigger on the inside and on the outside looks like a police phone booth. Almost always he travels with at least one companion, sometimes more, one of which is always a female. Basically they travel to the past, future, and modern day helping people and protecting the Earth from Alien invasions. No matter what the problem, aliens are always involved. So that’s what the show Doctor Who is about.” There must be a better way, but we haven’t worked it out so that it sounds less ridiculous to non-viewers.

Well there you have it, a short American take on Doctor Who. It’s quite British, but you know what? We like it like that way.