“Of course it’s a children’s show,” said Steven Moffat, when I asked him his thoughts on whether Doctor Who belongs to kids. “It’s about an alien time traveller who has adventures in a spaceship disguised as a police box. And just look at the character of the Doctor? He’s totally ridiculous.”
Doctor Who may have been originally created as a kids’ show, but that doesn’t mean it’s childish. It’s intelligent, at times complex, well written and very funny. It deals with some pretty weighty issues, too – loss, loneliness and death.
The BBC has come under fire for being 'too dark' before, but if we ask any of our readers what they want, the answer is almost always ‘more monsters!’ Sure, it can be a little scary at times, but it’s supposed to be scary – and that’s precisely what children love about it. The scarier the better, as far as most of them are concerned. They face their fears and learn about their own limitations by peeking through their fingers or hiding behind the sofa, with the Doctor as their safety net. Their superhero.
As a children’s magazine, Doctor Who Adventures gets inundated with letters to the monsters in the show – they embrace them and take ownership of them. Our most popular letter is: “Dear Sontaran, why do you look like a potato?” Our readers love to be silly and are joyfully curious. Asking a scary monster a silly question is an important step in demonstrating their own bravery.
Doctor Who is a fantastical fairytale about morality – the pacifist figure of the Doctor teaches children that nothing beats using your brain. This man’s weapon of choice is a sonic screwdriver. And sometimes, a Jammie Dodger.
The narrative of the show speeds along at an incredibly energetic pace, whilst paying tribute to the joy of children’s limitless imaginations. This series, we’re expected to accept that Dame Diana Rigg has an alien parasite attached to her chest, that the Tardis is an infinite dimension with infinite possibilities and that the Doctor can ride a motorbike up the Shard. Anything is possible in the Doctor’s world.
And just because it’s a children’s show, that doesn’t mean it’s the same as Ben 10. It’s designed to be watched and enjoyed on many different levels – whether it’s eight-year-old Jake gawking at the Weeping Angels, 16 year-old Emma hiding a secret crush on a certain Time Lord, or Mum and Dad arguing over who the best Doctor is – we’re not being compromised, here. It’s a shared experience to watch it as a family and it’s extra special to watch it with a child.
With its amazing wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey adventures, Doctor Who talks directly to our inner child. As the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, said, ‘’There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”
Natalie Barnes is editor of the recently relaunched Doctor Who Adventures magazine, on sale now