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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Doctor Who often seems lighthearted, but underneath the Doctor's always-cool exterior and his jovial approach to circumstances are some decent moral messages. Selfishness, evil, and the urge to dominate others are always frowned upon, while honesty, loyalty, and integrity often tip the balance in the protagonists' favor. Expect a lot of sci-fi action with fighting, perilous predicaments, and some death, though the main character always manages to escape their own demise through a twist of fate or regeneration. You'll see some kissing and alcohol use, none of which has a big role in content that's appealing to a wide range of ages.
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What's the story?
DOCTOR WHO is a long-running British sci-fi series that tells the story of an alien Time Lord known as the Doctor, who takes it upon himself to defend the peaceful residents of the galaxy against invading threats. This he does by traveling through time in a machine called the TARDIS (which looks like a blue telephone booth) to key moments of villain insurgencies. He's always flanked by an associate (collectively known throughout the series as Companions) who helps him to defeat the invaders and get the time stream back to normal. Thanks to a neat plot device that lets the Doctor go through physical changes called "regeneration" to avoid death, the show has seen numerous actors in the title role, culminating in Jodie Whittaker assuming the title of the Thirteenth (and first female) Doctor in 2018.
Is it any good?
Some incarnation of this long-running show has been a presence on and off the small screen since the early 1960s, resulting in a diverse viewer base. Each character regeneration has paved the way for a new and unique version of the good Doctor, and although longtime fans are sure to hold to their favorites in the role, the variety gives the show a certain freshness that enables its longevity. Although many of the plots hint at complicated concepts -- particularly relative to the mind-boggling inter-dimensional capabilities of the TARDIS (that's Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, if you must know) -- the basic concept remains unchanged: An unflappable adventurer goes where he's needed to prevent a rotating cast of interplanetary villains from pursuing their evil agendas.
As sort of an anti-action-hero, the Doctor uses charm and quick thinking to disarm foes rather than guns or fists. Among other likable traits, this gives the character strong appeal and broadens the show's potential fan base. There's still a fair amount of violence and plenty of tense moments, but they're offset by a real joviality that all ages will enjoy. The interactions between the Doctor and his Companions are fun (even if the ladies often fade into the woodwork when the accolades are handed out), and the colorful cast of alien forms always promise some surprises. Though Doctor Who's low budget can show in its CG effects at times, the entertaining stories and iconic protagonist have inspired a longstanding cult following for good reason.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the basic concepts of right and wrong, especially how they play out in Doctor Who. Do the Doctor's actions ever fall into a gray area? Do the ends ever justify the means, even if the future of the entire world is at stake?
Talk about the concept of time travel. Should certain events in history be changed? Do you think the world would be different if something like WWI never happened? Where in the past would you choose to go if you could?
How does this show compare to other science fiction-based media? What does it do better? What could be improved? What makes a show a winner for you? For your tweens?
- Premiere date: November 23, 1963
- Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker
- Networks: BBC America, Syfy
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: April 16, 2020
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