I started watching Doctor Who from the Ninth Doctor (2005), after considering it with great skepticism as a production originating from the racist capital of the whole planet.

Its strange to be tentatively writing here that I actually enjoy many aspects of it. Its a nice bit of whimsy and adventure. Other criticism withheld here for now, there are even brown people on the show (even if whiteness remains central), that’s half a step up from American television shows. I’ve even written down the things I see that I like the most in terms of sentient life forms encountered.

With that said, the biggest issue I have with the show is the Doctor himself. As important as his friends/companions/allies/lovers are made out to be, the whole of the entire universe, beginning and end, is still centered around him. Sounds like yet another huge ego boast for every guy out there that’s vicariously imagining himself to be the last Time Lord from Gallifrey.

I once pointed out how a pretty cool female character like Ryuuzetsu just had died for Naruto in Blood Prison, the fifth Naruto movie. My friend’s response was

“The show is about Naruto, not who doesn’t die for Naruto.”

And the same can be said of the Doctor. Through his companions and encounters with other sentient life forms, an effort is made to decentralize him but it seems the creators of Doctor Who always revert back to plots drenched in the mindless rhetorical worship of the Doctor as more interesting. It’s like the writers sat down and came up with the greatest white patriarchal-superhero-god complex fantasy gone completely insane that they could possibly think of. Yes, I said white–this is still true, even tho he’s from another planet.

If you think race isn’t an issue in Doctor Who, then ask yourself: How invisible would a Black Time Lord be in the white-dominated Western societies at any point in the recorded history visited in the show?

Let’s look at the entirety of Martha Jones’ time with the Doctor as his companion, especially compared to Rose Tyler.

Or ask why the Transatlantic Slave Trade and other crimes against humanity wasn’t prevented by the Doctor, who spends an annoying amount of time lecturing humans about how they need to be “better” (without ever being a little time lord faerie to the people who are victims of times when they weren’t) and championing any time period he fancies and comes across except the ones too problematic and incriminating for Britain and America to fess up to. The worst and most logical answer would be that the enslavement of Black peoples by white Europeans, is a “fixed point” in time–meaning that it was something that was “supposed” to happen. So the Doctor can save the Oods from humans but not save humans from themselves? This show is chocked full of deceptive post-racial propaganda!

All this is to say that tho The Doctor is often presented as a sentimental character, his entire existence is about power, the power he has over those around him.

In its title character, Doctor Who presents me with what I will dub the “renaissance man” superhero trope (The Ultimate Polymath Trope).  Contrary to all this white savior worship and idealism, I’d prefer to see the Doctor, as Donna Noble so aptly said to the Tenth Doctor, as “a long streak of nothing, y’know, alien nothing!“.

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4 thoughts on “‘Doctor Who’, the Ultimate Superhero Trope

  1. The all-knowing Tenth Doctor wore thin as his tenure came to an end. When the 11th was shoved into the Panopticon, it seemed like the right thing to do!

    1. The Pandorica, right?

      Yes, I found myself feeling that was the right thing to do. But, of course, the Doctor can never be taken out of the picture because that would be the end of the whole universe. Like I said, god complex written right into his characterization.

  2. On the older pre-reboot Doctor Who series, the Doctor was NOT such a superhero, nor did the Universe revolve around him. This was because there were other Time Lords, so he was most definitely not the most powerful being in the Universe (though he always more intelligent/knowing than humans). It’s interesting to go back and watch them.

    I do agree with your assessment of the general “whiteness” of the show, but to be fair, I think the show does try… at least it tries more than many American/Hollywood shows do.

    I’m more concerned that the companions seem to get younger and younger and are almost always female. Early Doctor companions were often a bit older, professional women, and some were scientists in their own right. Personally, I loved the dynamic between Donna Noble and Ten much better than Rose/Ten.

    1. It is kind of a step up from American/Hollywood productions, to an extent, which is why I felt I was right to give it a chance after watching the first 2005 episode. However, saying that the white-dominated media, whether in Britain or America, is “trying” doesn’t do any justice for Black audiences/non-white audiences. They’ve been “trying” since they first set foot on the continent of Africa and, ta-da, we’re still almost nowhere by my standards.

      I was sad to see Donna go. I think Martha Jones was excellent and there’s no reason she should have been treated that way by the Tenth Doctor or by the story writers no matter how much glory they “tried” to give her.

      The Eleventh Doctor is my least favorite so far, but I think the increasingly young age of his companions was passively alluded to Amy’s Choice (Season 5, Episode 7) in the form of the Dream Lord.

      I concede to not having seen the prior incarnations/regenerations of the Doctor (First through Eighth). I have considered watching them. I’m not sure there would be much of a difference tho because of the nature of how whiteness operates, even in fiction.

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