I watch Dr. Who now. Dr. Who is Cool.

If you’re not watching Dr. Who now, friends, you are missing out on some of the best science fiction drama/comedy storytelling on TV.  In my family Dr. Who is a multigenerational tradition. My dad saw the original series when he lived in England (I believe Pertwee was his first Doctor), and more recently me and my brothers have started watching it.

I’ve tried to find the adequate words to describe why you should watch this show, but I think Neil Gaiman, who is a lifelong Dr. Who fan, writer of the season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wifeamong other things, and all around good guy says it better than I could:

“There’s a big blue box.  It’s bigger on the inside than the outside. It can go anywhere in space and time, sometimes where it is supposed to go.  Something will go wrong, and there’s some bloke called The Doctor who’ll make it all right because he’s awesome.  Now sit down, shut up and watch Blink.”

But really, for me, aside from the hours of brilliant heartfelt storytelling that Dr. Who delivered, the biggest impact was on my writing. I’ve started writing fun stories, silly stories, stories that I would not have conceivably written had it not been for Dr. Who. (And yes, I do write Dr. Who fan-fic. Its out in the open now. Not that I plan on showing the world any time soon.)

To catch you up, here’s a brief summary of everything you need to know about Dr. Who.

For someone new to Dr. Who I wouldn’t suggest starting from Series 1 and working up to Series 6, unless you want to be complete about it. At the very least I’d say you should watch these episodes to understand Steven Moffat’s (current showrunner of Dr. Who) story arc:

1. Dalek (Series 1)

2. Girl in the Fireplace (Series 2)*

3. Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Series 3)*

4. Blink (Series 3)**

5. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (Series 4)

6. Everything from Series 5 onwards.

Though, if you had to watch just one, watch Blink. You can thank me later. The latter half of Series 6 starts in September 2011, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch up over the summer.

*[The starred episodes are, imho, the best written ones.]

I’d be interested in hearing other Who-vians opinions about how to introduce someone to the show.

And, as an afterthought, fans of Moffat’s Dr. Who work might like his work on the BBC’s Sherlock: a modern day adaption featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman (who’s playing Bilbo in The Hobbit) as Watson. It’s clever, cerebral, witty and labyrinthine storytelling at its best.

Considering Lingustic Relativity When Writing SF

I’m not a linguist, nor do I play one on TV. I haven’t even taken a linguistics class thus far in my University career, but I find articles like this one to resonate with my inner geek. The writer in me is constantly collecting, as they say, grist for the mill and this particular article got me thinking about how the concept of linguistic relativity can be used in building more colourful sf stories.

Language can inform culture, scientific progress, and religious systems without ever intruding directly into the story. I suppose this would be one of the challenges in writing a really good historical novel set in another country and time. The Writer would be working with translated material where a lot of the original meaning is lost in translation. How did these ancient cultures think? What concepts did they use to express scientific ideas for which there was no corresponding vocabulary? I think, in this context, historical novels and historical texts are perhaps the closest analog to science fiction and fantasy, where the sf writer can learn a lot about worldbuilding, but that’s another topic altogether.

On the flip side you could be writing a wide-screen space opera a la Star Wars, involving dozens of alien cultures and bypass the whole linguistics quagmire by just using Universal Translation Devices. (Doctor Who does this as well with the TARDIS, but I’d argue that its almost essential to the plot and nature of the show.) With space operas, linguistic differences would lend credibility to the multitude of different alien species, rather than treating them as your cliche ‘bug-eyed-humans’.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind does this in spades, where the most important aspect of the First Contact trope is the unique way in which humans and aliens first communicate: music. Or more particularly: music as language.

In any case the language barriers between cultures definitely adds an interesting dimension to the story, and I’m looking at developing it as a part of my worldbuilding details for future stories I write.