The show can be set absolutely anywhere. The cliche is that the show flits between space stations in the distant future and 21st Century London, but what about everywhere else? The Wild West, the Dalek Asylum, a diamond planet, the middle of New York, the moon, deep inside the TARDIS, inside a submarine… the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination, provided you think inside the box.
The main character can just reinvent himself, over and over and over… (x11) again. And then he brings different people on adventures wherever he goes, so nothing ever stays the same. Imagine the core bricks of Doctor Who being Rubik’s Cubes, and you’ve got some idea of how multi-faceted and exciting the show really is.
It’s clever. It’s a television show aimed at children, and not once does it ever talk down to its audience.
The continuity: there’s fifty years of it to choose from, for goodness sake. Continuity in television is like a “Level Complete” moment, whether it be the spacesuit from Impossible Planet/Satan Pit resurfacing in Hide, or just something simple as the Doctor referencing a previous journey. You feel rewarded and included, and part of something.
It’s supposed to be scary, but a lot of the time, it’s actually really funny. It’s subtly funny, in the way that you’d laugh at something your friend said, or the way he danced at Clara, asking why she doesn’t do “young things”.
The theme tune is easily the best theme tune from any show ever - just ahead of Thomas the Tank Engine and The Wombles. Steven Moffat hit the nail squarely on the head when he was asked if Doctor Who was for adults or children; he said “We’re all children after that theme tune.”
And yet to non-Whovians, we’re childish and immature for watching a programme that’s blatantly aimed at children. But there’s a line in Fever Pitch, “maybe everyone should have something they’ve always wanted”. Maybe everyone should keep a piece of their childhood locked in a big blue box and unleash it every Saturday night.
The guest stars. Bill Nighy, Bernard Cribbins, Simon Pegg, John Simm, Timothy Dalton, Michael Gambon, James Corden, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Peter Kay, Kylie Minogue, Lee Evans. The list is longer than Tom Baker’s scarf. And what about the stars that have Doctor Who to thank for helping to kickstart their careers? Billie Piper, Andrew Garfield, Colin Morgan… a certain Matt Smith wasn’t all that familiar with audiences before he rose out of the Tardis soaking wet and asking for an apple.
“It’s bigger on the inside.” Those five words that sit together as an impossible juxtaposition. The Tardis is the stuff of fairytale; there’s a whole world inside that box, and it’s the most majestic, magical, magnificent vessel in the entire universe. And it all hides itself between four wooden walls. That’s enough to render you awe-struck alone.
Because at the heart of genius, there’s a hint of tragedy. He’s the last Timelord. He had to leave his granddaughter behind. He’s lost so much, and seen so much leave him. He’s not perfect, and the writers are never afraid to show it. But he’s still the most complex, brilliant character on television, and you still feel safer with the Doctor than anyone else.
The resolutions. In every good Doctor Who story, the problem is part of the solution, and you never see it coming. Oswin being a Dalek, Sally Sparrow stopping the Weeping Angels by forcing them to look at themselves, Amy remembering something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… Doctor Who can still be the most ingenious, original and amazing show in the world, and it’s been going half a century. Here’s to another fifty.