A Kid in Time and Space: How I Introduced my Son to ‘Doctor Who’

“Mom… I want to watch Doctor Who.”

The LEGO video games have always been a bit of a gateway in our household. I’ve always found them to be an excellent way for Younger Son to get interested in properties that have played a big role in our geeky lives: from Marvel to DC, and from Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings. We play our way through them, pure mother and son bonding time, and then emerge to immerse ourselves in the source worlds from whence they came.

So when, flush with Christmas money, he chose to purchase LEGO Dimensions, I wasn’t surprised.

I did, perhaps, cackle madly. I knew what was coming.

We played through the Wizard of Oz board, then the Simpsons. A LEGO Ninjago level, and then …

The moment he laid eyes on the tiny LEGO-figure representation of the 12th Doctor, it was inevitable.

“That’s the TARDIS, right?” (The child has attended a local fandom convention with us the past few years. He knows a TARDIS when he sees one; we’ve just never gotten around to watching.) “And the Doctor? What’s he doing? What’d he say?

“What are those angels?”

P1030465 (1024x768)
Image: Jill Keppeler

Within another day or two, we beat the game’s initial board and we had acquired the Doctor Who expansion pack. He was intrigued. He was excited.

He wanted to start watching decades worth of episodes, now.

Our timing, however, was lousy. I soon found out that we had less than two weeks–14 days packed with other family activities and school and work–before the show vanished from Netflix. A plan was in order.

It was hampered by the fact that I, myself, was only a neophyte Whovian. I’d seen a few episodes with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I had a good grasp of the show’s mythology thanks to friends, the internet, and conventions.

I had very little time to cobble together a plan, with assistance from internet friends and websites and leaps of faith. It would have to do.

Now, understand that this is a plan for a fairly fearless 7-year-old who doesn’t mind things that are creepy or scary, one who thrives on pondering moral questions and comparative motivations for characters good, bad, and morally gray. (Those are his favorite, actually.)

One of his main goals was seeing the four newest Doctors and the trio of Whovian monsters that appear in the game: Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels. Oh, and K-9. We tried to hit all those notes. We weren’t able to delve into the classic Doctors, but that will come next.

This just had to hook him.

ONE: “Rose.”

Thanks to multiple recommendations, we started at the very beginning of the 2005 restart, with the Ninth Doctor. From the moment the Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand and said, “Run!” I was pretty sure it had him. He giggled over the scene with the hand (and the garbage tote). He thought the Autons were cool. (And now scrutinizes store mannequins with a eye for their Auton suitability.) He worried that Rose wouldn’t go with the Doctor. (As if there was any question.) He immediately wanted to watch another one.

TWO: “Dalek.”

This is not one I’d probably recommend for a younger child, but it worked for mine. He chose it because of the title. (He always has a love-hate relationship with the Daleks, who are, after all, excellent antagonists.) The things I’d be cautious about with another kid, such as some of the Doctor’s morally gray areas and the fate with the Dalek, worked with mine. We discussed the matter at length that night. We still do, on occasion.

THREE: “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.”

Just this once, everyone lives. There were many, many questions about World War II and the Blitz after these episodes. They were creepy and ultimately uplifting and introduced Captain Jack, one of Younger Son’s favorites.

These are still his favorite episodes.

FOUR: “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways.”

It became increasingly apparent that we were going to have to pay a proper farewell to the Ninth Doctor, so I felt we had to see how his regeneration to Ten came about. Plus, bonus Daleks!

Even after only a handful of episodes, he really, really didn’t want to see Nine go–enough that he kept putting this viewing off. It’s an experience every Doctor Who fan must have.

FIVE: “The Christmas Invasion.”

He was not at all sure about this new Doctor. Not at all. In that, he mirrored Rose in a way that I found fairly genuine.

By the end of the episode, however, he had announced that Ten was his favorite Doctor. So far, he’s stuck by that.

SIX: “School Reunion.”

He was thrilled to see K-9, and he loved the monsters of the week. (And the school setting.)

SEVEN: “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel.”

Much like Dalek, these were purely because he wanted to see Cybermen. The child has seen enough classic Star Trek to understand (and be fascinated by) the notion of alternate timelines.

EIGHT: “Smith and Jones.”

His much-anticipated “Blink” was coming up, and I wanted him to have a better introduction to Martha Jones than the miniscule time he’d see her in that episode. Plus, there are rhinos in space! (Sort of!)

NINE: “Blink.”

He had been waiting for this since the moment he saw the Weeping Angels in LEGO shape. (They’re even creepy in plastic form.) I made sure the viewing was not on a school night; we popped a huge bowl of popcorn and settled in to watch.

Afterward he turned to me and said: “I thought it was supposed to be really scary.”

I guess I need to up my game.

This is also where I realized we’d spent far too much time on Nine and Ten–and we only had two days left, with not a lot of time to watch television. This was, in part, because I was most familiar with them and in part because he was reluctant to leave Nine behind. (You never forget your first Doctor.)

So the next two Doctors had the slightest of introductions. We’ll fill them in later. I was pretty sure at this point that that was definitely going to happen.

TEN: “Victory of the Daleks.”

Not, perhaps, the best episode, based on friends’ reactions. Still, he picked it because of the title, he was able to meet Eleven, and he was fascinated by the return to the World War II setting. (I need to look for a kid-friendly book on Winston Churchill.) Unexpectedly, he developed a sincere fondness for the character of Professor Bracewell, which led to more interesting conversations on humanity and what it means.

ELEVEN: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”

Unsurprisingly, also chosen because of its name.

TWELVE: “Robot of Sherwood.”

Finally, the Twelfth Doctor. As this is the one I know least about to date, I asked for a recommendation for a standalone episode from friends. He felt he already knew this Doctor from the LEGO game (Peter Capaldi even provides the voice), so it worked out.

That was it. Two weeks. Twelve storylines. Four Doctors.

Today, I can proudly say that my son is well on his way to becoming a lifelong Whovian.

We’re going to have to purchase a season at a time now, but we’re doing that slowly but surely. He gets excited when he sees a stone angel. He yells “Geronimo.” He thinks bow ties are cool. He was “sword-fighting” his brother with a spoon this morning. He wants a TARDIS birthday cake this year. He also wants a long, multi-colored scarf, although he hasn’t yet seen an episode with Tom Baker. (I’ve promised.)

My work here … has begun.