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How I Learned to Love Sci Fi with Doctor Who, a guest post by author Annie Cardi

Warning: The following post contains minor Doctor Who spoilers
Until Doctor Who,I thought I hated sci-fi.
Not to say that I didn’t watch or enjoy sci-fi. It was just that I always found excuses for why the books I read and movies I enjoyed couldn’t possibly be considered true science-fiction. I plowed through The Hunger Games, but claimed that dystopian wasn’t exactly sci-fi. (“It’s only five minutes into the future!”) I bemoaned the fact that there was only one season of the brilliant Firefly. (“But that’s kind of a western.”) I was glued to Battlestar Galactica but even pretended that show, with its spaceships and futuristic robots, wasn’t really sci-fi. (“It’s more of a military show, really.”)
I determined not to like sci-fi. Whenever people brought it up, I claimed I didn’t like that it was all spaceships and aliens, which didn’t appeal to me. “It’s not about real people and real issues.”
Which is exactly what I thought Doctor Who would be—lots of aliens and spaceships, and no real people or issues or emotions.

Source: http://letitflywiththebirds.wordpress.com/tag/the-ninth-doctor/page/2/
The first Doctor Whoepisode I watched was “Rose,” the first appearance of the Ninth Doctor and companion Rose Tyler. My husband had seen a few episodes and thought it would be a fun show to watch together, and I finally agreed to give it a try. With low production values and a gymnastics move that saves the day, I was underwhelmed. It confirmed every stereotype I had of sci-fi, and I insisted that I didn’t want to waste my time on a show that was silly and cheesy and didn’t connect with real people.
My husband insisted it got really good, and suggested we watch a couple of later episodes so I could see Doctor Who wasn’t just about cheesy robots and silly aliens.
We watched two episodes: “Blink” and “Midnight.”

Source: http://memewhore.tumblr.com/
Both were fascinating and creepy and well-crafted. “Blink” barely featured the Doctor, instead following around girl wannabe detective Sally Sparrow. (Who writers, if you’re reading, I want a Sally Sparrow spin-off series.) The alien villains, the Weeping Angels, were far from cheesy and silly—they perfectly expressed that fear of something moving just out of your line of vision. I loved following Sally as she tried to put together the strange disappearances happening around her. At the end, Sally sees the Doctor and realizes that she’s the one responsible for the paper trail that helped save her and her friends. I loved that Sally, a regular girl in London, got to save the day in the present, past, and future.
“Midnight” features more of the Doctor himself, fighting a terrifying, unseen alien villain while trapped in a broken shuttle van. It’s all mental creepiness and expectation. I remember watching that episode for the first time and seeing Skye huddled up in the corner and thinking “Oh my gosh, she’s not going to have a face or something.” But when you see her and she looks normal, somehow it’s even worse. The creepiness lies in that it’s almost real, and in not knowing exactly what was out there. And the only reason the Doctor survives is because someone sacrifices herself—some totally regular person and, as the Doctor says toward the end of the episode, they didn’t even know her name. I love that because it’s a reminder that you don’t need to be the Doctor and cleverer than anyone else to make a difference. We all have the potential to save the day.
“Okay,” I said to my husband, “I guess we can watch the series.”
Even with the promise of episodes like “Blink” and “Midnight” to come, I was still skeptical throughout the first season. There were farting aliens, and I didn’t understand how the Daleks were the most terrifying creatures in the universe. (What’s that plunger doing there?)
Slowly, I started seeing more of the human side to Doctor Who. I loved Rose trying to prevent her father from dying, even as it creates horrible consequences in “Father’s Day.” My heart broke for Nancy and Jamie as they try to find each other in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” In “The Satan Pit,” got chills as the Doctor tells the alien embodiment of evil that, out of all the aliens and creatures and gods and demons he’s seen, he most believes in human Rose Tyler. But even then, I resisted admitting that I liked a sci-fi series.
Then I watched “Doomsday,” the series 2 finale and the last episode featuring Rose Tyler. When Rose and the Doctor say their good-byes, I was deeply touched. I didn’t want these characters to be separated by space and time, and I felt as connected to their relationship as I felt to any others in books or movies or TV shows.
“I think I need a break before we watch series 3,” I told my husband. “I miss Rose too much.”
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t deny it anymore—I loved a sci-fi show. I couldn’t pretend it was a western or a military show. It had aliens and time travel and spaceships, and was solidly sci-fi. But it also had characters I empathized with and relationships I cheered for and challenges that mirrored those I saw in my real life. Even though the Doctor is clever and charming and can save the universe, a lot of time it’s his human companions who make the difference. Robots and aliens are the fun and exciting elements surrounding sci-fi. But real sci-fi is about people and relationships and our places within the universe.
Doctor Who made me an official sci-fi fan. But a girl can’t live on Who alone. My suggestions for other sci-fi fans in waiting:

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins
Yes, I admit, it’s sci-fi. It’s also about the horrors of war and how we all try to survive and protect those we love.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another book I refused to admit was sci-fi, and one of my all-time favorite books. I love its examination of how we need to experience all kinds of emotions—even the ones that cause us pain.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
A quieter YA sci-fi novel than most, but compelling. What I liked most about this novel is how it’s about Jenna trying to discover what defines us as human.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card*
A friend gave this to me when I claimed I didn’t like sci-fi. Another powerful look at the horrors of war and how we all have to examine our potential for destruction.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s writing is excellent, and this book’s themes of love and what makes us human is heartbreaking. (Plus, it’s a boarding school book and I love those.)
*I have serious issues with Card’s personal views, so I recommend getting this book from the library as opposed to buying it.

Bio: Annie Cardi is a young adult writer whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in April 2014. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain.
Online at AnnieCardi.com 

Coming April 22, 2014 from Candlewick Press
 This post is part of TWO marvelous blogging events!

Sci-Fi Month is brought to you by Rinn Reads. Check out the full schedule of Sci-Fi Month posts! There are reviews, discussions, giveaways, and more!

Doctor Who Week is a joint venture between  Maria’s Melange and Teen Librarian Toolbox. We have a full week of fun posts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.


  1. I didn't think I was a sci-fi person, either. But man, I love Doctor Who more with every episode, lol.

  2. I adore Doctor Who. And I was all into scifi before even watching the show! All someone had to say was “he's an alien”, and i was THERE.

    and just the other day, i rewatched “blink”. I kept trying to plan my day so I could watch it in broad daylight, but nope, no luck, i ended up watching that scary episode in the dark! it's SOOOOO good, and i can't wait to get to the Silence in the Library episode. Wouldn't Sally Sparrow make the best companion?

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