My father tried explaining Doctor Who when I was far too young to understand it – somewhere between 5 and 10 years old. But some information can burrow under your skin and settle in your subconscious, even while you think you’re not comprehending it — or maybe not even paying attention.
Many years later, I was an adult and looking for something to watch on Netflix, which is a very adult thing to do. “You’ve watched the IT Crowd, Lost and X-Men cartoons,” said Netflix. “You seem like the sort of person who would dig Doctor Who. Want to start watching at the beginning of the 2005 relaunch?” And I responded, “Sure, Netflix. Let’s find out if you’re right. I’m feeling too apathetic to think for myself today…”
Netflix was right: The first five episodes of Christopher Eccleston’s run as the Ninth Doctor are plenty entertaining. But I didn’t understand why some sci-fi fans talk about Doctor Who the same way other people talk about the House of Windsor until the I saw the post-credit segment of season five and learned an important lesson about the nature of folklore. In the preview for episode six, snippets of armed guards scampering through an unidentified, underground bunker flash alongside clips of The Doctor barking “No one on this base is safe!” and “If you want orders, follow this one: Why don’t you just die?!?!?!” and other uncharacteristically morbid, frenzied admonishments.
We don’t see what all the fuss is about until the final shot of the sneak peek. Because I failed to consciously remember anything my father told me about Doctor Who, if someone had used the word “Dalek” in my presence at that point, I would not have had the foggiest idea what they were talking about. Nothing in my memory banks clicked when — for the first time — one of the Gallifreyan hero’s greatest enemies appeared on 21st-century television, chained up in the bunker’s basement. But when the trash can with a plunger for a hand let loose its iconic war cry….“EXTERMINATE!!! EXTERMINAAAAAAAATE!!!!!”…..I understood that I was gazing into the telescope nose of evil incarnate.
Somewhere in the waaaaay back of my cerebrum, the word “exterminate” had been permanently associated with intergalactic, fascist villainy, thanks to my father’s ancient, dorky rantings. The myth of the Daleks had been lurking in my mind for years before I had ever watched an entire episode of Doctor Who. Freaky, eh?
My point here is, if your kids aren’t old enough to share your excitement for the soon-to-be-regenerated Doctor and his quests for justice throughout the universe, I can say from personal experience that this plush Dalek may leave an impression deep enough to explode out of their subconscious sometime after they’re grown up. And yes, Doctor Who will still be on TV in some capacity when your children have become adults. The Amazon ad doesn’t specify which two phrases the 8-inch-tall doll speaks when someone pokes its evil alien tummy, but we can guess that one of them must surely be “EXTERMINATE.”