Messing with the past is a dangerous thing. Just being there can send our version of history into tailspin — or so says the butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in Fiji and, as a result, there’s an earthquake in Chicago. OK, maybe not an earthquake in Chicago, but you get the idea; a small change in one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in big differences to a later state.
Despite the delicate nature of timelines, there always seem to be those among us who have no problem tackling the past (and the future) with aplomb, butterflies be damned.
William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Richard Hurndall, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith have all gracefully navigated the perils of time and space. Doctor Who doesn’t die; he is instead reincarnated. Because of this, each of these eleven actors got to play various regenerations of the alien Time Lord, Doctor Who of the famed cult TV show. It’s to these wonderful men that I owe all my knowledge of the wibbly wobbly timey wimey world of time travel.
In addition to whisking them through time and space, Doctor Who can teach young fans about literature (Doctor Who hangs with Shakespeare and Charles Dickens), science (he also meets up with Einstein), and of course history (with the TARDIS’ somewhat renegade destination choices the Doctor often lands himself in some pretty perilous time periods and cultures. Think the Aztecs, Pompeii, WWII.)
Nerd superheroes make me way too giddy. Seriously, heroes that also teach are my favorite!
While each version of the doctor is different, they hold onto some basic core characteristics. A goofy exterior masks an inquisitive, intelligent nature. The doctor is also a compassionate pacifist. He even doubts the destruction of his worst enemies: these guys …
The Daleks: They may not look like much from the outside but inside they’re akin to an enraged homicidal octopus whose hobbies include destroying all the things.
I don’t often quote comedian Craig Ferguson but he said or actually sang it best, describing the show as “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” As far as heroes go, I’d say the Doctor fits in just fine with our caped crusading men and women. Besides, the Doctor’s police call box is much cooler than Superman’s phone booth dressing room, which brings us to the TARDIS.
Step 1: Transportation
Ah yes the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). The first step to turning any kid into a time travelling-evil alien vanquishing-historian-genius is the mode of transportation. The TARDIS is a disguised time machine. What seems to be a police call box is actually designed to travel through time while weathering everything from extreme temperature to attacks by cyborgs, yetis and Genghis Kahn’s army.
Every self-respecting Whovian kid should have one. “Wherever would we keep such a marvel of alien science and engineering?” You may ask. I’d start with the kid’s room. In her own space is where a child should feel most free to indulge her imagination. Feel free to help them along in their imaginary space travel. A simple version of the TARDIS might involve a refrigerator box, some cardboard trim and some paint. Great project for the kids, months of entertainment afterward.
If your trans-dimensional engineering skills are a little rusty, painting the door to the bedroom might work just as well.
If you want to go smaller, this works too.
Step 2: The Duds
With any incarnation, you can think of the Doctor’s overall look as a mash up of a professor, Sherlock Holmes and an amateur cricket player who sometimes has a bad boy streak. A bowtie or scarf is a must. A sport jacket and/or a leather jacket are all recommended Doctor Who wear. The result is pretty adorable.
Possibly one of the cutest humans ever
If you want to knock out all the elements of a great Doctor Who outfit in one fell swoop, and your Whovian is still small, this onesie should do it. Otherwise, the tweed jacket is going to be the biggest challenge. eBay is your best bet, and if you do a little searching, some Doctor Who fans sell the bowtie and the shirt along with the jacket. It’s also important to remember accessories often make the outfit.
Step 3: Study Up!
Ah, the last and most important step: Now that we’ve taken care of the look, let’s focus on cultivating our children’s inner Doctor Who.
Doctor Who is pretty fantastic for many reasons. Bowties are always in style. Time travel is always intriguing. Aliens are always awesome. The show is suspenseful enough to be exciting but not too scary. WARNING: There is one exception to this rule.
Do not watch the episode Blink at night or alone. Even if you’re 42-years-old and don’t need to sleep with a nightlight and a teddy bear, trust me. There will be night terrors and a lingering mistrust of angles and stone masonry. In most cases though the little ones can get to sleep nightmare free.
In its beginnings, Doctor Who was aimed at kids. The goal was to teach them about different historical events. A Time Lord with a TARDIS is the perfect candidate for delivering a non-snore worthy history lesson. If you’re 909 years old, you’re bound to see a lot of stuff and know a lot of stuff, too.
Because this show is so packed with historical references, Doctor Who can be a foothold for kids as they become immersed in history at school. Kids will get excited when they recognize an historical fact in context of the show. Learning about Vincent Van Gogh? “Oh yeah! I know that guy from the Vincent and the Doctor episode!”
It’s fun to delve a little deeper into these ideas after kids encounter them via The Doctor. So go ahead and teach them about astronomy. Introduce them to a famous artist or two. Explain that the Titanic wasn’t actually an ill-fated luxury space cruiser, but a sea-bound version of the ship.
Use the show as a jumping off point to explore history, science and maybe even trans-dimensional engineering. Hey, you never know what your curious little time traveler will get into.