Doctor Who and the Power of Stories

Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for Doctor Who seasons 4 and 7. I take no responsibility for disappointed fans who read past this line.  😀

The Doctor Who Christmas special (that I just got around to watching 3 weeks ago) didn’t just make me cry, it upset me for days!  Literally, for a week afterwards, whenever I thought of the bow tie dropping to the TARDIS floor or Amy Pond saying “good night,” my eyes welled up with tears.  Even as I’m writing now, I’m fighting back the emotion in my throat.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m addicted to all things Doctor Who, but such a strong reaction got me thinking.

Why does a character dying/regenerating on a TV show (albeit a stellar one) affect me so much?  Why do I care?  I felt silly as I was watching and sobbing, but I was equally curious and a bit concerned about my reaction.


Direct-to-Brain Downloads? No thanks, I prefer the smell of books. Quote from Doctor Who, Season 4: Silence in the Library. Image from Emily at Novel Ideas

Then it dawned on me that Doctor Who isn’t JUST a sci-fi show about a quirky time-traveler who saves humanity over and over.  It’s also an amazingly well-written story that sucks you in like a black hole.  It’s just as absorbing as the best books I’ve read.  Steven Moffat and the other contributing writers like Newbery author Neil Gaiman, are nothing short of brilliant in my opinion.  His storytelling and creativity and ideas are what makes keeps the Doctor Who fandom vibrant and alive.

After a couple days’ reflection, I also realized that this analogy exactly illustrates my thoughts on the hackneyed discussion of print vs. eBook in education and wider society.  I am *SO TIRED* of having this conversation with community members, administrators, and other school librarians.  Just because eBooks exist doesn’t make them a one-size-fits-all format for any content.  It’s not about how we read or what “thing” we use to read or the number of multimedia features in a book/eBook/iBook.

It’s about excellent stories.  It always has been, and I believe it will continue to be all about the stories.  As my husband (a HUGE graphic novel fan) so beautifully summed it up:

 Anyone who discredits a format, underestimates it.

Some stories are best told in print, some in eBook, some with interactive features, some as audiobooks, some as graphic novels, and some as movies, plays, podcasts, or even British sci-fi TV series.  The format only matters if it’s limiting or liberating to the story being told, which can lead to exciting, endless possibilities for storytelling.  That fact tells me that libraries and librarians aren’t going anywhere.  No matter what you call us or how our role inevitably changes, we are, at our core, lovers and sharers of stories in all formats, genres, and devices.

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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3 Responses

  1. I agree whole-heartedly, that in the end it is about excellent stories. I would go even further in saying we crave narrative as it helps us organize our minds. At the end of the day, whether the story comes to us orally, by book, e-book, comic or even stained-glass, the most important interface is our own mind. The rest is a means to an end.

    That said, sometimes an excellent story is not necessary, as creatures of narrative, as story-craving (almost Whovian) monsters, we put narratives into situations even when there is none and thus often make the excellent stories for ourselves. The research project I am currently working on is a digital attempt to engage the story maker in all of us, to discover the narrative we wish to tell. An old teacher of mine once said that a good story works for its holes, and I believe that these holes often allow us to further engage in the work by allowing us to complete it for ourselves, filling in with our imaginations what we perceive as missing. I think Umberto Eco talks about this in his book, “The Open Work”.

    What interests me about the narrative in so many video games is that they show us an aspect of storytelling that is often overlooked and that is as ancient as Homer. In a video game we are the Hero, literally, where as, in the case of The Doctor, he is our agent in the world that he inhabits. His experience is our experience. Is it any wonder we cry when that experience ends?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    Ian McDonald

    • Collette J. says:

      Yes, I agree about humans craving narrative as a way of organizing our minds and making sense of the world around us, and I believe that’s one reason print books will endure in some form or another (along with the many other formats). I disagree, however, about a good story that “works for its holes.” Perhaps it’s because I see so much junk coming from traditional and self-publishing these days, but I think we really should have very high standards for ourselves as readers. If a story isn’t working for me, no matter how well reviewed or how many friends recommend it, I just ditch it. A story should speak to a reader, and to do that, the author’s story needs to be clearly communicated and understood.