Science fiction not always quite so fictional

Published 9:44 am Thursday, April 20, 2017

One of the biggest things that draw people to love science-fiction stories is escapism. The idea that you can hop on a space ship and travel amongst the stars is an appealing one for those with a restless spirit and a sense of adventure. And quite often, science fiction stories also challenge the audience to think deeper about the world around us.

With that in mind, I’ve been watching Doctor Who a lot recently. The long-running British sci-fi series just premiered its newest season on April 15. If you’re not familiar with the show, it follows the story of an alien, simply called The Doctor, and his (usually) human companions as they travel through time and space. The actors have changed several times over the years, but the sense of adventure has always remained.

The current Doctor (number 12 in a series of ‘regenerations’) is played by veteran actor Peter Capaldi and is joined by his newest companion, Bill, portrayed by Pearl Mackie. With only one episode under her belt so far, Mackie quickly showed how fun and inquisitive her character is, never failing to ask questions about the strange situations they end up in during the season premiere episode. She’s an entertaining contrast with Capaldi’s Doctor who has always been a bit less whimsical and a little more stern than previous actors in the role.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a new fan of Doctor Who. The show first began airing in 1963 but took a break in 1989 before it was relaunched again in 2005. I started watching the series only two years ago and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. But I’ve really been drawn to the show because of how emotional the light-hearted adventure series can be.

Essentially, it’s a story of constant change. Every few seasons the actor playing the Doctor changes. Before Capaldi, the Doctor was portrayed by Matt Smith, and before him, David Tennant. It’s common for the companions to leave as well with their storylines coming to a close and moving on from their adventures.

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to see someone leave, but that’s the reality of life, even in fictional television. People come and go from our lives, and yet the story still continues on without them. We learn to adapt and keep going, just like how the Doctor’s adventures have continued on for years despite the constant shake-ups.

Doctor Who, like any science fiction show, has its share of crazy unbelievable moments. The new season premiere had the Doctor and Bill traveling around the galaxy in the Doctor’s British police box-shaped spaceship (“it’s bigger on the inside”) to escape from a shape-shifting puddle of alien motor oil. No kidding!

But more importantly, the episode set into motion the beginning of the new companion’s story while also serving as the beginning of the end for Capaldi’s Doctor, since the actor is leaving the show at the end of this season. It’s this underlying story that catches my attention and keeps me watching in fascination each week.

I think a lot of people can probably identify with these stories of change too.

We may watch science fiction shows to escape the craziness of our everyday lives, but perhaps there are times when the space adventures hit closer to home than we think.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.