Life Lessons from Doctor Who

A few months ago, I noticed that an Amazon Prime app had suddenly appeared on my Apple TV. I tried to ignore it for awhile, because I didn’t need any more binge-watching in my life, but it didn’t work. I had to see what shows were on Prime that I hadn’t watched on one of the other platforms. And I ran across Doctor Who.

Science fiction has never really been my thing, but for some reason I decided to give Doctor Who a try. I’m on season 6 (of the 2005 series), and at this point I have no intention of stopping.

There are several things about the show that fascinate me. The main thing that I find interesting is the directors’/producers’ abilities to keep an audience engaged throughout a revolving cast of Doctors and other main characters.


If you’re not a viewer, I’ll quickly explain the Doctor. First, his name is not Doctor Who; it’s just “The Doctor.” He is the last of a race called the Time Lords, and he’s able to travel through time and space via his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which is a time machine inside what looks like an old-timey blue police box. (It’s bigger on the inside!) When he “dies,” he doesn’t completely die but regenerates into a new version of himself. He has a new body and new personality, but he retains all of his memories.

Up to this point, I have seen three actors play the Doctor. The first Doctor in the 21st century version of Doctor Who was played by Christopher Eccleston, who I didn’t like at first, but he grew on me. He was only in the first season, but by the end of it, I wasn’t ready for a new Doctor.

I knew I would probably like David Tennant, the next Doctor, because I’ve been a fan since I watched Broadchurch (if you haven’t seen it, put it on your watch list right now). But I didn’t see how he could be as good as Christopher Eccleston was. It turns out I was hooked on David Tennant within minutes of his appearance on screen. I could not imagine anyone else being the Doctor after him. As his time was coming to an end a few seasons later, I almost stopped watching.

Doctor Who Space PictureWhy? I knew Matt Smith was the next Doctor, and I REALLY was not a fan of Matt Smith, after watching The Crown on Netflix. He played Prince Philip, and I absolutely hated his portrayal of him. Maybe he was spot on, and maybe he wasn’t, but the fact was, he made me dislike Prince Philip very much, and that annoyed me. I did not want him to be the Doctor.

But I did keep watching, and lo and behold, I didn’t hate Matt Smith. In fact, by a couple episodes in, I really liked him! I still don’t love him as much as David Tennant, but I’m definitely fond enough of him to keep going. And I’m dreading the day when he’s gone and Peter Capaldi comes aboard, even though I should know by now that there’s an extremely good chance I’ll like him too. 

I could say the same thing about the Doctor’s friends who travel with him. I can’t imagine being as invested the next one as much as the current one, but somehow I always am. And I’m glad for all of them, because new characters make the show that much richer.

I don’t know why this surprises me so much, because it’s very much like making new friends in real life.

When I move away from somewhere, as I tend to do on a regular basis, I often think, “I don’t know if I’ll ever have friends like these again.” But I always make a concerted effort to make new friends or reconnect with old friends in the area whenever I move, though sometimes it takes time. And I usually like the new friends as much as the old ones. Then I think, “If I had never moved, I wouldn’t have gotten the experience of being friends with these amazing new people.”

You can probably say the same about friends from your life. But even though we know this truth, it can still be hard to remember it when we have to leave friends behind—or they leave us—and we have to go to the effort of making new ones. (And the older we get, the more effort we have to put into it. Can I get an amen?)

This can be difficult for kids too. On the one hand, at times it seems like they can run through new “best friends” every week without missing a beat. But when it comes to being forced to leave a good friend through a move to a new city or school, it can be a really tough time for many kids. However, we can help them navigate their own revolving cast of friends by reminding them of changes in past friendships in their lives and in ours.

It’s important for them to understand that they have our support during their hard time, that we understand what they’re going through because we’ve been there, that they will eventually make new friends, and someday they’ll be grateful for the chance to be a part of those new friends’ lives.

And based on my experience with Doctor Who, I think we can also help them by pointing out characters they have loved over the years from books, TV shows, and movies. Maybe they used to love Peppa Pig and couldn’t imagine loving another character as much, but now they’re really into Doc McStuffins. You can point out that they have great memories about watching Peppa, but now they have another character they enjoy just as much. Or perhaps they used to be a huge fan of Luke Skywalker and now they’re obsessed with Finn. Maybe they switched from Hermione to Katniss. You get the picture.

When we have to leave friends, we all—kids and adults—need to remember there WILL be others, and they will likely be as great or even better friends than previous ones. We just need to be open to the possibility and take the time to invest in new people.

What about you? Do you have a great story about a time you dreaded leaving friends behind but then ended up making other friends who were just as awesome? Tell us about it in the comments. Then, if there are any kids in your life who could benefit from your story, share it with them!

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