I understand this is a very odd question but I have to ask because the Dr. Who story-line is unlike any other sci-fi series I have ever watched. It is fun but I am struggling a bit to find a mindset that will help me enjoy this series as much as possible.

A quick bit of background. My wife and I are total nerds. Recently, we happened to watch a couple of the most recent episodes of Dr. Who on the US-BBC channel. We tried hard to fight it but we have been sucked into the show and are now "binging" on Dr. Who episodes, starting with season 5.

After watching one full season, I can't quite grip how I should process this show. What I mean is that with every sci-fi universe that's been developed, you have to enter the story with a few assumptions and you have to "forgive" the writer(s) for certain, impractical details. Generally speaking, I've developed 3 mindsets. Of these three mindsets, I try to adopt one of them, in order to be able to enjoy the story. They are as listed below.

The Star Trek Mindset

This type of story is high on science and tries to base the story around a universe that is reasonably plausible. You can forgive some scientific inaccuracies if the science-of-the-story is integral to the plot. In general, however, the world/universe should be considered close to the one we live in. Continuity in the story line is important but it can be broken if it rectifies scientific mistakes from earlier series assumptions.

The LOST Mindset

This is a story where continuity is of the utmost importance. Questions should be asked and answers are to be expected. Scientific gibberish can add a layer of fun to the story, but don't consider it to align with reality. The key hear is to enjoy the curiosity surrounded by the story that is being told and you should pay close attention to every detail, for clues to future story development.

The STAR WARS Mindset

Continuity is only somewhat important but legitimate science should be forgotten. For this type of story it is almost best to throw out both ideas and simply "enjoy the ride." For this story, you should enjoy the characters, bask in starships exploding in the roar of space and not ask questions. Just have fun!

As I mentioned, I try to adopt one of these mindsets with any new series that I watch. If I don't, I'll end up being annoyed by inconsistencies that I see throughout the story. I need to have a few base assumptions so that I can forgive the writers for minor inconsistencies that may occur in the story.

However, with Dr. Who I feel that my "mindset" has to shift from episode-to-episode. The default may be to adopt the STAR WARS style mindset, but I can't seem to think from that perspective when the story continually encourages you to pay attention to continuity details.

Also, the writers tend to portray that the Dr. Who universe has a "science" all of it's own that should be consistent within the universe. This may not follow the laws of our physical world, but it seems that I should at least pay attention to the details of the Dr. Who universe because it could be important to the story that's being told


Considering the information stated above, what assumptions should I maintain about the plot, questions and answers, and the general "science" of the Dr. Who universe while watching Dr. Who?

  • 15
    Ideal mindset for Doctor Who: Confusion. Jan 3, 2013 at 18:59
  • 1
    I'd lean most towards Star Wars, out of the choices above. But that is me.
    – Xantec
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:01
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    FYI, I'm not saying that I have to "think" within any of those mindsets. If someone else has another idea regarding the type of assumptions I should make, please feel free to post a different one. I may need to create a new, "Dr. Who" mindset for some of the sci-fi stories that I get sucked into.
    – RLH
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:03
  • 5
    IMO, apart from @Pyrodante's excellent answer, the easiest way to view the Doctor Who universe is that is has 100% entirely consistent internal rules that only make sense to The Doctor so we human beings should just stop trying :)
    – KutuluMike
    Jan 4, 2013 at 0:10
  • 1
    @eidylon: “Out of curiosity, why start with S5? S1-4 build a LOT of back-story and continuity.” True, but there was a bit of a break when Matt Smith came on board in season 5. I think it’s been designed since so that knowledge of Tennant’s Doctor isn’t required. Apr 22, 2013 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


I offer you a Fourth Mindset: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Mindset.

Things like continuity are somewhat maintained, until it gets in the way with good story in which case it is manipulated, or outright dismissed.

Expect rules to change, in particular between doctors, and most especially between old and new versions of Doctor Who.

Plot and story are maintained, however rules are often arbitrary and necessarily so to hold up the framework of the ongoing plot.

Some rules remain somewhat firm (such as sonic devices not working on wood), and some themes reoccur, but in the end each writer/doctor/companion is given free reign to re-imagine the story based on the bedrock foundation.

Scientific reliability has no place in Doctor Who at all.

  • 2
    Thank you! Believe it or not, I've already had the HGTTG mindset in the background of my mind. I've avoided it, though, because I didn't want to be a "silly American" that grouped all British Sci-Fi in the same bucket. Oh well, I guess I should disregard that inhibition.
    – RLH
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:36
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    Well a fair argument for this is Douglas Adams was a writer/contributor of the early Doctor Who tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Douglas_Adams
    – Ashterothi
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:38
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    @Deleteman Not always lies, just lies. He also tells the truth. Otherwise, it'd be a very different show.
    – waiwai933
    Jan 3, 2013 at 20:58
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    @Deleteman Exactly. You just made that rule up yourself. It's people like you that made the Doctor ret... no wait. Spoilers.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 3, 2013 at 21:10
  • 3
    Clarke's 3rd Law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." applies heavily to Doctor Who. Aug 23, 2015 at 19:23

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