Dr. Who Will Be Performing Your Surgery Today


Last week, Chris and Dan debated who the best non-medical in sci-fi culture was, Drs. Who or Zoidberg. Now they get a chance to explain themselves:

Chris: I suspect that I may be a bad geek. All of this comes down to my relationship with Doctor Who, which I’ve mentioned before on Media Sandwich is a casual acquaintance at best. I’ve never particularly enjoyed the notion that there are certain things I must indefinably love or hate, seen in examples like Mass Effect 3‘s ending (I loved it) or Fallout 3 in general (I hated it). So when we initially did our “Best TV Doctor” episode a while back and everyone slammed us for not including The Doctor as the only choice, my hackles were raised and this whole business with timely-wimely … stuff became a very strained relationship.

I started watching Doctor Who only recently, as in sometime last year after the aforementioned episode where people informed me I was undereducated (my Bachelor’s in English would suggest that I’m not educated whatsoever). I sat through Eccleston’s run out of courtesy because I had heard David Tennant’s run was amazing, and now that I’ve finished “Blink,” the episode many argue is the series’ best and which I’d agree, I have zero interest to watch any more. Not because it’s a bad show mind you. It’s just because it’s not my show.

My show is Futurama, another geek mainstay that others may look at in the same obligating way that I look at Doctor Who. Within that show, I find it really hard to pick my favorite character between Fry, Bender, and Zoidberg, but I keep coming back to the loveable Decapodian, not because he’s a champion but because he’s full of flaws that are instantly relatable. He wants friends but is shunned. He’s constantly alone despite being in the same room as those he cares for. He thinks with his stomach but also his hearts.

Then we jump over to The Doctor, a very charismatic and good-looking character played with a cocky, Han Solo-type attitude and a superiority complex. I just can’t relate there. Sure, his backstory has him as the last Timelord, making him “lonely” and all. But then again he always has a companion or two riding along with him and is generally welcomed in at least half of the random times and places he appears in, even being friends with Winston Churchill. I just don’t get the lonely vibe except when he stops and points out, “By the way, I’m the last Timelord and therefore am lonely.” I don’t feel that whatsoever.

This relates back to my similar disinterest in Superman. Oh sure, I’ve read some truly inspiring Superman stories such as Red Son and Secret Identity, but for the most part he’s a character that’s simply not someone I can relate to. I don’t have god-like powers. I don’t have a secret identity. I don’t come from a world where I’m the last survivor. He has very little weakness and it’s only in stories where he’s looked at from another angle where we get something great. Some of my favorite Doctor Who episodes are the ones where The Doctor isn’t in the spotlight but rather other characters searching for him as if he’s a mythical hero of legend, which he essentially is (A good example of this is “Love & Monsters”).

As to what Dan should have said in favor of The Doctor, I don’t really think he left anything out. He covered the important details and covered why he’s just a cooler character than Zoidberg. He also did a fine job of tearing my choice down just enough without sending me from the room in tears, which is a gentlemanly thing of him to do. If anything, I’d say this is a great microcosm of No Right Answer to look at our one-year anniversary since it mixes the way we started (utterly outlandish debates with outlandish choices) with the way we are currently (much more traditional Best and Worst debates). Some days I miss the old ways, but as some smart comments pointed out, I still have Zoidberg.

You all still have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Kyle: It’s not everyday that I get the deciding vote on a debate. Ultimately, my vote went to the Time Lord because of the caveats that we put on our debate.

While I fully agree that Dr. Zoidberg is the better character, he’s clearly not the better doctor. And his criteria for being a Non-Medical doctor is shoddy at best. For starters, the door to his office says Dr. John Zoidberg, “M.” D. and while he does display a doctorate in Art, it is also explained that he’s a brilliant alien physiologist who just happens to know next to dick about human anatomy.

So it’s all very ambiguous, but it’s clear that Dr. Zoidberg’s position at Planet Express is as a medical doctor. He sews up the injured, he diagnoses them with alien illnesses, and Fry even had to be medically examined by him before going into space in the first episodes.

Meanwhile, The Doctor may hold some medical training, but it is heavily implied that his title is a ceremonial label of authority. His appointment as a doctor is less medical in nature. And he’s obviously better at his position as “Doctor” than Zoidberg. Even in the realm of alien physiology (that Zoidberg was supposed to be an expert in), he kinda messed up and momentarily turned the Professor into a double-yeti.

And the Doctor has used his title as a rallying symbol in the past. When London was under (fake and real) alien attack, the Doctor was their symbol of hope. The PM got on the tellie and publicly begged for his assistance. Meanwhile Zoidberg has used his title to try to get laid, and even announced himself as a doctor in the gym, resulting in a few premature pregnancies in the water aerobics class.

Having said all this, I find Dr. Zoidberg more lovable in his plight and he is always capable of making me laugh. Now, if this had been best space doctor between Zoidberg and Dr. Lazarus from Galaxy Quest, Johnny Z would have won. No contest.


Dan: This week we saw a huge influx of great debate suggestions at our Facebook fan page for No Right Answer. I couldn’t figure out why this was, until I remembered that I asked the audience myself to send us in more debate suggestions. It’s not that I have the memory of a goldfish, but rather I didn’t realize that our show had reached the tipping point of having actual fan interaction. It’s fantastic, and something I have always wanted for the show. I look forward to greater and greater interaction between us and you the fans. Perhaps next time we film we can live tweet so that if you guys tweet back, you can help decide the outcome of a debate. One can dream…

Points time! First delicious digit went to Chris for a pure informational fact. If you miss a particular episode in Futurama’s new seasons you would still think that Dr. Zoidberg is a medical doctor, if not a terrible one. Chris shows that he is a true Zoidberg aficionado by informing the public that the space lobster does in fact have a doctorate, just not in anything medical. As for why we didn’t include other famous non-medical doctors in this debate like Dr. Jones or Doc Brown … see our episode on worst videogame turned movie.

I snagged the second point by listing all the defining traits that The Doctor has, namely going places and fixing things. I have seen every episode of the new run and it is always wonderful to see how The Doctor finds a problem and fixes it purely because he wants to help people. It is a definite departure in television formula from a very similar Star Trek: TNG that shows a group going around fixing alien societies because humans clearly are the only race that got it right and we have to share our social rules with others. I am not saying TNG isn’t gold, but certain episodes can feel a bit preachy and Doctor Who hasn’t gotten there for me quite yet.

Chris comes back with the odd fact that Zoidberg has saved the crew even though he doesn’t have any special tools. Yes, oddly enough robot Santa felt that Zoidberg is the only being on future Earth that deserves to be on the nice list. Yes, The Doctor generally only has nice things done for him after he saves someone. Yes, I lost my train of thought. But the fact of the matter is, Zoidberg is a very bare-bones character both in material aids and emotional complexity. And for the simple one to save the day is more of a feat than the genius one.

I tied it up with likening The Doctor’s tools to Zoidberg’s claws; they wouldn’t be the same characters without them. Sure, there are older seasons of Doctor Who where The Doctor went without certain staple tools, but he always does something clever with the technology at hand. To say he isn’t clever because he had to use technology doesn’t hold water. The Doctor isn’t tricky because he uses tricky tools, he’s tricky and he uses tricky tools.

I snagged the winning point by describing any doctor practicing today, and then shocking the audience with the twist that I was actually talking about The Doctor. Ok, maybe it didn’t happen like that, but the idea is that The Doctor got to choose his name and he chose what he did because that’s the kind of life he wanted to lead. In my opinion he does a pretty good job of that, and that is why he wins the debate … in this timeline anyways.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.