Last week the guys invited a special guest to debate which was the best time machine ever. Now they bring that debate to you in a much more personal manner, through print.
Chris: At last we got around to something related to Doctor Who! Fans have brought the series up multiple times throughout our run here on The Escapist, even hijacking the Best TV Doctor episode of No Right Answer to tell us we were wrong as we didn’t include the Doctor (though I stand by my choice of Dr. House). Still, our episode debating Best Time Machine Ever is in a special position here since it’s a two-parter, meaning I can’t really get into what I should have said regarding the Phone Booth or what Mike should have said regarding the TARDIS. since we could very well be saying those things next week in relation to the Delorean or some other time machines that I won’t mention just yet.
Since we’re in a time paradox where the debate is already over but you’re all waiting to see the results, I have no other choice but to completely derail my topic and look into something different: How familiar do you have to be with something to argue in its favor? I bring this up because Mike (that’s “the other guy/the guy arguing for the TARDIS” by the way) was told many times in the comments, usually by Whovians, that because he had openly admitted to only seeing the Matt Smith run of the series, he could not properly argue in favor of the TARDIS.
I’ve already mentioned that I don’t like to accuse people of being elitist, and I don’t quite think I have to say so now, but I will call people out on being unreasonable. Right now I’ve seen the Christopher Eccleston season and half of David Tennant’s run of Doctor Who and nowhere was I lost with what Mike was saying. I’ve also familiarized myself with some of the older Doctors just by reading basic wiki pages and using common sense, and again, I didn’t think Mike was talking gibberish or omitting critical details of the lore. Part of this is because, and this is a hard truth, Doctor Who isn’t really that complicated, the TARDIS especially.
There’s just not a lot that you need to know that isn’t covered within a few episodes of any season you watch. You learn that the TARDIS can travel to any point within time and space, is infinitely larger on the inside, has a living soul of some kind, can be called to The Doctor when the plot demands it, is wildly inaccurate/difficult to pilot, and can’t cross its own timeline … usually. What more am I missing? What more context will I acquire from seeing the 50+ years of continuity in its entirety?
The thought just seems silly to me that one cannot debate something when every single bit of its history is known. Yes, getting major elements wrong will kill you in a debate (“and I’m pretty sure The Doctor is from Mars” would have ended it), but admitting that you are only familiar with a specific portion? That just seems like a good sport.
For example, I’d go on record and claim that Mario is the most successful game character in the history of videogames with the best track record of hits to flops, even though I haven’t played every sports title or Mario Party game ever made to completion. How many people would then stop me and scream, “What? You haven’t played Mario Party 9? How can you even have this argument then?” Would that be fair? No, of course not, because that game doesn’t represent the extent of the whole. Watching an entire Doctor’s run of Doctor Who absolutely covers what you’d need to know. It’s not like Matt Smith comes and changes all the rules so suddenly or the TARDIS suddenly can’t travel to space anymore because of time-related wackiness. Why, again, can’t Mike argue for the TARDIS then?
I mean, the Phone Booth is still a heck of a lot more fun, but whatever, you can have your magic space box. I’ve got more dynamic personalities and don’t need to hinge my enjoyment on flying around the universe with attractive girls. Now be excellent to everyone and party on, dudes!
Michael: So this week I had the duty and the privilege to bring a little culture to the cast, crew, and audience of No Right Answer. I also was able to argue in favor of my ever so favorite time machine of all time, the TARDIS of Doctor Who fame. Why the TARDIS, you ask? Well, because any yokel or hick from timbuktu can be a fan of some jalopy Delorean, but only a truly cultured and evolved human being can enjoy the complicated plots and subtle nuances of Doctor Who and the TARDIS and BBC television.
Chris, for some still unknown and probably plebian reason, decided to back the Phone Booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. One argument that I should have used, but failed to in the heat of battle, was the plain fact that it’s called the Phone Booth. It doesn’t even have a cool name. At least the Delorean is the Delorean. But just a phone booth? Wow, genius writing and imagination right there if you ask me … sarcasm bomb! The TARDIS, on the other hand, has an extremely cool and purposeful name. For those of you who are not cultured and thus are not in the know, TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. See? Even in the name, my time machine has more science and knowledge and awesomeness than any other time machine ever!
Chris also tried to point out that the Phone Booth was a better choice for a time machine because, and I quote: “Bros can use it”. Bros are the most uncultured of the uncultured. Bros are the types who watch Vampire Diaries even when their ditsy girlfriends aren’t around. So if you want a time machine that a bro can fly around in, be my guest, but I would much rather have a time machine that only a Doctor – The Doctor – could operate.
Other than all of that, I should not fail to also point out that the TARDIS and the Doctor Who franchise have been around for over 50 or 60 years in Great Britain and are currently gaining ever-increasing fame in the States. It’s only a matter of time before NBC finds a way to get the rights to make their own version of the show and ruin it. That’s not a knock at The Office (I love The Office) but I do believe that America would ruin Doctor Who, as was evident in the poorly made Doctor Who movie that came out some years ago.
In closing, I would also like to point out to everyone who is angered by the fact that I’ve only watched the Matt Smith version of the show that, David Tennent is far too British for my taste. Geronimo!
Dan: Everyone loves a two-part debate. You don’t? Well, I just went back in time and placed subtle suggestions throughout your past and now you do like two-part debates. Yea, take that.
Time travel has always been a strong plot point in science fiction, even before machines really took hold as the cause of it. Back in the days of pulp comics, time travel was found here or there, but rarely was there a machine behind the quantum jumping. People just woke up in the past, or slept until they were in the future (I’m looking at you, Twain). Twilight Zone episodes treated time travel akin to a gust of wind: Stand in the wrong area of the house and you might just feel a chill and find yourself in the old west. It is very interesting to me that only relatively recently have machines ingrained themselves as the McGuffin for time travel in popular culture.
The Time Machine, Back to the Future, Calvin and Hobbes, Time Cop, Bill and Ted, Doctor Who .. .my goodness, the list could go on forever. Some time machines are built by crazy inventers, some are run by agencies, but the one thing they have in common is they are means by which we explore the choices not taken. There has never been a time travel media where the traveler goes back or forward to observe and successfully does just that. There is always this temptation to change something, to right a wrong or find out some secret long lost. I suppose the thought is that if time travel is just used for looking and not touching, what’s the point?
So if all time machines are used to fix, break, or discover, all time machines are built to make changes to the timeline. Does that mean the better time machine is the one that creates the least harmful ripples in making said changes, or is that simply user skill? Should the measurement of greatness be the machine that can make the greatest change? Again, perhaps this is more a description of the best time traveler, not time machine.
Since time travel has moved from simply finding yourself in the past or future at random to using a device to get there, what purpose does that device really serve? I put forth that it is the thrill of danger. Being whisked away in time by some force suggests that the force has a plan. A guiding reason for this jump, that will right itself in time. At the very least, it means that someone or something is watching and making sure that things don’t get too bad.
Discounting Quantum Leap, time machines are a separation from that God force, hinting at even more danger and possibility of space-time destruction. Time traveling machines are always breaking down, taking people to the wrong time, and generally hindering travel as often as they facilitate. Maybe much like a roller coaster, people want to travel somewhere, but don’t want to be too safe in the journey. Maybe the idea that God wants us to time travel isn’t as appealing to a modern audience as the idea that time travel is going against nature. The danger makes the rewards all the more sweet.
After all, going against the flow is how Goldie Wilson became mayor.