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Life Lessons from Doctor Who

Updated on August 2, 2015

Doctor Who has been around for nearly 52 years now, and in all that time, there's a fair amount of lessons to be learned in all those hundreds of episodes. Here are the Top 13 lessons--one for every (canonical) Doctor--that every true Whovian should learn.


1. Arms are far from 'armless

The first time we saw the Doctor in the 21st century ("Rose," first broadcast in 2005), he was grappling for his life with a disembodied plastic arm. Pried from the body of an Auton bent on invading London, this arm did its best to (ahem) single-handedly dispatch the Doctor and his new almost-companion, Rose.

But disembodied arms are not only a 21st-century threat. In the 1976 serial, "The Hand of Fear," companion Sarah Jane Smith discovered a fossilized hand in a quarry. Before you could say, "Hand that thing over before someone gets hurt," Sarah went blank behind the eyes and started wreaking hypnotized havoc all over town, all whilst chanting "Eldrad must live!" Not good news at all.

As for Eldrad (a blue sparkly Aladdin Sane type of alien), s/he nearly managed to carry out his/her hostile takeover, but fortunately the Doctor and Sarah managed to stop him/her. In other words, no 'arm done.


2. Ordinary household items are not to be trusted under any circumstances

I suppose I should really make that clearer: Ordinary household objects are not to be trusted under any circumstances if they have been tampered with by aliens. This is mainly a New Who phenomenon, but the anachronistic phonograph in "The Time Meddler" and the ugly plastic chair in "Terror of the Autons" do represent in the classic series. From the deadly Christmas tree in "The Christmas Invasion," to the creepy-as-all-get-out peg dolls in "Night Terrors," to the Weeping Angels themselves, Doctor Who does a great job in teaching us that aliens will tamper with our appliances and use them against us.

Unless that appliance happens to be an old-fashioned police telephone box. If that appears on your street corner, get ready to feel safer than you've ever felt in your life. After the alien threat has been dispatched, of course.

3. Certain things are fated to happen

This can be good or bad, depending on the situation. On the good side, Amy and Rory stayed together, despite remarkable odds, and Clara stayed with the Doctor long enough to become his friend. On the bad side, Adelaide Brooke was forced to die in "The Waters of Mars," and the town of Pompeii was buried along with most of its citizens in deadly layers of volcanic ash. There are certain things in life that you just can't undo or even change. The best thing to do is to seek out the things you can change and make your life worth living.

4. When all else fails…RUN!

Running is one of the better ways of getting from Point A to Point B, since it's the fastest way to travel that doesn't require a vehicle of some kind. On Doctor Who, as Donna Noble so accurately observed, there is an amazing amount of running involved; and certainly, if you're trying to escape from dangerous alien creatures, a good old-fashioned run cannot be beat.

5. Finding a good hiding spot is easier than you might think…

…Especially if you're hiding from Ice Warriors or robot mummies. Both of these races have notoriously poor peripheral vision, so feel free to rely on the whole "hide in plain sight" maxim. It won't let you down.

...Unless, of course, it does. In that case, please refer back to Lesson #4.


6. No matter how widely you travel, you can always find something familiar

And I'm not just talking about the apparent ubiquity of British accents throughout the Universe, either. As Rose and Gwyneth proved in "The Unquiet Dead," you never know when you'll meet someone who hated school as much as you did. And as Sarah Jane and Queen Thaliria proved in "The Monster of Peladon," you're never quite as alone as you think you are (and that feminist rants are awfully good for perking up a dampened spirit). If you reach out to the people around you, you may be surprised at how much they have in common with you.


7. A tea tray is as useful as a steel plate

From "The Moonbase" to "Kill the Moon," we can see that this is true. There is nothing you can do with one that you can't do with the other. Whether you want to serve up some hot beverages and sugary snacks, or plug a hole in your base to prevent your crew and yourself from dying of suffocation in the icy cold of space, either one will do.

Never mind if you're being attacked by Cybermen ("The Moonbase"), or…nothing at all, really ("Kill the Moon"), if you've got a tea tray or a steel plate, you'll be sitting pretty.

8. Everyone is important in their own way

The Doctor himself said it: "In all my 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important." No matter if you're a good guy, a bad guy, or one trying to be the other, you are doing your part to make this Universe extraordinary. And don't forget it.

9. You can make friends with anyone, as long as you have the right kind of sweets

Specifically, jelly babies. There's not a decent soul in the Universe who doesn't appreciate a good jelly baby. And if you do encounter the rare soul who doesn't care for the colorful sweets, fear not! In a pinch, you can bluff and use one as a weapon!

And when your bluff is inevitably called, you can eat your alleged weapon and look tough as nails in front of the natives.

10. A cricket ball can save you from certain death

Of course, it's not enough to have a cricket ball--you also have to be able to aim fairly well. The Fifth Doctor made the best use of the toy by far, using it to stop himself from drifting out into space in "Four to Doomsday." But even centuries later, the Tenth Doctor retained those skills and saved the life of a child. Now that's what I call cricket!


11. Nothing lasts forever, but love makes it worth the while

Life in this Universe is unpredictable. One minute, you're zooming along, perfectly happy, fighting and winning against darkness and evil, and having a rare old time doing it. Next thing you know, you may be locked in a dungeon, sentenced to execution, or (worst of all) completely along without a friend in the world. The Doctor has found himself in those circumstances many times before--as have we all--but what makes all the difference is those who stick by our side during those difficult times. Our companions--family, friends, and lovers--are the people who help us make sense of the Universe and remind us to see its beauty.


12. Make sure you only travel with the very best

Along those same lines, however, make sure you companions are honest, brave, and true in all things. Take it from Adam Mitchell--who used time travel for his own selfish reasons--or from Vislor Turlough--who was conscripted to kill the Doctor! Companions make the journey worthwhile, but only if they are themselves worthwhile.

13. Never underestimate the curative powers of tea and custard

Nothing more to say here, really. Just don't forget the fish fingers!



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