Doctor Who: A Half-Century of Scaring the Bejeebus Out of Kids

In our house we are Whovians. What does that mean? It means that mildly sensational and I both remember our first doctor. It was Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, the one with the scarf and a pocket full of jelly babies. It means that we’ve watched every new series with The Doctor since it was relaunched in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, loved David Tenant, warmed up to Matt Smith (but really watched it for Amy Pond), wished Peter Capaldi had been given a better shot, and cheered when, after nearly 60 years and 12 previous incarnations plus the War Doctor, the show entered new territory by introducing Jodie Whitaker as the first woman to play The Doctor. We love this show.

Our children…do not share this love.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. Honestly, we try to get them involved in things that we enjoy, but we’re running into the same problem that generations before us encountered. The show has been around long enough I can use “generations before us” more or less literally. The problem, if you can call it that, is Doctor Who leans a little into the scary side of science-fiction, and always has. Mildly Sensational’s parents didn’t allow her, her sister, or brother to watch the show with them, but they could hear the show from their rooms. The theme music haunted the dreams of my wife’s young self until her parents, presumably as tired of her nightmares as she was, finally relented and let her watch. It became less scary and more fun for her after that, and established her as a life-long fan.

Such has not been our experience. We’ve tried to get both our kids, Somewhat Wonderful, and Kinda Awesome, to watch an episode here and there, without really pushing. Trouble is, the minute the music even hints at cue that tells the audience “it’s almost time to start being scared now, get ready,” the kids bolt. They hide behind the sofa, or tear out of the room, leaving cries of “SCARY!” in their wake. We have tried to steer our kids’ viewing habits in a direction that avoids exposing them to too much that is violent or scary. Now I’m starting to feel like we may have failed them in some fundamental way. They might grow up to be mostly well adjusted adults but for the fact they have a panic attack at the merest hint of foreboding music.

It’s possible I’m being too hard on myself. The episode, Blink, from the time of the Tenth Doctor, is a genuinely creepy hour of television.