This week on Fish and TARDIS Sauce The PITTS* examines the frontiers of the good Doctor’s name, and waxes sophomoric about variants that have given us even richer viewing experiences over the years. Since there’s widespread speculation that the name itself might be an impediment to new viewers, we’re going to explore other shows of its era that are similarly titled, and see how they did.
Now, when I say widespread speculation please understand that this means it’s really just a large school of thought. Okay, not large, by normal standards, but certainly a school. And take school with a grain of salt, too, since I’m painting things with a broad brush. In fact, let’s just call it a vocal minority. Eh, well, since that might imply a crowd, we’ll be a little more precise and say that this idea stemmed from a few folks who were standing around shooting the shit. And when I say “few” I really mean one guy who posted it before going to the kitchen to make himself a ham-and-swiss on wheat … with mayo.
And that brings us full circle. What exactly is the name “Doctor Who,” and have there been others like it? In grammatical terms, it’s simply a combination of an honorific and a relative pronoun.
A few common honorifics include …
… while some of the relative pronouns in English are:
Now, let’s take a look at some of the other shows that’ve cropped up over the years and see how they did:
Mister Who — In this American alternative to the BBC’s offering, the protagonist was not so much a “Time Lord” as a “Working Man Whose Time Is Valuable.” Mister Who followed the adventures of an angst-ridden, angry electrical engineer who lived in a three-bedroom rancher, mowed his lawn with alarming regularity, and boasted uncanny foreknowledge of each Sunday’s NFL games. In fact, most of his time-traveling involved jumping back and forth between his Saturday morning chores and Sunday afternoon’s organization of his toolshop, where everything was arranged alphabetically in his one-car garage. The garage was also the location of his time machine, a UNIVAC I that he bought from a surplus equipment sale at a local air base (along with a gun-metal-gray desk and chair). The real drama of the show surfaced when the boys “down at the shop” realized that Mister Who had been secretly voting for Democrats while telling them he was a Republican. The show was cancelled after funding was pulled by its sponsor, a security firm known as The Plumbers.
Dowager Whom — In a tradition that only science fiction seems to maintain (see: Trek, Star) — Dowager Whom had more than one pilot episode, pitting the widowed detective against an array of stodgy Scotland Yard policemen who do not realize that by channeling her late husband, the Dowager could conveniently see into the future and find out “whodunit.” While the network was impressed with the originality of the plot, they felt that “woods were full of shows like this” and opted for something more unique: A continuing daily serial copiously sponsored by makers of cigarettes and soap products. It should be noted that Dowager Whom is known as DW to its legions of fans, who are increasingly annoyed that the initials DW have come to refer to a different show altogether.
Miss Whose — This delightful fantasy only aired two episodes before being turned into an ongoing series of Canadian pantyhose commercials.
And that, friends and neighbors, is just one small sample. If you skim the pages of old issues of TV Guide, or simply have an overactive imagination, you’ll see dozens of other programs employing similar grammatical techniques, like the ill-fated Brother That, and the semi-lurid Master Which.
You’ll also note that I’ve posted a photo of Doctor Who‘s latest companion, the fictional but beautiful Clara Oswald. That is all.
* PITTS — The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies
Copyright 2013 Keith Parker