Who makes a good companion?
We speak of Dr Sarita J. Robinson about her chapter in a new book 'Doctor Who Psychology', published by Sterling; reprint the chapter; and George Sik reviews the book.
20 February 2017
Dr Sarita Robinson is Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire. We spoke to her about her chapter in the new collection edited by Travis Langley, Doctor Who Psychology.
In psychological terms, what does the Doctor get right in how he selects companions?
Psychologically, the Doctor’s companions tend to be outgoing and enjoy meeting new ‘people’. Considering that the Doctor is always travelling, it is essential that his companions have great interpersonal skills. The Doctor is also keen on helping people out in times of crisis and so his companions need to have a high degree of empathy but also to be resilient.
Sometimes the Doctor doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would be overly bothered about having a companion. Why does he?
The Doctor has nearly always travelled accompanied. On the rare times we see him without a companion he has appeared to become less empathetic. We know that friendship networks are very important to help us remaining mentally healthy. Interestingly Missy (the female regeneration of the Master) has suggested that the Doctor’s relationship with his companions is not 100 per cent equal and the Doctor sees his companions more as a type of faithful pet. However, psychologists have found that having pet ownership can improve your physical and mental health. So even if the Doctor does not think of his companions as equals, they still serve an important role in his life.
What other parallels are there with psychological research on companions?
Nearly all of the Doctor’s companions have a positive experience as a result of travelling and appear to grow as a result of being exposed to new cultures and civilisations. Even the Doctor’s companions who have been through a marked period of trauma appear to show evidence of post-traumatic growth. For example, after the death of Adric, Nyssa leaves the TARDIS but chooses to work on the hospital ship Terminus to help formulate a cure for Lazar’s disease. The Doctor is very emotionally attached to his travelling companions and does want the best outcome for them. For example, even though Donna has had her memory wiped of her travels with the Doctor, the Doctor returns on her wedding day and gives her a winning lottery ticket as a wedding gift.
Am I right in thinking you have your own Doctor Who claim to fame?
Well, I’m in a DVD extra on the Day of the Daleks talking about our memory of old TV shows.
The following chapter is reprinted with permission from Doctor Who Psychology © 2017 edited by Travis Langley, Sterling Publishing, RRP £9.99, Available online and at all good bookshops.
“There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive, wormhole refractors. You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
“Through others we become ourselves.”
— psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky2
Psychologists, especially occupational psychologists, have often wondered whether it would be possible to identify if a person would be a good fit for a job role. For example, is it possible from an interview or an observation to identify someone who has the resilience to be a teacher or the compassion to be a nurse? Identifying selection criterion for different occupational roles is big business because choosing the wrong person can be costly and in some cases dangerous. The Doctor, from his granddaughter Susan Foreman and her teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton through many dozens of others who follow, has shown the need for companionship. However, it is clear that selecting a companion is a difficult task as a good companion will need to have a certain psychological makeup to enjoy traveling with the Doctor.
We know that the Doctor has had many companions. Some have been aliens (such as Romana from Gallifrey, Adric from Alzarian in E-Space, Nyssa from Tracken, and Vislor Turlough from Trion). Other companions have been robotic (such as K-9, the shape-changing robot Kamelion, and the Cyberman head called Handles). However, the Doctor often chooses an Earthling, although not all of them make the grade. For example, both Captain Jack Harkness and Ashildr (also known as “Me”) are rejected by the Doctor because they are immortal. The Doctor tells Ashildr that his companions have to be like “mayflies” to remind him of what is important in life.3 So how does the Doctor select his companions, and what other characteristics is he looking for?
Who Makes a Good Traveling Companion?
Sometimes companions are thrust upon the Doctor. Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar, to give her full name) is sent by the Time Lords to help the Fourth Doctor fulfill the White Guardian’s mission to find the Key to Time.4 Some companions, such as Dodo Chaplet and Tegan Jovanka, appear to stumble into the TARDIS, believing it to be a genuine police box.5 Others, such as Amy Pond, wait patiently for the Doctor to take them traveling. No matter how a potential companion gets on board the TARDIS, the Doctor has the ultimate power to decide if he or she is worthy of a TARDIS key.
Although modern selection processes for adventurers can have a psychological basis, historically selection has been a little more hit and miss. Ernest Shackleton, the famous polar explorer, recruited men for his 1914 Nimrod Expedition. The story goes that he placed an advertisement in a London newspaper asking for volunteers for a hazardous journey: “Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” Shackleton received five thousand applications, which he divided into three piles labeled Mad, Hopeless, and Possible.6 Shackleton’s selection criteria for fellow adventurers appeared to include optimism, patience, physical endurance, idealism, and courage. These qualities are also seen in many of the Doctor’s companions, and so it is possible that the Doctor takes some advice from Shackleton.
Today, the selection criteria for adventurers are thought to be more robust, but it is only recently that detailed psychological screening has been included in astronaut selection procedures.7 Before psychological screening was commonplace, it was assumed that one could spot who had the “right stuff.” People with the right stuff were thought to be easy to spot as they would be independent, expressive, and driven to work hard, whereas people with the “wrong stuff” tended to be competitive, impatient, and irritable. Selectors also wanted to screen out people with “no stuff,” people who are unassertive with low levels of motivation.8 It is clear that the Doctor does not want to select people with the wrong stuff or no stuff.
The Doctor’s Selection Process
The Doctor does, on the majority of occasions, select companions who have the right stuff. All of his companions tend to be independent and expressive with a strong work ethic. However, the Doctor’s selection process is quite messy. What other factors does he take into account?
The Doctor often selects companions who have either medical or academic qualifications. For example, both Martha Jones (who is a medical student when she first meets the Doctor) and Harry Sullivan (a lieutenant surgeon in the Royal Navy) are medically trained. In fact, one of the Doctor’s companions, Dr. Grace Holloway, is an accomplished cardiologist who actually triggers the Doctor’s regeneration after subjecting him to an ill-judged heart operation.9
Perhaps the Doctor is selecting companions on the basis of their intelligence quotient (IQ). IQ is determined by a set of tests that are designed to measure human intelligence. High IQ levels are thought to be associated with occupations such as medicine and academic jobs. It is likely that if River Song (a.k.a. Melody Pond) with her doctorate in archaeology, Zoe Heriot the astrophysicist, and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw the UNIT science officer recruited from Cambridge University took an IQ test, they would score highly. However, psychologists are starting to think that IQ alone is not the best predictor of success in occupations such as medicine. Recent research suggests that traits of self-discipline and motivation are also important.10 In fact, not all of the Doctor’s companions would have scored well on traditional IQ tests. Jo Grant, for example, who is hired by UNIT to be the Doctor’s lab assistant, says she actually failed her science exams.11 Many of the Doctor’s companions have not had high-powered jobs, with Ace working as a waitress, Rose Tyler working in a department store, and Donna Noble working as a temp. Indeed, when Romana boasts to the Doctor that she graduated from the Time Lord Academy on Gallifrey with top honors, the Doctor is not impressed.12 He points out that she lacks experience. Therefore, it is clear that the Doctor, like occupational psychologists, knows that academic smarts do not automatically mean that someone is the right fit for a job role.
In fact, some psychologists today suggest that the traditional IQ view of intelligence is limited and that there is more than one way in which to be clever. The multiple intelligences model that was introduced by developmental psychologist Howard Gardner suggests that people can be smart in different ways:13
• Linguistic intelligence – good oral communication skills, including the ability to express yourself and your point of view. Investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith would perform well on tests of linguistic intelligence.
• Logical-mathematical intelligence – having the ability to think logically, see patterns, and deduce solutions from the evidence presented. Adric, the mathematics genius from the planet Alzarius in E-Space, is likely to score highly on tests that measure this.
• Musical intelligence – having the ability to make music. There is very limited evidence of musical intelligence in the Doctor’s companions; maybe this is a trait the Doctor does not value in them.
• Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence – the ability to control your body carefully in the physical world. Leela demonstrates this quality as a warrior of the Sevateem.
• Spatial intelligence – the ability to recognize and use the space around you. Harry Sullivan, who works with the Doctor at UNIT, is likely to score quite low on this trait as he is well known for being clumsy.
• Intrapersonal intelligence – the ability to understand your own thoughts and feelings and the ways they affect your behavior. Many of the Doctor’s companions have high levels of this type of intelligence. Clara Oswald has helped the Doctor understand how his behavior affects others.
• Interpersonal intelligence – the ability to understand other people’s needs and motivations. All the Doctor’s companions show high levels of this.
The Doctor may feel he needs them because he may not always understand the life-forms he meets while they are likely to grasp the essence of any crisis and make the personal connection quickly.
Gardner’s interpersonal intelligence is similar to another concept: emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI)14 refers to a set of skills that allow people to do the following:
• Understand and express their own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
• Regulate their own emotions and the emotions of others.
• Use their abilities to motivate, plan, and achieve their goals.
Only a few of the Doctor’s associates appear to be low in EI. The Brigadier and maybe his daughter Kate Stewart would do well to improve their EI abilities. For example, Kate does not want to negotiate with the Zygons and feels that bombing them would be a better approach.15 In most cases, the Doctor’s companions care passionately about all the life-forms they meet while they journey through time and space. Many companions even put themselves in harm’s way to help life-forms they have just met. Rose, for example, takes pity on the Dalek who has been tortured by Henry van Statten, and she pleads with the Doctor for the Dalek’s life.16 Donna Noble insists that the Doctor save Lucius Caecilius and his family from the volcanic eruption in Pompeii.17 (Helping others despite risk to oneself is a defining aspect of altruism.18)
However, although intelligence testing (whether IQ, multiple intelligences, or EI) can tell us about some of the characteristics of a person, they cannot tell us everything we need to know in order to tell if someone would be good in a certain role, such as being a good traveling companion. In addition to intelligence tests, psychologists can use personality measures to see if a person is a good fit for a certain job role. For example, having a high IQ might make you good at mathematics, but you might not be a good mathematics teacher if you do not like people.
Psychologists have identified five main personality factors (the Big Five) that are universally present in both Western and non-Western cultures.19 From what we have seen, these characteristics seem to be present throughout our world. It is thought that most people fall between two extreme points on a scale for each of the five factors (as opposed to being completely at one end or the other).
Openness to Experience
People range from being very curious to being very cautious. It is a fair assumption that all the Doctor’s companions are very curious. Ace, for example, with her homemade science lab, has managed to find her way to the planet Svartos before joining the Doctor on his travels. Then there is Clara Oswald, who replies to the Doctor’s questions about where she would like to go with “somewhere awesome.”24 A companion expelled from the TARDIS by the Doctor, Adam Mitchell, shows a low level of openness. In fact, he does not cope well with his travels, fainting the first time he sees the Earth from space and being reluctant to try the beef-flavored slushy that Rose offers him.25
People range from being organized and effective to being disorganized and spontaneous. The Doctor’s companions tend to have a high level of conscientiousness. Clara Oswald organizes her work as a teacher around her travels with the Doctor.26
People range from being very outgoing to being reserved and preferring their own company. The Doctor’s companions tend to be very outgoing and so have a high degree of extraversion. Ace in particular stands out as a companion who has a very extraverted nature. She is always quick to make friends and with her boom box really is the “life and soul” of the party.
The Doctor’s companions tend to have a high degree of agreeableness, being caring, cooperative, and considerate. People who are less agreeable have low levels of empathy and little concern for the health and well-being of others. One of the key characteristics of all the Doctor’s companions is their caring nature. After the Daleks murder Victoria’s father, Jamie becomes very protective of her as they travel with the Second Doctor.27
People range from being very nervous to being confident. Generally, the Doctor’s companions display low levels of nervousness and have the ability to deal with even the most stressful situations. Tegan, for example, refuses to stay safe in the TARDIS with the Watcher but instead goes to help the Doctor even though the planet is falling apart.28 In most adventures the Doctor’s companions show a remarkable ability to stay calm, cool, and collected. Psychological research into the ways in which individuals react to emergency situations suggests that only 10 to 25 percent of people have the ability to stay mentally alert and carry out prompt and well thought out responses.29 The vast majority of the population do not respond well to life-threatening events and can suffer from cognitive paralysis in which they fail to undertake any actions at all. Obviously, this would not be very helpful for the Doctor’s companions, who need to be able to work well under pressure. In fact, most of the Doctor’s companions excel under pressure. Martha Jones, for example, independently travels around, spreading the word of the Doctor in a world controlled by the villainous Master and the Toclafane.30
What Are the Benefits for the Doctor of a Traveling Companion?
There are many psychological advantages to having a good social support network. Without a friend or family member to turn to, humans can feel lost and alone. When the Doctor picks up Rose, we know that he has been traveling without a companion for some time.31 However, the Doctor (through most of his history outside the Time War) rarely has traveled on his own. Having a companion has many advantages for the Doctor:
• Help with moral decisions. The Doctor draws on the experiences of his companions and uses them as his moral compass. When weighing whether he has the right to destroy the entire Dalek race, the Fourth Doctor asks Sarah Jane.32 By calling on the help of companions such as Sarah Jane, he is able to get a new perspective on his decisions.
• Emotional support. Psychologists know that friendships and emotional support are extremely important for remaining mentally healthy.33 The Doctor seems to have strong emotional ties to his companions and appears to be devastated when they leave. Missy (the Master), however, suggests that the Doctor’s relationship with his companions is not equal and that he sees them as faithful pets.34 Even if this is the case, psychologists have found that having a pet also can be beneficial to one’s mental well-being.35
• Physical benefits. The Doctor’s companions can help him remain physically healthy. Mel Bush puts the Doctor on a regimen of carrot juice and exercise. Some researchers suggest that people who feel lonely can have health problems and that exercise is much easier if one has a friend to help one out.36
After the Doctor?
Traveling with the Doctor has a profound effect on many of his companions. Some companions are forced to leave the TARDIS, but some decide for themselves that it is time for them to stop their travels and move on with their lives. Ian Chesterton tells the First Doctor that he misses sitting in a pub and drinking a pint of beer as he chooses to return home,37 and Martha Jones decides to stop traveling with the Tenth Doctor after she decides that their relationship is not healthy for her.38 However, it is clear that the Doctor is emotionally attached to his traveling companions and does want the best outcome for them. For example, even though the Tenth Doctor wipes Donna’s memory of their travels together, he returns on her wedding day and gives her a winning lottery ticket as a wedding gift.39 Even when the Doctor cannot save his companions, he tries to do his best for them. After River Song dies in the Library, saving the people trapped by its computer, the Doctor is able to upload her to the Library’s mainframe so that a version of her can continue to live on.40
On a positive note, most of the companions seem to grow from the traumas they have witnessed on their adventures. Nyssa, for example, chooses to leave the Fifth Doctor and remain on the hospital ship Terminus to help formulate a cure for a disease shortly after witnessing fellow companion Adric’s death.41 Amy and Rory lead a happy life after being catapulted back to 1938 and then adopting a son (as they report in messages they leave for the Doctor and Rory’s father).42 Psychologists refer to these positive outcomes after trauma as posttraumatic growth.43
The Key to Companions
It is clear that selecting anyone for a job role is difficult. Occupational psychologists have researched for many years to see how different traits can fit with different occupations. It is clear that although the Doctor does not subject his companions to psychometric testing, he does appear to know who will make a good traveling companion. The Doctor selects those who are moral, motivated, academically and emotionally intelligent, extraverted, agreeable, and conscientious and above all are able to deal with a stressful situation. Only occasionally does he give someone undeserving the TARDIS key.
“We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better it is for us all.”
—–developmental psychologist Erik Erikson44
Box: The Dark Triad: Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and Narcissism
The Doctor rarely gets his choice of companions wrong, but one exception is Adam Mitchell. As well as suffering from time sickness, Adam has some of the personality characteristics that fall within the dark triad.20 The term refers to three personality types that appear to be typical of people who are manipulative and exploitative:
• Narcissism: Narcissists lack empathy and have a high level of entitlement. People with narcissistic personalities do not make good companions; they are not team players and are out only for themselves.21 Adam displays some narcissistic characteristics, as he seems interested only in how he can profit from his travels. For example, he tries to download advances in technology with no consideration for the impact of his actions.
• Machiavellianism: People with Machiavellian personality traits tend to be manipulative and are willing to exploit others.22 People with this may lack a moral code and have a high level of self-interest and deception. We can see that Adam is self-interested when he does not actively help the residents of Satellite 5.
• Psychopathy: People with psychopathic traits display low levels of empathy and are reckless, showing little remorse for their behavior.23 Again, Adam shows some of these traits. He is reckless, going for major brain surgery so that he can download information about technological advances. When he is caught, he does not appear guilty or apologetic; he just tries to justify his actions.
Bar-Tal, D. (1985–1986). Altruistic motivation to help: Definition, utility, and operationalization. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 13(1–2), 3–14.
Buckels, E. E., Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). Behavior confirmation of everyday sadism. Psychological Science, 20(1), 1–9.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014). Social relationships and health: The toxic effects of perceived social isolation. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 8(2), 58–72.
Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research and practice. London, UK: Routledge.
Chabrol, H., Van Leeuwen, N., Rodgers, R., & Sejourne, N. (2009). Contributions of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personality traits to juvenile delinquency. Personality & Individual Differences, 47(7), 734–739.
Chidester, T. R., Helmreich, R. L., Gregorich, S. E., & Geis, C. E. (1991). Pilot personality and crew coordination: Implications for training and selection. International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 1(1), 25–44.
Cleckley, H. (1941). The mask of sanity. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939–944.
Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4–10.
Goleman, D. (1988, June 14). Erikson, in his own old age, expands his view of life. New York Times.
Fromm, E. (1964). The heart of man. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Hare, R. D. (1991). The Hare psychopathy checklist-revised. North Tonawanda, NY: Multi-Health Systems.
Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. N. (2006). The PCL-R assessment of psychopathy: Development, structural properties, and new directions. In C. Patrick (Ed.), Handbook of psychopathy (pp. 58-88). New York: Guilford.
Harpur, T. J., Hare, R. D., & Hakstian, A. R. (1989). Two-factor conceptualization of psychopathy: Construct validity and assessment implications. Psychological Assessment, 1(1), 6-17.
Jakobwitz, S., & Egan, V. (2006). The “dark triad” and normal personality traits. Personality & Individual Differences, 40(3), 331–339.
Leach, J. (1994). Survival psychology. London, UK: Macmillan.
McCrae, R. R., & Terracciano, A. (2005). Universal features of personality traits from the observer’s perspective: Data from 50 cultures. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 88(3), 547.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–63.
Reich, J. W. (1982). Experimenting in society. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185–211.
Santy, P. A. (1994). Choosing the right stuff: The psychological selection of astronauts and cosmonauts. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Skeem, J. L., Polaschek, D. L. L., Patrick, C. J., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). Psychopathic personality: Bridging the gap between scientific evidence and public policy. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(2), 95–162.
Smith, M. (2007). Polar crusader: A life of Sir James Wordie. Edinburgh, Scotland: Birlinn.
Van der Horst, M., & Coffé, H. (2012). How friendship network characteristics influence subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 107(3), 509–529.
Vygotsky (1931/1997). The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky, Vol. 4: The history of the development of higher mental functions. New York, NY: Plenum.
Wells, D. L. (2009). The effects of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 523–543.
Wing, R. R., & Jeffery, R. W. (1999). Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 67(1), 132.
1. Modern episode 2–11, “Fear Her” (December 15, 2006).
2. Vygotsky (1931/1997), p. 96.
3. Modern episode 9–6, “The Woman Who Lived” (October 24, 2015).
4. Classic serial 16–1, The Ribos Operation, part 1 (September 2, 1978).
5. Classic serials 3–5, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, part 4 (February 5, 1966); 18–7, Logopolis, part 1 (February 28, 1981).
6. Smith (2007).
7. Santy (1994).
8. Chidester et al. (1991).
9. Doctor Who (1996 TV movie).
10. Duckworth & Seligman (2005).
11. Classic serial 8–1, Terror of the Autons, part 1 (January 2, 1971).
12. Classic serial 16–1, The Ribos Operation, part 1 (September 2, 1978).
13. Gardner & Hatch (1989).
14. Salovey & Mayer (1990).
15. Modern episode 9–7, “Zygon Invasion” (October 15, 2015).
16. Modern episode 1–6, “Dalek” (April 30, 2015).
17. Modern episode 4–2, “Fires of Pompeii” (April 12, 2008).
18. Bar-Tal (1985–1986); Reich (1982).
19. McCrae & Terracciano (2005).
20. Book et al. (2016); Jakobwitz & Egan (2006); Paulhus & Williams (2002). For information on the dark tetrad, which also includes sadism, see also Buckels et al. (2013); Chabrol et al. (2009).
21. American Psychiatric Association (2013).
22. Christie & Geis (1970).
23. Cleckley (1941); Hare (1991); Hare & Neumann (2006); Harpur et al. (1989); Skeen et al. (2011).
24. Modern episode 7–7, “The Rings of Akhaten” (April 6, 2013).
25. Modern episode 1–7, “The Long Game” (May 7, 2005).
26. Beginning in the anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor (November 23, 2013).
27. Classic serial 4–9, The Evil of the Daleks, part 7 (July 1, 1967).
28. Classic serial 18–7, Logopolis (February 28–March 21, 1981).
29. Leach (1994).
30. Modern episode 3–12, “The Sound of Drums” (June 23, 2007).
31. Modern episode 1–1, “Rose” (March 26, 2005).
32. Classic serial 12–4, Genesis of the Daleks (March 8–April 12, 1975).
33. Cacioppo & Cacioppo (2014).
34. Van der Horst & Coffé (2012).
35. Modern episode 8–12, “Death in Heaven” (November 8, 2014).
36. Wing & Jeffery (1999).
37. Classic serial 8–2, The Chase (June 26, 1965).
38. Modern episode 3–13, Last of the Time Lords (June 30, 2007).
39. Christmas special, “The End of Time” (January 1, 2010).
40. Modern episode 4–8, “Silence in the Library” (May 31, 2008).
41. Classic serial 20–4, Terminus, part 4 (February 15, 1983).
42. Modern episode 7–5, The Angels Take Manhattan (September 29, 2012); video, P.S. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWU6XL9xI4k (October 12, 2012).
43. Calhoun et al. (2014).
44. Quoted by Goleman (1988).
Give it to me straight, Doc
Doctor Who Psychology: A Madmanwith a Box
Travis Langley (Ed.)
Sterling; 2017; Pb £9.99
You either love or you hate the Doctor. Like the royal family, Brexit and Jose Mourinho, there are very few people who are neutral on the subject.
As for me, growing up with a neighbour who was a fanzine editor and leading light of the appreciation society (fan club? Please!), I had met Jon Pertwee and Bakers Tom and Colin before I was out of my teens. There was no way I wasn’t going to take a peek at this book. Delightfully, Katy Manning, the actress who played his assistant Jo Grant in the very first episode I saw, at the impressionable age of six (‘The Daemons’, fellow Whovians!), lends an introduction to the tome.
Rather disconcertingly, given the programme’s very British credentials, editor Dr Langley and his intrepid contributors are all American. Were they up to the job? Affirmative, as K-9 would say. In fact, this is a cracking read.
They know their Who inside out and the science is impeccable. Much of it concerns subjects close to my heart and they hit the bullseye every time. In exploring the Doctor’s personalities (he keeps regenerating, of course), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is rightly exposed as being of low reliability and thus, inevitably, validity, but it is still presented as useful for shorthand descriptions. Personality factors are revealed building to ‘The Big Five’ and beyond. Post-traumatic stress disorder’s effects on the Doctor when the series returned to our screens in 2005 shine a light on his behaviour. Jungian archetypes are evoked in finding out why those weeping angel ‘statues’ that attack you when you blink are so damn scary.
In fact, dipping into the index gives an idea of the book’s sheer scope. It veers from ‘death’ to ‘cuddle hormone’ and from ‘evolutionary perspective on love’ to ‘reconsolidated memory’. This isn’t the first time Dr Langley has pulled this kind of thing off. He has taken the same approach to Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Trek plus other phenomena, while those who came before him tackled Harry Potter and The Simpsons. Nevertheless, this is an exceptional example of what must now be regarded as a legitimate genre.
So, I’ll race you to write a book on the psychology of Shameless, The League of Gentlemen, Happy Valley and, naturally, Doctor Who Part Two. I could get Steve Pemberton to do the foreword. He’s been in all of them.
- Reviewed by Dr George Sik, a Consultant Psychologist at eras ltd