The Science of Doctor Who

Last Saturday the BBC aired the first of its four specials on Doctor Who, leading up the Series 7 premiere (hopefully) at the end of the month.

It was called “The Science of Doctor Who”, and it discussed which parts of the show we know and love are definitely science fiction, and which are surprisingly science fact.

As a girl who loves science but is really bad at understanding it at all, this was a really cool special for me. Hit the jump to find out what I thought and what the verdict was on tech as varied as time travel, regeneration, and invisibility!

So here was the breakdown:

Sadly Science Fiction:

  • Time travel into the past (probably, because of paradoxes)
  • The TARDIS

Awesome Science Fact:

  • Invisibility
  • Time travel into the future
  • Travel via wormhole
  • Life existing on other planets (not that we’ve found it, but everyone on the show thought it was basically a given)
  • Regeneration (via stem cells)
  • “The Wedding of River Song”‘s smushed-up time (given that parallel universes exist, a universe where all of time is happening at once is possible)
  • Cyborg augmentation (with all its tremendous positive and negative potential)
  • The sonic screwdriver (but only in the literal definition, as in device that uses sound waves to manipulate matter)
  • K-9 (Actually, we have way better robot tech already, but don’t tell Sarah Jane)
  • Cloning (but not of primates yet, because of both scientific lacks and ethical questions)

The premise of this special was really interesting and great, but I would have liked for there to be more of a scientific presence in the commentary. They had two theoretical physicists and a ‘space scientist’ (an astronomer?  An astrophysicist?  Little of everything?), but just as many comedians and actors and screenwriters, who I have no prejudice against but whose scientific credibility I doubt somewhat. For some of the questions that were demonstrably possible (such as cyborg prosthetics or invisibility) they did cut to experts in the field for said demonstrations.

Coolest possible science: Travel via wormhole! It’s not something we have access to yet, but it could happen and would be really tremendously cool. One of the biggest barriers to visiting other planets is the distance, especially considering our current lack of faster-than-light technology. Being able to travel millions of lightyears through what is basically a hole in space-time would be so awesome.

Most terrifying science: When talking about the cyborgs, they showed some robots that have had their mechanical brains replaced with rat brain cells. How is that different from a cyberman?! Come on, science!

Best quote of the episode: “There are a lot of things that are really cool about scaring children. Traumatize a generation, that’s what it’s all about.”—Steven Moffat, on creating scary extraterrestrials (which says a lot about him, I think.)

Tune in every Saturday night for the rest of the month to catch the remaining three specials: “The Women of Doctor Who”, “The Timey Wimey Stuff of Doctor Who”, and “The Destinations of Doctor Who”. (I’m most excited for the middle two, of course.)