Doctor Who is a cult. Not in a Rocky Horror Picture Show way. Although yes, it is cult in a Rocky Horror Picture Show way too. But in a more traditional sense of the word. The general definition of a cult is a group of people “bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal(, etc)”. It can, and often does, involve rituals (such as compulsively offering or eating jelly babies) and symbols (such as a blue box). We typically imagine cults as a closed group with a strange mythos, and people are lured into the group by a charismatic leader. Once a person is inside the guarded group different techniques are used to keep them there, including forms of mind control. So how did this happen, right under our noses? How did the Doctor manage to get so many helpless and beautiful young women to drink his wibbly-wobbly kool aid?
Let’s throw a link to Wikipedia in here that will help us illustrate just how he accomplished this dastardly feat. Some of the mind control tactics used to ease victims into this exciting lifestyle of cult-dom are:
- People are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations. As exciting and glamorous life aboard the Tardis may seem, travelling through time and dodging rusty trash cans bent on your complete destruction can be stressful. K-9 and Captain Jack aside, the constant fight-or-flight roller coaster this places on a person’s body can have profound effects. Which, in turn, can make shiny haired companions particularly susceptible to a cult leader’s charms.
- Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized. It’s simple, really. DON’T BLINK.
- They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group. Not only does the Doctor care about the human race, he cares doubly for the companions. The few chosen ones are lavished with attention and treated to exotic vacations. There are over 6 billion people in the world. But his ever faithful sidekick, he really cares about. Really. Those other people didn’t mean a thing, he swears.
- They get a new identity based on the group. There are perks to being in the quadrillion-miles-through-a-wormhole club. It’s odd that when a new companion runs into an old companion, the old companion always gives the new companion a look that says (in a nutshell), “you poor sap”.
- They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled. It can be lonely floating (or travelling faster than the speed of light) through the universe. It creates a large, dark matter filled gap between one and one’s loved ones. It’s difficult for one to receive a Christmas newsletter filled with exciting news of little cousin Billie’s riveting performance in the school play when one is dashing from one millennium to the next. For some strange, twisted reason, one of the first places the “new” Doctor brings his companion Rose is to view the end of Earth. Now there may have been some innocent reason to do so, and it may not be the case of a charismatic leader making his target feel isolated and alone. But if he had a heart or two, it seems he would have realized this might be just a tiny bit disconcerting for her.
Even if Doctor Who is a cult, it may not be all that bad. The view is great, and the kool-aid tastes awesome.