That Man From Gallifrey

“I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.”

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A common trait amongst people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is that they have an obsession. Mine is a TV show that started fifty years ago as a kid’s show made on the cheap.

Originally devised by Canadian Sydney Newman, produced by the Jewish, and even more unusual at the time, female Verity Lambert and directed by gay Indian director Waris Hussain, Doctor Who was already a mold breaker from day one. I could blog for several years on it, so I’ll focus on the main character: The Doctor.

The Doctor is my favourite fictional character. I first watched the show during the 1993 thirtieth anniversary repeat run on BBC Two as a four-year-old. It made an impression on me straight away. He’s a centuries old time travelling alien from outer space with two hearts, but I found myself drawn to him. I sometimes wonder if my love for the Doctor as a character is a kind of Asperger’s wish fulfilment.

The Doctor in a nutshell:  

Firstly there is the quite clichéd view of the person with AS as an alien from another world, which has some truth, although I think that is not very helpful in promoting AS confidence and self worth.  I can also appreciate what it is like to look human but not feel a part of humanity.

What I feel may be at the crux of the thing is how The Doctor marries intellect with social skills. All of my life thus far I have had an above average intelligence, (my psychiatrist’s words, not mine) but my social skills are quite slim indeed. This was particularly hard when trying to fit in with kids my own age at school. It would make sense for The Doctor to be my hero. He has endless brains, but makes friends with people wherever he goes, whether they are human, alien or robot dog. He doesn’t have to compromise his smarts to be charismatic and sociable with people, even complete strangers! And on top of all this he saves the day and never considers anyone as being too unimportant to help. He changes bodies, instead of dying, which could reassure someone with AS that change isn’t as scary as it sometimes seems.

These are all just ponderings. I am always quick to stress that AS doesn’t define my life; that it’s just a part of it. Millions of people who don’t have AS love Doctor Who and The Doctor, so this is just a theory. What I am sure of is that The Doctor can be a role model to all kinds of people. Even though he is a scientist he always appreciates the hidden power of everyday people and that it is important to go out there and meet them.

“As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves” 

(The Doctor, The Edge of Destruction, 1964)

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“I am he, and he is me”

Having Asperger’s Syndrome(AS) is a bit like having a part of yourself you can’t control, which always turns up at the moment when you’re trying be cool and in control of things. Seeing as some previously lost episodes of Doctor Who have been found in recently in Nigeria I thought a Time Lord flavour would be appropriate.

In the programme’s 10th anniversary story The Three Doctors the then current incarnation of The Doctor, Jon Pertwee (1973) is being faced with a dangerous enemy who seeks to dominate the universe: Omega. Just when he is trying his best to seem in charge, and come up with a game plan to save everyone an alternate version of himself literally pops in to say hello. In the story the current Doctor is, at least to begin with, quite embarrassed about the part of himself he would rather keep quiet and not get in the way. This is how it can feel to have AS a lot of the time. You can be in a social situation that you’ve rehearsed or practiced time and again, but then something unexpected happens. A new person arrives, or a change of location or maybe the other person you’re with decides to talk about personal social things like relationships, or inviting you to a party.

However, you shouldn’t feel guilty or stupid, but to bluff your way through it as best you can and remember what happened so that you can learn what to do next time. The most important thing for me to remember is that Asperger’s is a part of me, just as much as my skin colour or fingerprints. It makes me who I am: different, not defective.