Books, New Who, Wednesday

Thanksgiving with The Good Doctor (Part 1)

As a former history teacher, let me just say, if you think the history of Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Puritans sitting down to a turkey dinner, I need you to go hit Google, right now. The short of it, is that it was a harvest festival established by Abraham Lincoln in 1863… that’s right 242 years AFTER the “First Thanksgiving” which wasn’t even… you know what, go look it up for yourself. It’s not the cute play and culturally insulting paper hats that you made in kindergarten. This is not a history blog, so I will not digress down that road anymore.

What I will say, is that if there is one Doctor Who book you read over this Thanksgiving break, it should be Juno Dawson’s The Good Doctor. Without going into spoiler territory, the book is about how The Doctor visits the planet Lobos with her fam, brokers a peace treaty between the native dog-like species of Lobos and the human colonists who were forced onto the planet and later rescued by the natives (sound familiar?) Jump more than half a century into the future, thanks to Ryan losing his phone, and an questionable loss of historical records, and things have gone sideways.

However, the story does not stop on this simple premise. There are traditional Doctor Who tropes that come into play, such as the separation of the group… team… fam. So, of course you end up hearing the story of what has happened from multiple perspectives. It’s a rich story that pulls from the history of colonization, not just of America, but the colonization of the African continent as well. Those familiar with the western African kingdoms will find great parallels with the shift in historical narrative that happened over the course of centuries. There is also a large implication that much of what transpired can be traced to a micro-aggressive comment, meant of course as a joke by Graham, before they left Lobos the first time.

They are small details that could be lost on the average (especially white) reader of this book. You might have an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, and not know why. Well here is why: this book is a crash course on the long term ramifications of colonization and racism. And that’s just within the first 100 pages, if you are savvy enough to pick up that there are historical parallels.

Now, this book is by no means, the end all when it comes to these types of novels. However, in the frame of Doctor Who, it is a fascinating take. Adelaide Brooke, in the emotionally hefty Waters of Mars questioned if the Doctor every thought about their actions or god-like complex and what happens to those “rescued” without choice. This book does more than just wink at that question or have someone correct the Doctor’s error. This shows the long term ramifications of such a moment, and how the casual racism (or in this case speciesism) can have major effects. There is also an exploration of the loss of knowledge, history, and the revisionist mindset in order to justify the mistreatment of others as well as sexism.

If all of this seems too weighty for you to give the book a try, then consider this: Ryan gets to become an angel, Yaz, the cop, gets thrown in jail, there are simpering and curious monks, shock inducing drones, the TARDIS gets stolen, rebellion, and plenty of references to British television favorites. Oh, also, don’t forget the giant stain glass window of Graham, which is referenced on the cover of the book.

This is just part one of a multi-part look at this book. Please come back for more about The Good Doctor, by Juno Dawson. 


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