Who is the Doctor?

While we wait for the next season or so for Mr Moffatt to answer the question ‘Doctor Who’ [see my review for the Wedding of River Song here if this mean nothing to you) I thought I would upon the same question from a literary perspective. I’m not sure how useful this is, but that is for you to judge!

After the break I consider where the roots of Doctor Who are in literature. Stay tuned…


In my analysis the Doctor draws on:

  • The traditional Wandering Hero
  • More specifically Sherlock Holmes
  • And possibly Mary Poppins!
I also share a random thought on the roots of the TARDIS!

Wandering Hero

The wandering hero is a classic literary figure – apart though from the odd arc (e.g. the Key to Time) there is no quest tale operating here so the Doctor is not an Odysseus for example. Nor is he the Wandering Jew – we are aware of no curse though he is a criminal and an exile.

Sherlock Holmes

Not just because Moffatt writes Sherlock, but because we have:

  • Brilliant mind
  • Scientific deduction
  • Faithful companion (Watson)
  • An enemy (Moriarty = The Master) with at least equal intellect.
There is also the ability in some incarnations to get deeply frustrated with lesser minds. Holmes is (mostly) not motivated by sexual needs (no girlfriend but a lot of respect for Irene Adler).
He has though a drug habit which does not reproduce itself in the Doctor’s psyche. Holmes is also very passive – he doesn’t go seeking adventure in his travels like a Poirot or a Miss Marples.

Mary Poppins

Bizarrely I can detect echoes of Mary Poppins in Doctor Who – they are both characters that turn up out of the blue with their own mode of transport (umbrella / TARDIS), have their own approach to situations and quite clearly know things that normal people don’t. They also go away once the situation is resolved. OK, no companion, but I still detect a resonance.


While I worry about the Doctor, I wonder is the TARDIS the wardrobe from CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It takes you so strange lands (Narnia) and is much bigger than you expect. I just wondered if there was a connection.

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