A dalek minuet
If GIFs are only but a noisy and tough appropriation of what they parasite, honour or refer to, in their best version they are also concentrated nectar. Here’s an example: roughly two seconds of robotic choreography are enough to evoke the unmistakable mixture of psychedelic extravagance, ironic self-consciousness and compositional elegance of its source, but they also talk about its condition of ritualistic society with an iconicity as categorical as almost intact. As opposed to what happens with other productions of the same genre, the motifs of which have been overexposed ad infinitum, whether or not an accomplice smile appears on the face of the beholder will distinguish the fans of Doctor Who from those ignorant of the series, indifferent to what goes on.
It’s not that the most famous British space opera lacks idiosyncratic elements, Doctor Who’s long multi-coloured scarf being the best known and protagonist of designs such as the one illustrating this article. The Tardis, the blue phone box hiding his time travelling vessel is so prominent, that in 2002 the BBC won a legal battle against the Metropolitan Police for the control of its image rights. Even the name of the daleks, the alien mutant race with no other emotions than hatred and a will to conquer that appear on the series, has become part of the English language: the word is used today to describe characters with automat behaviour and fascist ideas. Their prototypical shout, “EXTERMINATE!” is a caricature of authoritarian simplicity. Other identity signs such as the celery pin, the jelly babies or the fez hat might be more for the connoisseurs, though, a constant trace in a show that was a pioneer in self-references, to name but one of its innovations.
It could be even argued that few TV productions, if any, have had more varied and curious echoes in popular culture, from the almost inevitable tributes in other cult series such as Futurama or Community, to poetry volumes (yes, poetry!) inspired by it, to stuff as delicious as this. In fact, Doctor Who has transcended the conventional margins of this kind of phenomena and its leaks have reached the venerable Royal Mail, which issued a series of stamps with the faces of the subsequent incarnations o the Doctor, and even outer space thanks to the asteroid belt named after actress Lalla Ward. And, of course, we shouldn’t forget the vast hermeneutics devoted to a story that has already turned fifty, the conventions of people dressed as its characters, the fans looking for copies of the episodes burnt down in a fire at the BBC as though they were the Holy Grail or the trade of all sorts of merchandising.
The different and admirable thing about it is that all this takes place with natural and spontaneous discretion. The contention of its followers, able not to take themselves too seriously and of not being a pain with their proselytism, works in a symbiosis with the spirit of the work they exalt, characterised by a permanent playful spirit and a very phlegmatic and British allergy to noise and is in harmony with its clean pop eccentricity. The fanfare surrounding other analogue audiovisual fictions that finally ends up ruining the enjoyment is here but a mere and pleasant murmur, as the soft steps of daleks walking around on the floor.