Doctor Who

First things first: Happy birthday, Cyd! Yippee!

I have to admit, I kind of love TV shows that secretly manage to teach me things I didn’t know. It”s just like, when I was a kid, I could defend reading Nancy Drew because that’s how I learned that Venice is famous for glass-blowing (it”s true!). And maybe the best show at sneaking in amazing historical tidbits, at least lately, is Doctor Who.

(Apologies in advance to true Doctor Who fans if I get anything wrong here, as rather a Johnny-come-lately fan.)

YES, it’s a show about a time-traveling alien (the Doctor, who is a Time Lord, but luckily still looks like a hot human guy) who can go from now to 5 billion years in the future and then to the 1800’s to hang out with Charles Dickens, but manages to find crazy aliens to fight wherever he goes. Yes, the special effects can be hilariously cheesy (although I think they’re getting much better this season). And yes, it started as a series way back in 1963 (!!!!), making it much much older than me, and I’ve never seen any of the originals (which makes me a bad, bad fan), but it was revived as a TV series in England in 2005, and they’re currently showing season 2 over here on Sci-Fi, and it is AWESOME.

If you saw a picture of the actor who played Doctor Who in the first season, or the new second-season guy (the Doctor can regenerate each time he dies, which is how they’ve managed to keep him hot for forty-three years), you might be wondering what I mean, exactly, by “hot.” But trust me, if you saw these guys in action, I think maybe you’d fall a little bit in love with them, too. The Doctor is funny and smart and enthusiastic, and he can defeat aliens in ANY century on ANY planet.

Plus this show is sneakily sneaking in all kinds of things I did not know. For instance: Have you ever heard of the Koh-i-noor Diamond? I hadn’t. [Warning: The following may contain educational and historical material. If you’d rather be reading about television, check back in in a few paragraphs; I’m sure I can’t keep this up for long.]


“Koh-i-noor” means “Mountain of Light” in Hindu, and for a long time it was the largest known diamond in the WORLD. It was discovered in India many centuries ago and passed along to emperors, rajahs, and shahs until 1851, when it was presented to Queen Victoria, who was by then empress of India (and, like, the rest of the known world).

This is how it turned up in Doctor Who, when the Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler, ran into Queen Victoria and helped save her from alien werewolves using the diamond and a steam-punk moon telescope (I told you this show was awesome).

Apparently when it got to England it was huge, but not very sparkly. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t cut in the most effective way to show off its brilliance. And so Prince Albert decided to have it cut down, made from a rose cut into a brilliant cut (the article I read said it was a “stellar brilliant cut,” which at first I thought meant it was totally excellent! way stellar! radical! but apparently that’s just diamond lingo for a kind of brilliant cut). This took off FORTY-TWO PERCENT of the diamond’s weight! Can you imagine? That’s like chopping off half the diamond! This did make it much sparklier, but it sounds like Prince Albert still wasn’t pleased with it. Nonetheless, it’s now part of the Crown Jewels of England, which are kept in the Tower of London, and which I have seen, so perhaps I should have known all of this, but I didn’t.

It was said that, “If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i-noor.” It was also rumored to bring misfortune to whoever owned it; either that or, conversely, great good fortune. Given that Queen Victoria lived another fifty years after acquiring it and was practically empress of the universe, I’d probably guess the latter (especially given its usefulness in fighting off alien werewolves).

Isn’t that cool? Aren’t sparkly things interesting?

In the next episode, the Doctor and Rose brought Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Mickey along, and they all ended up on a spaceship 3,000 years in the future, which turned out to have time windows all over it leading to 18th-century France, where the Doctor met Madame de Pompadour. Now, her I’d heard of, but I didn’t know much about her. She was the mistress of King Louis XV of France, and apparently she was kind of brilliant and fascinating. She loved reading and decorating, and she was the patron of lots of artists and architects, and she influenced the politics of the king, and he stayed friends with her (and made her a duchess!) even after moving on to a new mistress. Isn’t that crazy? What an interesting life she must have had. Especially when the Doctor showed up to save her from clockwork aliens who were trying to steal her brain to run their spaceship. (I know! I TOLD you this show was awesome!) That must have been a pretty exciting highlight, I would think.

All right, enough history for one day. History disguised as television isn’t so bad, right?

Quote of the Day:
Upon encountering a horse on the spaceship, and discovering that the Doctor has named the horse Arthur:
Rose: “No, you are not keeping the horse!”
Doctor Who: “I let you keep Mickey!”