Fantastic exercise for the mind

To my horror I have discovered that more than ten million people switched on their television sets on November 23 to watch a show that was totally beyond any kind of rational belief, featured weird creatures outside space and time, had no relevance whatsoever to life as we know it and occasionally made you think you were going to be sick.

Why do people watch Strictly Come Dancing? I’ve no idea. The only relief for me was that almost as many watched Dr Who, which is as mind-stretching as the show they call Strictly is mind-numbing.

In fact Dr Who is so mind-stretching that your mind has trouble keeping up. I mean, three different versions of the main character skipping backwards and forwards through time? How does that work?

Did John Hurt blow up a galaxy? Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. Is the said galaxy now frozen and hidden in a cup of tea? Clearly one of the key questions of our time. It would explain a lot of things.

The real joy of Dr Who (apart from the consistently lovely companions of recent years) is the fact that anything can happen, and often does.

Some of my friends don’t like this. They prefer things that can be explained, however dull the explanation is. They read serious literature and would not touch fantasy, regarding it as irrelevant. They suspect I am out of touch with reality.

Albert Einstein said: “Reality is merely an illusion, even though a very persistent one.” Dr Who would probably agree with that, and you have to admit, that Einstein guy was quite bright.

You see what I’m getting at? We’re wasting our time concentrating on the so-called reality that is placed before us, and which we try to explain by dissecting and examining it in mainline fiction, or enliven by turning it into massively hyped TV trivia like Strictly Come Dancing or I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Life is much more than that, or we are beyond help.

Joseph Heller, the author of such magical books as Catch-22, once wrote, in the ironically titled Something Happened, that “Someone had distorted reality for the sake of neatness”. I suspect (though I have not asked them) that the writers of Dr Who feel the same way. They want to get behind the distortion and find out what’s really going on.

I have to say that on this I am one with J B S Haldane, another quite bright guy, who suggested: “Reality is not only more fantastic than we think, but also much more fantastic than we imagine.”

Shows like Dr Who may not have the answers, but at least they make us think about the questions, and marvel at them.