The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who by Paul Cornell


The Doctor arrives in a strange parallel universe, where his adventures are serialised in the form of hit TV show called Doctor Who. There he meets a fan of the series called Ally.

The concept of fictional characters visiting the ‘real’ world, and meeting the actors who play those characters has been seen in movies like Last Action Hero and The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, and on television in Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, all with varying results. For me The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who is the most successful of these, a beautiful love-letter to Doctor Who fandom and how important the series and the character is to fans’ lives. 

Steven Moffat has recently spoken about the importance of fictional heroes, at the Official 50th Anniversary Celebration. “It’s hard to talk about the importance of an imaginary hero. But heroes are important: Heroes tell us something about ourselves. History tells us who we used to be, documentaries tell us who we are now… but heroes tell us we want to be.” What makes Paul Cornell’s story so successful is in articulating just why Doctor Who inspires such lifelong loyalty; the Doctor is the champion of the downtrodden and oppressed so naturally attracts those who lack in confidence and are targets for bullies, while prizing intelligence over brute force.

On a recent Radio Free Skaro podcast Paul Cornell explains, “[The Doctor] meets a girl who really needs Doctor Who in her life… like I did. Because I needed Doctor Who in my life when I was that age… needs it to prop her up against the awfulness of the world.” I’m sure most fans who grew up with the series can relate to this. My dad died when I was nine, and looking back I realise Doctor Who became a welcome escape from real-life. I voraciously consumed the the Target novelisations and video releases after the series finished. Now that I’m in my early-thirties, it’s still important to me.

Ally is twelve, and specifically old enough not to believe that the Doctor is real. Although there does seem to be plenty of people older than her on Twitter declaring that they are ‘waiting for a mad man with a box’. She is bullied at school for liking Doctor Who (does this still happen? Depressingly it probably does). It’s a recognisable situation for anybody who is truly passionate about anything. Except sport, I suppose.

It’s not clear whose existential nightmare this is. We see the television series written and produced, and they match exactly the adventures has experienced; but they are happening to the Doctor first, before anything’s filmed. Of course, Doctor Who is unique in that we know the Doctor continues to have adventures in our absence, as evidenced by the epic events that occurred during the sixteen year absence from our screens.

There’s a huge amount of affection in the comic for the fans of Doctor Who, and all the forms it takes; cosplay, podcasting and collecting. It’s irresistible to have the Doctor experience all this and see him bemused yet obviously flattered. In his show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, Toby Hadoke talks about the Doctor being like a father-figure in his childhood. The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who takes this idea literally, with the Doctor taking Ally to the Official Celebration at Excel; and ultimately teaching her the best way to deal with her problems. Ally learns from the Doctor in person about that perennial messages of the series; that intelligence is the best weapon.

The artwork is stunning, capturing the Eleventh Doctor perfectly, along with the genuinely cool ‘real-life’ Matt Smith. Filled with lovely details on every page, especially in Ally’s collection, street signs and the autographed picture on the cover is signed, “Happy times and places” – how the Doctor used to sign off his editorials in Doctor Who Weekly. There’s something new to notice on each re-reading.

A lovely epilogue to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations.

3 thoughts on “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who by Paul Cornell

  1. Lovely review. For me, this was one of the most charming things to come out of the anniversary year, but it’s release over Christmas week meant that it didn’t get quite the attention it deserved. After RTD’s ‘Love and Monsters’ take on fandom, and the more straightforward declaration of love in ‘Time Crash’ (‘You were MY Doctor’ to Peter Davison), it’s a delight to get this story from the writer who in the 90s did more than most to articulate a vision of what Doctor Who could be – and what it means to be a fan. Thanks, Paul Cornell.

    Great blog by the way – it’s my first visit here, and I’m having fun exploring!

    • Thank you.

      I totally agree, Paul Cornell is a great writer and ambassador for Doctor. Have you read London Falling? I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

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