Is The Doctor neurodivergent?

Time And Relative Diversity In Space [238]

Is The Doctor neurodivergent?

Captain’s Log

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An empty road where all the trees and bushes are covered in icy frost.


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Is the Doctor neurodivergent?

Is the Doctor, from Doctor Who, neurodivergent? What do we mean by the term neurodivergent? It’s a term to describe someone who is autistic or has ADHD/Dyslexia/Dyspraxia/Dyscalculia/Dysgraphia/Down syndrome. I would describe myself as neurodivergent, as I’m autistic and I have ADHD. I’m not neurotypical, which is a person who does not have these conditions. They have an everyday brain that lets them get things done, pay bills, and generally not get distracted by shiny things.

Could The Doctor be neurodivergent? Well, they’re an alien. It’s hard to diagnose an alien from my couch, oh and it’s a TV show. There’s the issue of whether the Doctor is neurodivergent or just written that way? In science fiction, there is a trope that the alien is played in a way that could appear to be neurodivergent to appear different to the humans. Spock in Star Trek, for example, could also be described as being neurodivergent. Logical, emotionless and doesn’t quite get humans. If he was super into trains he’d be a classic male autistic stereotype. Let’s assume, for the sake of me writing this, that Doctor Who is a documentary (I mean, it is isn’t it) and we’re seeing a real person, not an actor running around the quarries of Wales pointing a toy at rabbits. What do I see?

I see is someone, who if human, may have neurodivergent traits. I’m seeing social interaction issues, attention issues (cybersquirrel!), hyperactivity, autistic special interests, ability to deep dive on topics and go off on wild tangents, honesty, companionship, and someone who makes interesting fashion choices that “normal” people don’t understand. As the majority of the world is neurotypical it is easy for them to see the Doctor as an alien. What I see, is me. Many times I’ve felt like an outsider or someone from another world simply because my brain isn’t typical. When I see the Doctor interact with humans, I see myself.

Who I see is someone confident in who they are using their talents to do good. If they are neurodivergent, they’ve gone all in. They embrace distractions and in letting their imagination run wild in a good way not a catastrophising way. There’s no moping around about how they don’t fit in because they’re an alien. While I sometimes feel that way, I am human on a planet covered with humans, The Doctor never fits in because they’re usually the alien in the room. They’re just themselves. Unapologetically themselves. No attempt is made to fit in. At one point the Doctor’s companion, Rose, asks why he has a northern accent. His reply “A lot of places have a north.” The Doctor is simply who they are. Each time they regenerate they take a beat to figure themselves out, and then… acceptance. That’s them. They’re The Doctor. Allons-y!

I can certainly see myself in the Doctor in a way that I can’t in Star Trek. As a kid, I saw a lot of me in Data, but that roboticness was me masking in a way to protect myself from the world. When everyone around you is neurotypical, when you don’t see yourself anywhere you do feel alien. Nothing makes sense. Everyone else seems to get how to live but I had no idea how to exist on this planet. So I shut myself away behind a mask. It’s taken decades to undo that.

This is why representation matters, even if it’s seeing a bit of yourself in a fictional time lord flying around in a phone box. Every one of us needs to imagine we can be better than we are by seeing someone like us do good, be confident and have fun. That’s what I see when I see the Doctor. A possible version of myself that is more confident in who they are.

I’m making progress. I’m trying to mask less in my older age. Knowing that I’m autistic with ADHD means I know why certain things happen to me. There’s a certain logic to my life now, or at least an understanding. So I can accept that, I can accept myself because I can explain why I am the way I am. Timelord? No. Neurodivergent, yes. You can call me, The Photographer… Said in that way it sounds cheesier than the moon, and yet there are many times when I do identify myself as “The Photographer”. But while I may dress like a time lord, but I’m not cool enough to have my pronoun be the definitive article. Or am I?

The Doctor may or may not be neurodivergent. They may be a TV trope or they may be written by neurodivergent people hoping to see a little bit more of themselves on TV. Who knows? What is important, to me, is feeling like my issues are useful. I don’t have to save all of time and space. I just have to be me. A silly autistic non-binary person with a little time machine, my camera. Easily distracted but always curious. Being different is great, and bowties are cool.

A frosty field where the trees around the edges are covered in white frost and the powerline pylons are also white and frosty.

Transporter room

A road winds through a wintery landscape. On either side of the road are tall trees.

End program

“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.

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