Once upon a time, a 400-year-old man decides to steal a Type 40 Travel Machine with his granddaughter and go off on random trips throughout the universe. The machine, called a TARDIS, can travel anywhere in time and space. Of course, the catch is that the old man doesn’t quite know how to navigate the machine. He just throws the switch and off it goes. Along the way, he gets hopelessly entangled in every situation imaginable- and some that might be quite difficult to imagine.

Throughout most of Doctor Who, beginning in 1963, authority figures and government action are strangely absent. The exception, of course, being UNIT (United Nations Task Force), comprised of a group of soldiers who shoot at any creepy alien- often to no effect. The problems put forth in the series are enormous, sometimes affecting entire civilizations. The old man, called the Doctor, goes about trying to solve problems the best he can. He does so with a bit of humor, a bit of irascibility, and a bit of uncanny wisdom. It turns out that when the Doctor has been on permanent vacation traveling to every single place he can, he ends up being quite knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects.

On a few different occasions, for lack of strong leadership, the government of the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey asked him to be president. The first time he accepted only to give it away again. The second time, he chose to openly defy what amounted to an appointment to the office in order to keep traveling in his knackered up time travel machine. As he has grown older, he has also developed a dislike for guns. Though his sonic screwdriver usually sends sparks flying at random places, the Doctor- generally speaking- observes the non-aggression principle.

His dislike of authority figures is largely founded upon the early days of the show when each new story usually involved a base under siege in which the Doctor was always suspected as a spy and always proved right later on. The show’s commentary on authority figures is simply this: they’ll get it wrong the first time, and again the second time. They might come around eventually, or they might actually go crazy. Authority figures in Doctor Who are always going crazy.

The opposite of the Doctor- the man who decides to initiate aggression whenever he can- is a scientist named Davros. Davros is from a race of people known as the Kaleds.

davros

To put in simplistic terms, Davros is essentially an alien version of Hitler. He believes that a certain type of being is the most pure being in the universe- a being driven by hatred of all other beings, a being whose primary purpose is to wipe out anything it considers to be inferior. The being that Davros created is called a Dalek. The Dalek, standing behind him in the photo there, is actually just a little pink one-eyed mutant running what looks like a trash can with a plunger and a whisk sticking out.

The Daleks, due to their popularity as the ultimate villain, set the stage for a clash of beliefs within the show. This battle goes on endlessly. Even when it appears to end, it doesn’t.

Another way to represent this conflict is to understand the struggle between those who initiate aggression and those who do not. Those who initiate aggression are always the first to strike, the first invade, the first to kill. More often than not, they are also the first to lose, the first to be proven inferior, the first to spend all their time bogged down in non-constructive conflicts when they could be doing something more productive, such as baking brownies. Dalek brownies. Yum.

That the Doctor always wins by using his cleverness, instead of the biggest gun, highlights the biggest lesson history has to teach. It is one people often do not learn as they are inundated with propaganda of all kinds from states who try to justify their existence, even when it is clear the existence has no justification at all. Empires rise and fall. Armies conquer, and then lose back what they land they took. Tyrants who delight in being temporary masters of a very tiny fraction of a small blue dot in the universe pass away. The force that states exert, no matter how powerful, always fall before the might of humanity’s potential for individual achievement.

Indeed, the innovation of individuals is all that has propelled civilization forward. Even a cursory study of the Dalek civilization on Skaro reveals a society in which rules matter more than morals and failure is always punished, rather than used as a teaching tool. It is a society of absolutes in which happiness is not permitted. The Doctor’s TARDIS, on the other hand, is a place where people can speak their minds, where they can go take a dip in the swimming pool or read a book in the library- just so long as the library has not fallen into the swimming pool. The TARDIS is, perhaps, what a free, mobile society would look like. There’s tragedy and sadness, but there’s also great happiness and enormous freedom.

Doctor Who exemplifies the principles of anarchy for one simple reason: freedom always triumphs over statism. That is the show’s biggest redeeming virtue, the one that keeps people coming back for more every time- even if they do not understand why. It turns out that even if you happen to be hundreds or thousands of years old, if you promote freedom and individual will, you’ll end developing an incredible following.

People, it turns out, yearn to be free. They yearn for it so badly that they readily embrace anything which offers them a glimpse of the world that could be if only governments would get out of the way. Doctor Who happens to be a show which provides not only a glimpse, but a full, unadulterated view of what true freedom looks like. It just so happens that there are robots and aliens and a billion trips to England in between.