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www.wired,comThere are nerds. And there are science fiction nerds. And then there are American fans of Doctor Who — those who dare to combine the exquisite dweebery of Anglophilia with the delicious dorkdom of old-skool SF. I’m of that last tribe, a real Who-head. I can tell you what Tardis stands for (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), and, more important, I can say “Tardis” over and over again — not just with a straight face but with reverence. Bargain-basement BBC production values? Alien monsters made from trash cans and toilet plungers? Anachronous kibitzing with Shakespeare and Dickens? That’s my flavor, mate. It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to find on this side of the pond (especially now that Syfy has foolishly ceded new Who episodes and specials to BBC America). I suppose US culture simply isn’t advanced enough to appreciate the longest-running, most successful (and, yes, also the cheesiest and chintziest) science fiction series in television history. And by advanced, I mean defeated. Luckily, that may be changing.

Before you brand me a Benedork Arnold, let me explain: There’s a fix I just don’t get from mainstream American science fiction, perhaps because of its grinding obsession with the imperialistic (and its depressive sibling, the dystopic), not to mention its wearisome push for ever-shinier effects. Like its not-so-distant cousin American religion, American sci-fi is fixated on final battles, ultimate judgment (particularly on questions of control and leadership), and an up-or-down vote on the whole good/evil issue. Even the most morally restless imaginings — the Losts and Battlestars — eventually prolapse into Bruckheimer-esque excerpts from the Book of Revelation. As an antidote, I turn to the Doctor — a fussy 900-year-old neurotic who’s part Ancient Mariner, part Oxford don, with a whimsical fashion sense, a close acquaintance with defeat and futility, and a tendency to rattle on. He subscribes to no Force-like creed. No enlightened military Federation stands behind him, photon torpedoes at the ready — indeed, his race, the Time Lords, is more or less extinct. His signature gizmo isn’t a blaster or a phaser but a souped-up screwdriver. His Millennium Falcon? The Tardis, which looks to the unschooled like an old telephone booth. It’s actually a police call box, a relic from the ’50s, and the ship’s most spectacular feature isn’t artillery; it’s feng shui: It’s bigger on the inside.The Doctor is courageous and heroic, sure, but in the Mèdecins Sans Frontiéres vein. Oh so Euro!

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What do you think, is America ready? Have you seen Doctor Who? Are you a fan?