Doctor Who may be a British series, but its audience is increasingly an international one. With its American fanbase as big as it’s ever been, it’s time the Doctor investigated some of the many mysteries the Western Hemisphere has to offer. While the excellent two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon” is distinctly American in its setting, “The Angels Take Manhattan” is decidedly less successful and the less said about “Daleks in Mahattan”/“The Evolution of the Daleks”, the better. Here are seven American settings or mysteries just waiting to get the Doctor Who treatment.
The Mound Builders: For thousands of years, throughout the Midwest and South East United States several highly developed civilizations flourished, known collectively as the Mound Builders. They built substantial, complex cities on large earthenware mounds yet only a couple hundred years after Spanish explorers made contact with people living in these cities, they were all but lost, the mounds depopulated and most Native Americans unfamiliar with these earlier civilizations. It’s likely these communities were victims of the spread of smallpox and other infectious diseases (no TARDIS background radiation to take care of such things here), but there’s plenty of room here for an adventure, and if these cultures don’t intrigue, why not use one as the jumping off point for a story about one of the many hoaxes associated with purported relics from these civilizations?
The Nazca Lines: A series of glyphs carved into the rocks of Peru’s Nazca Desert, the Nazca Lines are comprised of hundreds of symbols and designs only fully visible from the air (and the top of particularly high hills). They are believed to have been created by the Nazca (for whom the desert is named), who made them as part of religious ceremonies to appease the Gods and bring rain and plentiful harvests. There are birds, spiders, monkeys, lizards, even sharks, as well as complex geometric shapes. While Doctor Who’s occasional affinity for taking credit for great human achievements away from humanity and giving it to the Doctor (or aliens) is a particular pet peeve, perhaps this could be an opportunity for a story in the vein of “The Shakespeare Code”- aliens taking advantage of the Nazca custom to aid their own nefarious schemes. At the very least, the Nazca Lines seem like pure River-bait. Maybe one of those geometric shapes is Gallifreyan for Hello Sweetie!Qorikancha (Kor-ee-khan-cha, trans. “gold enclosure”), originally called Inti Wasi (or “sun house”), sat the heart of the Incan empire. Devoted to the Sun God, the temple is a remarkable structure even now. Before the Spanish conquistadors discovered the city though (we all know what happened after that), the entire interior of the temple was paneled in gold, with detailed pictographic histories covering the walls. The front courtyard was filled with life-sized statues of pure gold of everything from animals to people to the tools the people were depicted using; it must have been an amazing sight to see. There’s plenty of room for a story set during the Incas’ lengthy struggle against the Spanish (or during an earlier period of their history) and, as a side note, a reproduction of one segment of wall hangs inside Qorikancha today and depicted right at the center is a man and a woman. The Doctor and his Companion, perhaps?
Roanoke Colony: Yes, it’s been done. It’s been done by pretty much every current major genre series, most memorably Supernatural and most recently Sleepy Hollow. But the disappearance of the occupants of the Roanoke Colony, which was found deserted for seemingly no reason in 1590 with only the clue the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost, is too juicy a mystery to ignore. Though there are several theories, most highly logical, we’ll likely never know for sure what happened and this seems like exactly the kind of riddle the Doctor couldn’t resist investigating.
1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes: Starting on December 16th, 1811, a series of four 7.0-8.0 earthquakes in Arkansas and Missouri rocked the eastern United States, causing mass devastation and temporarily reversing the flow of the Mississippi River. It’s estimated that these earthquakes were felt as far as one million square miles from their epicenters and they remain the most powerful earthquakes in the eastern United States in recorded history. It’s one thing to drain the Thames (as in “The Runaway Bride”). It’s another to make it turn around and go back the other way. That’s an immense amount of power- sounds like exactly the kind of surge of geothermal energy the Rani or another of the Doctor’s enemies would love to take advantage of.
Franklin’s Lost Expedition: In 1845, British explorer Sir John Franklin led an expedition to complete the Northwest Passage. Though an experienced sailor and captain, Franklin, his ship, and most of his crew were lost, and presumably died. There are hints to much of what happened on that ill-fated journey, thanks to the discovery in 1850 of three crewmen’s graves, but enough remains shrouded in mystery that there’s plenty of fodder for a Whovian quasi-historical. Perhaps this story could incorporate genre-favorite the Northern Lights (or an alien/alien device masquerading as them)?
The Winchester Mystery House: This is another obvious one, but what wouldn’t the Doctor love about the Winchester Mystery House? Doors to nowhere, boarded over stairs, and plenty of ghost stories. Commissioned and overseen by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, who made his fortune on the eponymous rifle, the house was in a constant state of construction from 1884 until Sarah’s death in 1922. Haunted (figuratively and, in her mind, literally) by the victims of her husband’s invention, she decided to build the house as a puzzle to keep the ghosts distracted and confused, so they couldn’t wreak their vengeance upon her. But what if she had a different motivation for her never-ending construction, perhaps after a visit from a certain Doctor?
What American mystery or setting would you like to see Doctor Who explore? Post your thoughts below!