Today is Doctor Who Day. It is 57 years to the day since the Doctor first appeared on our screens in an episode called 'An Unearthly Child'.
I'm a Doctor Who nut. I’ve loved it forever and during lockdown I have rewatched 122 of the 155 episodes made since the series was relaunched in 2005. When I have completed the final 33 episodes I will be getting hold of Brit Box and starting from the very first episode 57 years ago today..
Since I have known what mediation is I’ve always thought the Doctor would make a good mediator. The fact she always looks for the good in people (and aliens) added to the fact that she inherently hates violence (admittedly based on the back of being a mass murderer of sorts) leans towards the Doctor looking to facilitate the resolution of conflict by peaceful means wherever possible.
There is another huge correlation between Doctor Who and mediation – and it is the TARDIS. For those readers who for some unknown reason do not know what the TARDIS is (does such a person exist?), it is the Doctor’s time machine. TARDIS is an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.
It is the greatest piece of machinery of all time. Unlike the DeLorean used in my favourite film, Back to the Future, the TARDIS has a soul. It lives, it isn’t just a time machine.
There are two specific qualities possessed by the TARDIS which are relevant to mediation.
The first is obvious. If you were a mediator with a time machine you could take the parties back in time to the exact point where the dispute arose. You could show them what the initial problem was, help them to witness what could have happened if they hadn't have done whatever they did, and hopefully get them to accept that whilst they can't change the past (no no, you shouldn't mess with the past) they can at least understand what went wrong and try to fix it.
Imagine being able to take a party back to the exact point where they DID say what they maintain they didn’t say. Or you could take the parties back to the exact point five years ago that a member of staff (who has since left the business) accidentally signed off on the wrong set of drawings which led to a dispute over design five years later.
Likewise, you could take them to the future and show them what would happen if they don’t settle at mediation. They could see a world where their business does not exist anymore or where they are struggling to trade because of the negative publicity that litigation did bring. Or maybe they can see that by accepting the offer on the table the promise of a new contract did materialise, and they have now grown to a size which they never thought possible. The scenarios are limitless.
The mediator tooled up with the TARDIS would be fully booked for the rest of time.
The other way the TARDIS relates to mediation is the whole “Wow, it’s far bigger on the inside…” revelation as soon as anyone new steps inside. Again, for those who don’t know this, the TARDIS is far bigger on the inside. Far far bigger (or is it smaller on the outside, as Clara observed?). On the outside it is an old-fashioned police telephone box. But on the inside - it defies belief. It’s main cabin, which we see most of the time when the Doctor and her companions are on board, is a huge space, probably 500 times bigger than you would expect from the outside. But this is just one part of the TARDIS, it has multiple levels and is quite frankly huge.
In mediation terms this is reflected in any dispute. On the outside, the dispute is all about, say, Party A saying that Party B owes it £50,000 because something went wrong with the contract. That’s what it looks like on the outside. But once the mediator starts to look at it more closely, starts to explore the issues with the parties, starts to develop solutions and helps the parties to see a future without the dispute, it is about much more than that original £50,000 claim.
In this scenario the TARDIS is like your brain. It is the size of a cabbage to look at but it contains worlds of data and memories and scenarios which need to be tapped in to in order to get to a resolution. That £50,000 claim has multiple levels of complexity that can’t be seen by the human eye. It doesn’t reflect the fact that you feel betrayed by your business partner, or that you may lose your house, your car and even your family if you don’t get that money. It doesn’t reflect the fact that you maybe did do something wrong, and you are hiding things from yourself, from colleagues and partners - as well as from the other party.
The Doctor and her TARDIS would be a formidable force in the world of mediation. A force for good, helping maintain business relationships, keeping trade flowing, securing jobs that would otherwise be at risk, and keeping businesses working together – so they can grow and flourish and enter in to new deals and become stronger together.