Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | November 26, 2013

The Five Whys (and Doctor Who)

The other night at dinner my husband asked if we had ever heard of the Five Whys. At our blank looks he explained.

Invented by Toyota, the Five Whys is a process for improving quality. It is used to determine the root cause of a defect in a process or a product. Typically, what you do is ask the question “Why?” five times while filling in a fish bone diagram. By the time you have asked and answered why five times you are at the root cause.

He thought it would be good for plot analysis, or when I have a hole or a problem in a story where the origin is not self evident. He thought that if I start with the ending and go backwards I could see all the links and it would give over-all clarity.

In deference to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary and the fact that my family is entertained by putting a colander on our head, an egg whisk up our sleeve and trundling around yelling ‘Exterminate!’ we focused on the Daleks.

First Why: On the original Daleks — Why do they look as though they have egg whisks and toilet plungers* stuck to the front?

Answer: Because that’s what the BBC could afford.


Answer: Because the BBC didn’t have a big budget.


Answer: Because the BBC is funded by public subscription.


Answer: The BBC is funded by public subscription because the
Sykes Committee in 1923 rejected advertising for the BBC because they thought it would lower standards. They wanted the BBC to be unaffected by the opinions of advertisers.


Answer: Because they wanted to raise the standards of the
entertainment provided to the public and thus raise the level of knowledge within the British citizenry.

So, following these five whys we learn why the Daleks appear to attack The Doctor with the Fierce-some Egg Whisk and Toilet Plunger of Doom.

Now I have to ask the question: does this avoid the lowering of

*During our research we found that instead of a toilet plunger there was, in fact, a rather complicated arrangement of metal disks. It only looks like a toilet plunger.


  1. Why?


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