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Monday, July 07, 2014

Doctor Who: Fantastic Timey-Wimey Adventure

I don't have many interests. But what I do get interested in, I often get deeply into. My music tastes, for example, usually consist of Hello! Project, Jim Steinman songs, and soundtracks. I'm a Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver reader, although I occasionally read other authors. But it takes me a while to get into things. It's like my subconsconcious knows that, if it get interested in something, I'm really going to get into it, so it is picky. Because of this, I often enjoy shows and movies long after they are popular or have been around several years. I may have heard of them or been aware of them, but never really ventured into their territory.

That was the case with Doctor Who.

I first became aware of the show in my childhood, via the Intergalactic Trading Company catalogs. I used to scrounge through them, looking at the Star Trek merchandise I couldn't afford. They offered goods from all different SF shows in the early and mid 80s and I saw stuff from Doctor Who. It never caught my interest but I became aware of the name.

Fast forward to the present day. I'm a SF fan, my interests have broadened somewhat. I know enough about the Doctor to know he is a time traveling alien in a blue police call box. What? I'll pass, thank you. Give me the Enterprise any day. But after Star Trek had ended and I finished the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (I love that series) I wanted to try something different. I had heard the hoopla about Doctor Who returning to TV after a long hiatus. I knew that Stephen Moffat, the show runner and writer for another series I love, Sherlock, had worked on it. Plus, Christopher Eccelston, who I knew from the Nicolas Cage movie Gone In 60 Seconds and as Destro from G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, starred in the first series. I like him and decided to give the show a shot.

I'm so happy I did.

It took a while to get into it. Here was the Doctor and Rose traveling billions of years in the future, witnessing the end of the Earth as the sun expanded. All that time and these spaceships have pipes billowing out steam? Where were the transporters and faster-than-light travel and stuff? Why did some aliens look like walking trees? Those first few episodes were rough, and I had to get used to the rules of this TV show, how its universe operated. And after I did, and accepted that this was how things operated on this show, I really began to enjoy it. If you want to watch the show, stick with the first series. It gets better.

I knew Eccelston left after only one series (each season is called a series and only lasts around 13-14 episodes) and I was sad to see him go. But David Tennant blew me away. He is by and large my favorite Doctor. The Doctor is a Time Lord who can regenerate after the end of his current life cycle. This is an interesting aspect that was written into the show after the First Doctor, William Hartnell, left the show but the producers wanted to keep it running. Instead of simply recasting the main character (as in Bewitched) they wrote in a narrative explanation. This regeneration process allows a completely new actor to be in the role yet they are all the same character. The writers were brilliant again in that each regeneration caused a personality change as well. The Doctor is still the Doctor, but each version allows a different side of him to come out. This give the writers freedom to explore the character and let the actors give their own spin on it. Each Doctor, by a combination of the writing and acting, is unique, and each fan has their own favorite.

The new series, which began in 2005, is split (by fans) into the Russell T. Davies era and the Stephen Moffat era. Davies was responsible for bringing the show back on the air. His tenure was focused more on Earth and Earth-based stories and a positive outlook on humanity. While there were some so-so episodes, and not many overarching plots, there were many standout episodes (Blink and Midnight being two of my favorites). After series 3, Davies left as executive producer and Moffat took over. I’d say his tenure is characterized by more SF elements and storytelling and much more interrelated overarching plots and recurring characters. But I would have to criticize that there weren’t that many standout singular episodes that I can recall. Moffat and Davies are wonderful writers, both had vivid imaginations. I like Moffat a lot, and many of his episodes will scare you.

This show is hard to describe to non-fans, but the longer you watch it, the more awesome this show becomes. Whovians (the term for Doctor Who fans) are a dedicated lot and I’m proud to count myself among them. If you have ever thought of giving this show a try, start with series one and stick with it. You’ll get hooked.


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