Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thoughts On... The Doctor

In this previous post, I promised that I would talk about one of my newly added favorites in the realm of sci-fi television, Doctor Who. Well folks, here it is, my take on Doctor Who. One note before we begin, I've only started watching the new series which started in 2005. For all the fans who have been watching since 1963, I apologize ahead of time for any slights or insults that I may inadvertently deliver. The ones that I explicitly deliver, I won't apologize for.

For those of you who don't know, Doctor who is a show about an alien being called "The Doctor", who looks remarkably human, that travels around space and time (in a craft called the T.A.R.D.I.S) exploring, having adventures, protecting Earth, and basically just getting into all kinds of trouble. At times the Doctor has anywhere from 1 to 3 companions tagging along (usually human) as sidekicks or lightning rods. 

First off, the show itself. I am of the opinion that Doctor Who is one of the most original science fiction shows ever created. The concepts presented are fascinating, the idealism is refreshing without short changing or pandering to it's audience, and the technology presented is exceptionally creative. And it's just plain FUN to watch. There are very few shows out there (most created by Joss Whedon) that blend sci-fi, humor, drama, horror, and action in a single episode, let alone an entire series!

One of the most original concepts of the series relates to The Doctor himself, and directly relates to the seemingly never ending appeal of the show. In 1966, the actor who played the Doctor left the show. In an effort to keep the show going, the writers at the time introduced the Doctor's ability to regenerate into an entirely new appearance with new quirks, but retaining the memories of the previous  Doctors. Currently, there have been a total of 11 Doctors, with the eleventh Doctor being on air currently.

It turns out that I have seen the last 4 Doctors. One of which was in a made for US tv movie, that I had completely forgotten about until recently. The other three have been covered in the new series. Out of the Doctors I have seen, my personal favorite is the ninth Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston. His portrayal was fluid enough that it meshed with ever changing tone of the show. The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, was fantastic but he comes across as a bit of a goof which can short circuit the times when the show is trying to be serious or suspenseful. The latest Doctor is also exceptional, but seems a bit too grave for the role which can throw a sonic screwdriver into the comedic parts of the show.

As for the Doctor's companions, they are as random and varied as the different iterations of the Doctor they travel with. My personal favorite being Donna Noble, the only companion I've seen that wasn't hopelessly in love with the Doctor and actually gave him a hard time on a repeated basis. I do have to make a small mention of another of my favorite companions of the Doctor, Capt. Jack Harkness. He was definitely awesome, but more about him on a different posting. 

I started watching Doctor Who when a friend of mine was having orgasms watching the season 4 finale and basically begged me to watch the series. And it took two episodes to really lock me into the series. But having watched the new series, and reading up on the older series, I do have one gripe about the show. While the show is completely original as compared to other science fiction programming, there isn't a great deal of NEW thinking IN the show. I'd say about 95% of the greatest set pieces of the show have all been rehashes of prior events. The one that I particularly enjoyed, the appearance of another alien of the same race as the Doctor calling himself the Master, turns out to be nothing more than the latest "return" of a villain that has been a part of the series since the beginning. And honestly, how many times can the Daleks come back before they are reduced to a crutch?

Having a character that, for all intents and purposes, is immortal and is NOT locked into a single appearance is a television dream! But there is a catch. Having to come up with enough new material so the show doesn't get stuck in a cycle of re-hashing old material in a new format. Overall, the show is fantastic, and I'm very much looking forward to the next season (or series as the Brits call it!) just to see what weirdness the Doctor gets himself into now.


  1. Yawn. You know, I know absolutely ZERO about Doctor Who. I've never even accidentaly watched an episode, or even half of an episode. I'm clueless to its entire appeal.

    However, recently I was thinking of maybe checking it out simply due to how many of my sci-fi minded friends can't seem to stop gushing over it.

    Yet, after reading your brief description . . . I have to say I've lost my interest now. The concept actually sounds boring to me, particularly this part of your description:

    "travels around space and time . . . exploring, having adventures, protecting Earth, and basically just getting into all kinds of trouble."

    Call me crazy, but this sounds like any number of sci-fi shows I've seen over the years. Voyagers, Quantum Leap, Time Trax, Sliders . . . ugh! Coupled with the fact that, of late, I've grown exceptionally tired of episodic television, and I think you can understand why as of right now any interest I might have had in this show has now returned to previous levels of apathy.

    I don't know, maybe I'll still check it out at some point. But it already has a few strikes going against it now that I know a few more details than I did before.

  2. David, you do have to understand, I made it a point to be as general as possible about the show to not give away certain details.

    I can't speak for the original series, but I would say watch the first two episodes of the new series before you write the series off. There's enough originality in this, that I think you'd enjoy it.

    I understand your frustration with episodic television, especially since I share it, but there are some gems here & there and Doctor Who is one of them.