Monday, July 15, 2013

Damn Good TV - Doctor Who (Part 2)

Welcome back, Tourists for Part 2 of my feature on the phenomenal BBC series Doctor Who.

After the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and companion Martha Jones parted ways, he began traveling with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate).  Tennant and Tate had worked together prior to her joining the show and the two actors had a definite, established chemistry.  Not a romantic one, though - their relationship was more comical, more brother-and sister.  Donna was a real foil for him, constantly challenging and berating him, whom she referred to as "Spaceman."

Toward the end of Tennant's tenure as the Doctor, the show reached an amazing pinnacle when prior Companions Rose and Martha joined Donna and the Doctor in an amazing three-part season finale, "Turn Left", "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End."  This trilogy is incredibly epic and has so much astounding adventure and action and featured the Doctor's greatest enemy, the Daleks, who were thought destroyed in the Time War but who keep coming back and never seem to die.

That's another great thing about Doctor Who.  The history of the whole series is respected and treasured.  These latter seasons have greatly capitalized on that history, often referring to (and slide-showing) the Doctor's previous incarnations and bringing back in full-force long-ago established villains and monsters, most notably the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge other great characters I've encountered watching this show:  the swashbuckling Captain Jack Harkness (John  Barrowman), Rose's comical mother Jackie (Camille Coduri), the mysterious and cunning River Song (Alex Kingston), self-identity obsessed Prime Minister Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) and the power-hungry Master (John Simm).

I humbly admit I sobbed my eyes out for a good ten minutes when Tennant's Doctor regenerated in "The End of Time, Part 2", another two-parter that easily rivals some of the best of sci-fi movies.  It was a beautiful, heart-breaking swan song and I really had to take a day to decompress before I could open myself up to the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith.


The thing with the regenerations is, not only does the Doctor have to adjust to a new face, body and personality, the fans do as well.  But each actor has the freedom to bring something new to the role.

Smith's Doctor has less of Tennant's overall wonder and affection for humans.  He's more about solving puzzles and often comes across as a petulant child with ADHD.  He has a penchant for lying (instantly admitting to doing so), talks at the speed of light and throws his arms about in wild flails and randomly hits himself.  And his jawline?  A bit otherworldly!  Cool tidbit - notice when you watch how, while Tennant talks down through his noseline from above, Smith talks up through his browline.  Subtle but a cool difference.

With our new Doctor comes a new Companion, the infamous (and often said to be the most popular) Amy Pond (Karen Gillan).  But with her comes her own Companion, boyfriend/husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill).  The pair kind of become pseudo-parents to their Doctor over the course of their very long relationship with him ... this is definitely the longest you see a Doctor with a Companion - two and a half seasons.  These are also characters that challenge the Doctor and call him on it when his actions are morally questionable.  And the love story of the Ponds (yes, he unofficially takes her name in marriage) is quite beautiful.

With the 11th Doctor also comes the ever mysterious story of River Song (Alex Kingston), a character we first meet in the 4th season episode "Silence in the Library" and who seems to have a very deep, very long, incredibly involved and complicated history with the Doctor.  With a "Hello Sweetie" or a warning of "Spoilers", this was a character to be reckoned with.  And Kingston is great in the role.

When we bid farewell to the Ponds at the end of the first part of season 7, we were introduced to the most recent Companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), who we come to know as The Impossible Girl."  I think Clara is the most like the Doctor, constantly matching him in wit and fortitude with a playful gleam in her eye.  And she comes to play a pivotal role in the Doctor's existence, which is what we are left with at the end of season 7.

So now I'm all caught up and have the terrible feat of waiting with everyone else for comes next, which is the 50th anniversary special airing November 23, followed by the Christmas special, which will bid farewell to Smith, who announced earlier this year that he is exiting the role.

Another regeneration, a new Doctor, a new actor in the role (as yet uncast) we'll have to come to know and hopefully love.  Quite a legacy to join.  A truly unique, wonderful, fantastic series for all time ... and space!

So PLEASE, come aboard the TARDIS and join the Doctor, his Companions and me in enjoying this amazing, incredible show.  You can stream the last six seasons on Netflix and additional episodes on Amazon Instant Video.


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