Sunday, July 14, 2013

Damn Good TV - Doctor Who (Part One)

It's nearly time for Comic-con!  I'm going for only one day but fortunately it's the day that features a panel for my all-time favorite show, Supernatural.  Last year, that panel came right before one for the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

I had never seen the program - as a child the music and swirling vortex in the opening credits scared me - so I had no idea what the hundreds of people all around me in line were discussing and raving about.  Had no context at all.  My friend and fellow CC compatriot is a fan and has told me many times I needed to see the show, so I decided to use my summer binge-watch time to settle in, see what all the fuss is about and be in the know for this year's panel.

I am so very very glad I did, because Doctor Who is EXTRAORDINARY television.  Weird, wacky, whimsical, sometimes sad, sometimes scary, often hopeful, inspirational, adventurous, many times epic.  Better than a lot of sci-fi feature films in scope and story.  An ongoing, engaging saga with terrific characters, mind-twisting plots and a whole lot of fun.

So, allons y!  First, enjoy the epic theme:

Doctor Who has been on and off the air since 1963.  The series tells the story of the Doctor, the 900+-year-old sole survivor of a race of beings called Time Lords, time travelers from the planet Gallifrey, which was destroyed in the great Time War of long ago.

The Doctor travels in a stolen time machine/space ship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which is disguised at a 1960s British police call box and is notoriously "bigger on the inside."  It can literally go anywhere in space and time.  The Doctor is often referred to as the TARDIS' "thief," as he initially stole it.

There have been 11 actors in all to play the Doctor:  William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvestor McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.  This isn't a Bewitched situation where a cast member is replaced in a role but the show goes on as if nothing has happened.  The Doctor, when he is about to die, has the ability to regenerate, or transform himself into a completely new body while retaining memories of his previous incarnations.  With regeneration comes new personality traits, mannerisms, quirks, etc.  He is at the same time the same man and a whole new man - a paradox (paradoxes are played with throughout the series).

The Doctor travels quite often with a "Companion," in most cases (but not always) a young woman.  He has traveled with multiple people as well, but usually it's just a duo.  As far as I know, it's never a physical relationship.  More like a hero-sidekick one sometimes with platonic, romantic overtones.  Fate often brings the Doctor to his Companion and the show is arguably more about her journey while traveling with the him than his actual story.  But each Companion's time comes to an end and it's on the next, often coinciding with a regeneration.

 (The Companions since 2005 (L-R):  Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Karen Gillan, Jenna-Louise Coleman)

The Doctor's tool of the trade is a sonic screwdriver, which "doesn't kill, doesn't wound, doesn't maim but is very good at opening doors" and accomplishing a wide array of tasks

My relationship with the Doctor begins with the series that returned in 2005 with the 9th Doctor, Eccleston.

(L-R: David Tennant, Matt Smith, Christopher Eccleston)

Eccleston only played the Doctor for one season.  He is, in my opinion, the most main-stream in terms of looks, with a simple, single-colored tunic and black leather jacket (explore the clothing of the other Doctors and you'll see that many dressed more .... colorfully, some rather strangely).  He played the Doctor with an often manic giddyness, flashing a great big smile in his excitement over the situations he encountered.  And the worse the circumstances, the happier he was (a common trait in his successors).

The 9th Doctor's Companion was Rose (Billie Piper), a 19-year-old Londoner whose life he saved.  After their first adventure, Rose instantly signed up to travel with the Doctor, eager to explore the universe with the odd, mysterious alien.

I wondered how I would accept my first regeneration from 9th to 10th Doctor - I got used to Eccleston in the role.  But after what has since become my favorite episode - "The Christmas Invasion" - which introduces David Tennant in the role, I knew I had found my Doctor.

With a face that can rival Jim Carrey in transformation, Tennant is positively brilliant as the Doctor.  It was fun to learn that he was a fan of the show since he was a boy and who had wanted more than anything to play the Doctor.  Love stories like this!  Tennant gives his Doctor a childlike wonder, a boisterous enthusiasm, an unending faithfulness in humanity, a great sense of mercy and a fierce temper.  He can go from the sweetest smile to the scariest scowl in a heartbeat.  And his hair is awesome!

I truly became a devoted Whovian (the term for fans of the show) during Tennant's tenure.  I loved the sweetness, the loyalty and the obvious but never admitted love that came with his relationship with Rose.  Her journey came to an end after Tennant's first season and we ventured on with his new companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), a medical student 10th meets when her hospital is hijacked to the moon.

These two had a interesting dynamic, being that Martha was in love with the Doctor who would never requite her feelings.  But they made a good team.

That's all for now.  Come back later for Part Two of my wondrous journey with Doctor Who!

But let me leave with with a little sampling of my favorite Doctor, David Tennant!

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