A Negligent Nerd’s Insight:
An Uninformed American’s Guide to the Genius of DOCTOR WHO
Confession 1: if it’s scifi/fantasy I’ll watch it, and probably find something to like about it. That isn’t to say I can’t admit its flaws, but for my personal tastes it’s the kind of television entertainment I gravitate toward; and I consume it with a superhuman ferocity.
Confession 2: I have NEVER been able to get into BBC television. The production value is so radically different from American television that it always came off as cheesy to me.
Confession 3 which is in direct correlation to Confession #2: Until 3 months ago I had not experienced the DOCTOR WHO series. I know; as a self proclaimed nerd this is a travesty against my kind. But I’ve never had easy access to BBC programming, and had little interest in it anyway so it just never happened.
DOCTOR WHO is the longest running scifi television series in history. It’s true. It has run 31 seasons and 776 episodes with 11 different actors in the titular role of the Doctor. Originally airing in 1963, the show ran until 1989. After a 16 year hiatus the show relaunched in 2005 with actor Chris Eccleston (GI-JOE: RISE OF COBRA) taking on the mantle of The Doctor, reigniting the passion of old fans all over again and hearlding a new generation of DOCTOR WHO fanatics.
This is where my story begins. around 3 months ago, after much verbal abuse, and shocked cries of outrage I decided to give it a go. That is when I heard three little words that changed my TV watching life forever.
“I’m the Doctor!”
When I discovered the genius of the show I felt like I had been depriving myself of oxygen my whole life and never knew it. I admit there was a learning curve, that lasted about the length of one episode. If you’re like me and have an involuntary gag reflex when it comes to British production value this show is no different from others. But DOCTOR WHO is something beyond special. It embraces its own cheesiness with a charm that makes you want to play along. By the opening credits of the second episode I experienced the joy of a long time fan as I watched that blue police box hurtled through a wormhole.
Cheese aside, what really has me coming back for more is the writing, which is some of the best I’ve ever experienced. The characters are fantastic and the storylines are surprisingly intelligent with a complex morality that will have you thinking about episodes long after you’ve watched them. The casting team behind this show is phenomenal, and introduced me to some great British talent. Of the Doctor’s companions my favorite has been Rose played by Billie Piper who I have a giant schoolboy crush on.
Perhaps one of my aspects of the show is the premise behind the Doctor himself. From the Planet Gallifrey, The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, a race of alien beings who have taken a vow to watch time and never interfere. The Time Lords were all wiped out in the Time War against the Artificial Intelligence of the Dalek Empire. Now the Doctor travels time and space in his ship, the TARDIS (which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) fixing anomalies in time and protecting the earth from aggressive alien influences. Each actor who has ever played the Doctor is the product of Regeneration, a process in which the Doctor dies and is reborn as a new personality, while retaining the memories of his previous incarnations.
When I finished the 2005 series that ended with Chris Eccleston regenerating, I was crushed. His goofy smile was infectious, and he played the Doctor superbly. Even though David Tennant (HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE) holds the popular vote for best Doctor, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to adapt. I was wrong. While Chris Eccleston’s version was a little wacky, zany and a lot of fun, David Tennant’s Doctor is quirky and charming. I still think Eccleston’s my favorite, but I love Tennant too for a whole different set of reasons. This is superb creative vision at work, people.
I’m coming to a close on series 4 now, and I know to the end of Tennant’s run as the Doctor. I feel a mixture of sadness and apprehension. I haven’t seen any of the new series with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor but I have that same sense of worry. Will I be able to go on without Tennant’s quirky ramblings and roguish smile? Sure, I will. I have faith that the creative team behind DOCTOR WHO picked a proper successor to the mantle of the Time Lord.
If you have been putting off trying DOCTOR WHO for any reason, now is as good a time as any to fix that. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. It boasts, in my opinion, some of the most epic, funniest, and most tender moments in television history and when you’re all caught up you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.