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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This is not your father's Doctor Who

I am a major Doctor Who fan. For those of you unfamiliar with "the Doctor", this is the longest running sci-fi TV series in the world. It originally ran on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 and has since become a cult classic. I started watching Doctor Who some time in the 70s. It was known for its quirky scripts, quirky actors, and shall we say, a somewhat "conservative" approach to special effects. It was also known for the creative way in which the producers dealt with cast changes. When William Hartnell, who played the Doctor from 1963 to 1966, left the series (allegedly due to ill health, but perhaps also because of disagreements with the producers), it was discovered that the Doctor was a Time Lord and that time lords can regenerate. This enabled the Doctor to be played by 7 different actors (8 if you count the TV movie). The Doctor also had traveling companions who came and went over the course of the series. It was always a bit disconcerting when the Doctor regenerated or when a sidekick was replaced. But after a while, it seemed like they had been traveling in the Doctors time-machine/spaceship, the TARDIS, forever.

Last year, the series was revived by BBC Wales with the help of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the States, it's being shown on the SciFi channel. The original series is now referred to as the "classic series." It's not surprising that the new series is not generally considered to be a continuation of the old. This is something completely different... The production values are much better as are many of the scripts. The whole series has more of the feel of a modern-day sci-fi series.

We're now up to the tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. Some of you may recognize him as Barty Crouch Jr. from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This Doctor is a bit more emotional than the "classic" Doctors and the writers have actually given us a peek inside his mind. He's still the quirky, not-quite-human Time Lord but, in this series, the Doctor has fallen in love with his sidekick, Rose, played by British actress and singer Billie Piper. I'm fairly certain that's a first for the Doctor. Or at least it's the first time that one of the Doctor's sidekicks admits to having fallen in love with him and that he appears to have fallen in love with her. It really gives the show a whole new dimension.

*** Spoiler alert. Don't read beyond here if you haven't seen this season's finale ***

Unfortunately, it also makes dealing with new Doctors and new sidekicks that much more disturbing. This season's finale was marked by the departure of Billie Piper in an absolutely gut-wrenching scene in which Rose escapes an invasion of Earth by traveling to an Earth in a parallel universe. In order to save his Earth, the Doctor has to seal the dimensional rift between the two worlds thus separating himself from Rose forever. Yes, I know... It sounds completely hokey, but it really wasn't. Especially in the last scene where the Doctor is able to communicate with Rose one last time before the dimensional rift is sealed completely. OK fine, watch the episode yourself. If you can honestly tell me that you weren't moved...well...then...your just a heartless CyberMan or maybe even a Dalek!

In any case, the new series has rekindled my interest in Doctor Who. I think it's as good as any sci-fi series on TV today. That includes Battlestar Galactica (which by the way, is not your father's Battlestar Galactica) which many devotees of the genre consider to be the best TV sci-fi series ever. I happen to be more in the Babylon 5 camp myself, but I digress...

So of course, I went and Googled Doctor Who and came up with a number of great sites including Outpost Gallifrey, the official BBC site, and WhoMix, a very cool site containing remixes of the Doctor Who theme posted by fans of the series and its theme music. Last time I looked, there were over 200 versions of the Doctor Who theme posted.

If you're a fan of the original series, you're going to love the new series. If you're not, maybe now is the time to give the good Doctor a shot?

Sounds great. I was mostly a Tom Baker fan but I love any good sci-fi.
I need to buy that season before the next one starts. In the same vein, I need to watch more of the sci-fi channel. Whenever I turn it on it's some crappy rerun of Airwolf or someother bad show.
So first I find out about the Billy Joel thing, and now I find out about Babylon 5? All these conversations we could have had! Sheesh. TV doesn't work into my schedule often these days, but Hubby doesn't miss Battlestar, and he's a fan of Dr Who as well...
- Jen - who couldn't log in for some odd reason...
Yes, I guess I'm just a man of mystery... ;-)
Nice write-up, however I have to correct one of your statements. The new series most definitely IS widely considered a continuation of the classic series. The third season included an episode that featured the return of 2 of the Doctor's companions from the original series - with multiple references to her adventures with the Doctor. Plus it's also stated that David Tennant's incarnation of the Doctor is the 10th. There was some early doubts by some that the new series wasn't a continuation, but this was laid to rest when the Daleks appeared in 2005.

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