Monday, February 17, 2014


For anyone connected to the Internet at all, it would be hard to know nothing about Doctor Who. The British television series premiered the day after President Kennedy was shot, and aired for about 25 years. It was then revived about ten years ago after a fifteen-year hiatus and has been continuously running in some form ever since, having just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

To say that this show is popular would be both accurate and misleading. Doctor Who seems to occupy a space similar to Star Trek in the American consciousness, in terms of its longevity and ubiquity as an institution rather than a singe show. But really, the fuel in its engine is the extreme loyalty of its dedicated followers, who put the "fanatic" back in "fan." Trekkies have nothing on Whovians, that fandom that lives and breathes the show, the story, the backstory, and the fan-fiction.

And as much as it has cost me some geek cred from time to time, I have had to admit that I have never watched the show, much less been a fan. Oh, of course, I have watched clips of, seen stills from, and read articles about it; as I said, it's hard for a fan of any nerdcore to avoid The Doctor. But actually watching the show - nope.

Oddly, Wonder Wife and I did watch Torchwood, a spin-off from the revived series that centered on an anti-weirdness squad led by the dashing and omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness. Wonder Wife loved the ever-present and fluid sexuality of the show ("Everybody sleeps with everybody!" is how she described it to friends), and the science-fictional elements were fun and engaging. But it wasn't exactly Doctor Who.

Well, after our preoccupation with Dr. Jin ended along with the series, I caught WW on a time-travel roll and we decided to binge-watch Christopher Eccleston's 2005 revival season of Doctor Who. (No way was I going back into "classic Who" from the pre-1989 era.) We raced through the whole short series and the ultimate verdict: not bad.

From what I had read, I expected to resonate with Eccleston's Ninth Doctor, since his is apparently the most working-class of all the "regenerations" of the character thus far - and his trademark plain leather jacket has a simplicity compelling if only for its contrast to the sometimes fussy outfits of other Doctors. Likewise, the traditional companion for this Doctor, Rose Tyler, starts out as shop-girl before traveling time and space in the TARDIS. The two of them had a nice chemistry and brought a bit of a prole vibe in their encounters with authority, alien or human.

The special effects accompanying the melodrama were not quite as cheesy as I had been lead to believe; in particular, the Daleks seem to have been heavily upgraded from the original, amateurish models.

A nice surprise was that this was the series that introduced the Jack Harkness character, so we got a bit of a prequel to Torchwood.

In for a penny, in for a pound; we're going to give the Tenth Doctor a go as well. David Tennant is a little too cute for my taste, especially after the rough-hewn Eccleston, but we have been enticed enough to string along for now.

But I'm not buying any TARDIS-shaped tchotchke any time soon.

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