Thursday, December 25, 2008

Doctor Who

YUMMY! Don't read this! Not yet! Spoilers and all that.

If you'll pardon me, I'm about to stuff 4 years of fan boy freakout into one long blathering essay.

Ok, so I'm a bit obsessed with Doctor Who. It's simply one of the best shows ever. Even back in the good old Tom Baker days when they spent more on tea than on special effects the stories were good enough to make you hide behind the couch. You're doing something right if you can make people want to hide from what are basically giant pepper shakers.

The original show ran from 1963 until 1989. When it finally went it deserved to go. The writing was awful. Many people, including me, blamed the actors. But a few years back someone started making new Doctor Who audio programs starring the last four actors to play The Doctor. They're good. They're actually really good. So the blame lies wholly on the writers.

Fox tried to bring the show back when I was in college. It didn't work. There are some shows that need the American touch and some shows that only the British can do right. I wouldn't trust the Americans to do any Discworld adaptations. They did a lame enough job on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". NBC slaughtered the show "Coupling" even using the exact same script.
But, again, it's not the actor's fault. Go watch "Shada" at It was written by Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, back when he was a script editor for Doctor Who but they stopped half way through filming and never got back to it. Paul McGann's Doctor makes a great substitute for Tom Baker's Doctor.

Four years ago they brought the show back. For 14 Saturdays each year I flop in front of the computer and start downloading the episode that aired in England just an few hours before. I justify this piracy by making sure to buy the DVDs on the release date and using them in history lessons for the neighbor kids.

Russell T Davies had a hard job before him. He had to sell his new show to us classic fans and reel in a new generation. He and Christopher Eccleston did a fabulous job. They introduced The Doctor, they went into the future, they went into the past, they returned home, they introduced an enemy from the classic series, and then they wrapped up the season by killing off The Doctor just to show the new viewers what happens. That is, he grows a new body with a new personality.

Each season had a meme that carried through each season. "Bad Wolf" in season 1. "Torchwood" in season 2. "Mr. Saxon" in season 3. They brought back the Daleks in a few different ways. They brought back the Cybermen. They brought back The Master. They brought back the Sontarans. And, so help me, I jumped about with delight each time. I was positively giddy when they had the big Dalek/Cyberman fight that we'd been waiting for since 1963.

I mentioned Douglas Adams and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" several times. So does the show. When David Tennant became Doctor number 10 he found himself late in his first episode still walking around in a nightgown and said

"Not bad for a man in his jim jams. Very Arthur Dent. Now there was a nice man."

Arthur Dent, of course, one of the central character in "HHGTTG". They also named an episode "42" after the meaning of life, the universe, and everything as told by the same book. And in the episode I just finished watching they had Richard Dawkins talking about some new planets in the sky. Adams was a big fan of Dawkins and the two eventually became friends. Adams introduced Dawkins to his future wife, Lalla Ward. Lalla Ward also played Romana, one of The Doctor's companions back when Adams was working on the show. So the Dawkins reference works a couple of ways.

Two shows have spun off from Doctor Who. "Torchwood" is a bit more adult and stars Captain Jack Harkness who heads a top secret organization to collect, study, and develop alien artifacts that fall to Earth. "Sarah Jane Adventures" is a kids show starring a former companion from the late 70's-early 80's who made a guest appearance in season 2. I've seen about an episode and a half of the latter.

Earlier in season 4 there was an episode called "The Doctor's Daughter" where someone grew a soldier from The Doctor's DNA. The actress playing the Daughter is actually the daughter of the 5th Doctor, Peter Davidson. Apparently she and Tennant are dating now.

Really, how often is the changing of Executive Producers for a show something that makes the news? Never! Never but now. But this has been mentioned in lots of mainstream news outlets.
There will be 5 Doctor Who specials in 2009 and season 5 will start in 2010. The new Executive Producer will be Steven Moffat. Moffat was the creator and sole writer for the show "Coupling" I mentioned earlier. Brilliantly funny. "Coupling" referenced Doctor Who and the use of sofas as defense against Daleks several times. And he's been writing for the new show since season 1. It doesn't take a lot of arguing to say he's done the best, scariest, and most Doctor Whoish episodes so far. Even as a 30 year old he's managed to make me consider the back of the couch for a hiding place again.
And, as I mentioned recently, he's trying to get novelist, comic book author, and movie writer Neil Gaiman to sign on as a writer for season 5. It has been mentioned that Gaiman's episode of "Babylon 5" wasn't really "Babylon 5ish" but it was good if you don't look at it in terms of the show it was part of. But we still look forward to seeing what he produces.

We're wrapping up season 4 now. We all know that Russell T Davies is leaving at the end of this season. One of the big questions has been if David Tennant would be leaving with him. Catherine Tate, the current companion, has been claiming he dies. Tennant says he doesn't. And the episode ended with a greviously injured Doctor appearing to regenerate but not showing his new form.

The episode I just finished watching was part 1 of Davies 2 part farewell. In it we have not only The Doctor but his three companions since the show returned: Rose, Martha, and Donna; the remaining "Torchwood" cast; Sarah Jane Smith; the long discussed Shadow Proclamation; the oft mentioned Medusa Cascade; more Daleks; and...DAVROS!

I know! (squeel!)

If you haven't been watching then here's what you need to NetFlix and in this order.
Doctor Who: Season 1
Doctor Who: Season 2
Torchwood: Season 1
Doctor Who: Season 3
Torchwood: Season 2
Doctor Who: Season 4

and if you can get a copy of the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who it wouldn't hurt.

I actually wrote this near the end of season 4. The DVD for season 4 is now available for sale. I told it to post today because today is a special occasion. Ok, yes, Christmas and all that. Feh. No, today's the day the Dr. Who Christmas Special comes on. I WILL be downloading it as soon as I get back to DC.

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