A Doctor Who Retrospective
In September, 2012 the seventh season of Doctor Who will begin airing on the BBC! Finally- I can’t wait to continue watching the Doctor. I have been a rabid fan of the British series since 2009. I was a late starter to the show, but better late than never. As an introduction to the series, I’d like to give a brief history of Doctor Who, and why I’ve come to enjoy the show.
Doctor Who dates back to 1963, when the First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, crashed his TARDIS – that’s an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space – and the Chameleon Circuit broke and gave birth to the Police Call Box that has been a primary icon of the show ever since. If this all sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry, Doctor Who has a long running continuity that can make new fans shy back at the massive undertaking of understanding everything this universe has to offer. But those willing to suspend reality to take a journey through time and space will find the trip well worth it. To date, there are 11 Doctors, 11 incarnations of the same man!
Long time fans will know this as simple trivia, but those new to the Doctor will find it odd and fascinating that he is the same character from 1963. Since then, 11 actors have portrayed the beloved Doctor, after each subsequent “regeneration”.
The Doctor is a Time Lord, from the Planet Gallifrey. Time Lords are alien, but look very much human, aside from having two hearts, and the amazing ability to change their face and appearance after a bout with death. Essentially, they die and become a new man. Every Doctor is as different in persona and appearance as they are in word and wit. The first incarnation of the Doctor I knew was the Fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker. He was an eccentric man with a crazy puff of brown curls, a flowing scarf, and a long trench coat.
I don’t remember any more than that. As I grew up, this Doctor was just a figment of my past, something I watched in passing, but never grew to love. At the time, I understood nothing about the show, had no idea he was a Time Lord, and until I got back into the series in 2009, I thought the the TARDIS was a phone booth. The show was canceled in 1989 due to low ratings, and went into hiatus for years. A movie, introducing the 8th Doctor, was produced in 1996. After that, the Doctor was quiet…until 2005.
Russel T. Davies rebooted the series in 2005, with the introduction of the Ninth Doctor, played wonderfully by Christopher Eccleston. It followed the continuity of the original Doctor Who, but started with “season one” instead of continuing the season numbers from the previous show. Back in 2005, I happened to stumble across an episode with the Ninth Doctor, I believe it was “World War Three”, with the Slitheen. All I remember is seeing some guy in a black leather jacket with short hair and a British accent fighting a fat, bug eyed monster, and eventually cutting to a commercial break, heralded by the Doctor Who logo and theme song. At first, I scoffed at this, because I thought that they had rebooted the series to try and cater to a younger, hipper demographic.
I dismissed the show and never watched it again.
In early 2009, I started following a web series called “Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’”. It’s about a brother and sister creating parodies on video games. I instantly fell in love with the show, and eventually started listening to their podcast. During one such podcast, they mentioned their love for Doctor Who. At first, I didn’t understand how or why they had such an undying love for an outdated series from the 60s.
It wasn’t long after this that I happened upon BBC America. I was watching a rerun of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and an episode of Doctor Who was up next. It was the final episode of season five: “The Big Bang”. I only caught the ending, so suffice to say, my first introduction to the new show was the ending of, at the time, the whole series! After it ended, the show restarted from season one, episode one, “Rose”, with the Ninth Doctor. The same Doctor I had stumbled upon years before. What caught my attention this time around was the witty dialogue. The first exchange between the Doctor and Rose was amazing! Rose steps into a kind of basement, in her department store, and is attacked by mannequins! Just as she’s about to be judo chopped to death, a hand grabs her by the wrist, and a man in a black jacket pulls her aside and says, “Run!” The dialogue in the elevator that follows is fantastic.
Rose: Very clever, who are they then? Students? Is this a student thing or what?
Doctor: Students? Why would they be students?
Rose: I don’t know.
Doctor: You said it… Why would they be students?
Rose: Because to get that many people dressed up and being silly, they’ve got to be students.
Doctor: That makes sense. Well done.
The delivery, the snappy timing, the acting, and the character of the Ninth Doctor all had me mesmerized. That, and I love Christopher Eccleston’s facial expressions! The rest of the episode revolved around mannequins, that had fingers that broke open to reveal guns, coming to life, and breaking through store windows to wreak havoc on London! Yeah. Oh, and they were plastic aliens, controlled by something called the Nestene Consciousness.
I was hooked.
I followed the show until his regeneration into the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor sealed my fate as a Whovian! When he finally regenerated into the 11th Doctor I cried. Seriously. The farewell to the tenth Doctor was probably one of the most epic things I have ever witnessed on television, ever!
As for the 11th Doctor, and seasons five and six? Well, it’s at this point that the series lost all steam, for me. The end of the Tenth Doctor was also a farewell to Russel T. Davies. He stepped down from the show and another writer, Steven Moffat, took over. Doctor Who hasn’t been the same since. I feel like its charm is gone, due to the new style of the show. Something feels different. I go into season seven in the hopes that it will rekindle my love for the Time Lord, and not disappoint for the third time in a row.
I hope you enjoyed this short introduction to the Doctor Who Universe. And if you haven’t experienced the Doctor yourself, you should go and check it out! It just might change your life.