Friday, June 1, 2012

Doctor Who: The Post That Waited

As some of you might know, I am an avid Doctor Who fan. I have fallen for the Whovian way and, I must admit, it is a double-edged sword. When an episode airs the excitement is almost tangible, but the wait in-between seasons is excruciating as no other film or series can fill the gap left by the adventures of the Doctor and his companions.

A lot of people mention to me that they have heard about Doctor Who, or even seen bits of it but it always seems a complicated affair. Why does the actor change? What is it about? Why should I be watching this?

I will try and answer a few of these questions.

First off, we'll start with the history of the show itself. The first series aired from 1963 to 1989; it was revived in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. There have been 11 actors who've played the reputable role of the Doctor, which works as a plot device. Whenever a doctor gets seriously injured he has the ability to regenerate his health, as a side effect his appearance and his personality changes. This allows each actor to play the Doctor in their own way, instead of trying to mimic the behaviour of the previous actor.

So, what is it all about? Simply, it follows the adventures of the Doctor, a quasi-immortal eccentric alien that travels space and time in his ship, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space), along with the companions he meets along the way.

Now, I knew all of this a long time ago and I brushed the show aside and it is sometimes easy to see why. A big part of the show comes with a healthy dose of cheese, but once you realise that every single aspect of the show is intricately planned, it dawns on you that while some shows can't help but be terrible, Doctor Who toys with its own limitations and brands the entire "feel" of the show as part of its own unique mythology. While they might be "touched up" a little, enemies and alien races like the Cybermen and Daleks are left mostly unchanged from their 60's origins. They may look like something that escaped from Flash Gordon, but, although their designs might be over 50 years old, they are as evil as they come. 

Not all the races are old-school, though. Enemies like the Silence will make sure you sleep with the light on...

Okay so, why should you be watching Doctor Who, and why can't I stop blathering on about it? Simply because, few other shows put as much effort into their writing. How often do you leave the cinema or finish watching a promising show that just leaves you underwhelmed? Not so with Doctor Who. You never know what to expect; there are no half measures. What would happen if you get stuck in the nightmares of children? What would happen if the entire universe had to stop existing? What would happen if the entire planet gets colonised by a race of extraterrestrials? If you can think it, it can happen.

Besides the sheer level of imagination that goes into making the show, the writing is second to none. As the showrunners are mere mortals there might be one or two episodes that you aren't that fond of but as a whole, there is nothing better...especially since the show was taken over by (all praise be his name) Steven Moffat. He's been an avid fan of the show for years and wrote a few of the more memorable episodes (Blink, anyone?) before succeeding Russel T. Davies as the lead writer and executive producer.

I can honestly say that while I love the earlier seasons, his involvement with the show has not only turned the show into the fan favourite it is today, it has smoothed over issues with the show that might make it hard to approach as a new viewer - while elevating the quality of the series to new heights. Did I mention his other writing credits include Sherlock and Coupling?  He also co-wrote Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin, which speaks for itself. Okay, clearly I have a bit of a writer -crush on the man, so sue me.

Take a look at this trailer for Season 6 to get an indication of the direction the show has taken, and to get an idea of what you're in for:

What else is there to say? Doctor Who is everything you want from excellent television. Seasons all tie in together in some way or another, so watching all of it is definitely a rewarding experience. Plots are meticulously thought out and brought to life with charm, wit and loads of heart. It scares you; it makes you laugh. I won't mind admitting a slight manly tear here and there.

On a side-note, the current incarnation of the Doctor (portrayed to perfection by Matt Smith) is definitely my favourite, and while we are gearing up for Season 7, I will enjoy the last few episodes with Rory the Roman and The Girl Who Waited as companions - but I eagerly await new adventures, new companions and - eventually - new incarnations of the Doctor. I am definitely part of this show for life.

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