April 19, 2013

Doctor Who



Doctor Who is nearing its 50th Anniversary. I’ve been a fan of the show for quite some time, maybe not a half century but a long time. My local PBS station ran “Classic Doctor Who” episodes in order when I was a kid. The first Doctor I saw was Jon Pertwee as the Third: grounded on Earth by the ruling council of Time Lords, wearing his dandy clothes, practicing Venusian Aikido (or Karate depending on the episode), and cruising the streets in that terrible Whomobile. I watched the original series through the end: Baker, Davidson, a different Baker, and finally Sylvester McCoy (who I seem to like much more than most). Later, I was able to go back and catch some of the extant episodes with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. And I even managed to tune in for the awful awful attempt by Fox to revive the series with poor Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor (he would have made a good one) paired with a scene-chewing Eric Roberts, of all people, as the Master. But one of the things I’ve always loved about the show is that at its worst, it’s a fun science-fiction adventure story, but at its best, it really is about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.



When Season One of the new series was released on DVD, I  grabbed it and convinced the lovely wife to watch it. I didn’t tell her much except that it was a revival of a British TV show that I liked a lot as a kid and it had to do with time travel. She’s not a big science fiction fan so she was a little wary but gave it a chance and ended up liking it a lot—think the love story aspect helped and, mostly likely, contributed to her calling me an asshole with such fury when the 9th was dying.


I smiled and said, “You better keep watching.”


The look on her face was priceless when the Doctor started regenerating. When the light dimmed and a smiling David Tennant stood in Eccleston's place, the lovely wife said, “Who the hell is that?”


“It’s the Doctor.”


“No, it’s not.”


“Yes, it is. He’s the tenth incarnation. The Doctor is a Time Lord and Time Lords regenerate.”


She was resistant at first, but came to love Tennant and count him as her favorite.
When Tennant and Davies left the show, we were both initially excited about Steven Moffat—again, me a little more so than her; she had only one season of Eccleston but multiple ones of Tennant. I thought Moffat wrote some great episodes of the show under Davies, I thought Jekyll was brilliant, and Coupling made me laugh my ass off. However, his time as showrunner has been my least favorite of the new series. I worried it would after thinking his and Smith’s first outing, “The 11th Hour,” was just an okay episode, and “The Beast Below,” the one about the Star Whale, was cheesy and saccharine. Frankly, if we’re being honest, I found Amy Pond off-putting from the start. She’s nothing but a fanboy stroke character and walking plot device. (Clara seems to be in the same mode, and after going back recently to re-watch Coupling, Moffat needs to examine his feelings about women.) Reading interviews with him, it’s clear that he and I share a fundamental difference of opinion about the point of the show. To me, its a show about the Doctor, it’s not a show about the Companion.

But that’s all okay. It’s the nature of Doctor Who. You don’t like what’s going on? Stick it out until they change writers and the Doctor regenerates. Or just drop out and come back. It’s part of what makes the setup of Doctor Who one of the most brilliant ideas ever—built right into the show is a way for the series to evolve while giving the core audience the same thing...but different. Sure, even then, it’s occasionally going to require some tinkering and reworking to create some new mysteries and feel like you’re not just recycling the same junk (see the Cartmel Master Plan). As a writer thinking about creating a series of my own someday, it’s something I’ve been mulling over a lot. Plus, I’ve been working some on The War of All Worlds, my final story for Simon Rip. If I’m being completely honest, the biggest reason I ever agreed to write any of the Simon Rip stories was my love of Doctor Who and the knowledge that, as much as I’d give my right arm for the chance, they’ll probably never going to let me write it...

...though if someone at the BBC is reading this, I have an idea involving the Valeyard that ties into The Question and the 11th’s fall at the Fields of Trenzalore. I'm just saying.


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