Opinion: Doctor Who, The Magic of Sci-Fi

Doctor Who - Tardis in the wild

Ever since I watched Firefly for the first time back in 2005, knowing that it had been canceled and that there might not be anymore of it ever again, I had been looking for something to fill the hole that it left. I finally found that show when I saw the first episode of Doctor Who that I’d ever seen. It was the second to last episode of series 1 of the revived show with Christopher Eccleston and I had never heard of the show before (my friend who I was watching it was a big fan, though, and had been since the original show had been on) but I instantly fell in love with it.

The nature of the show is very fun and adventuress but at the same time still having good dramatic moments as well. One moment things are grim and dark, then the next light hearted. It mixes genres, which is something I love. Besides the obvious science fiction elements it can be a mystery, drama, romance, adventure, action, comedy, and more. The concept of the show allows them to go and do pretty much anything and everything.

Doctor Who - The 11th Doctor

The character of the Doctor himself (a nine hundred year-old alien called a Timelord) is a great one and it’s one that requires good actors to pull off. Like I mentioned, the show can go from dramatic to comedy in a short span of time (often in just one scene) and that requires that the actor playing the role of the Doctor be able to do the same thing, which I think most (if not all) of the actors who have played the Doctor have been able to do.

Those of you who have never watched the show may be wondering why I keep referring to the Doctor being played by multiple actors. Well, one of the aspects of the show, and one of the reasons it’s been able to go on for so long, is the concept of regeneration. When the Doctor is close to the death he’ll regenerate all the cells in his body, thus changing his face and body and keeping him alive (so far, eleven actors have played the Doctor). That doesn’t mean he can’t die, though. If he dies before he can regenerate then he’s just dead. So if someone blows his head off then he’s screwed.

Regeneration not only changes the Doctor’s body but it also changes his personality as well. While he maintains the basics of himself (curiosity, kindness, a strong urge to not use violence if it can be avoided, intelligence, moral compass, and others) there are slight changes in him that cause him to act different. One Doctor may be very calm and not prone to fly off the handle very easily, and then they’ll be another who is very hyper and full of energy or one who has a bad, short temper. These things allow each actor who comes into the role to reinvent the Doctor and make it their own part, while still honoring what came before them.

Doctor Who - 10th Doctor stares down the Sontaran leader

Anyway, enough about that, if you want to learn more about the basic aspects of the show then you can look online where it is readily available.

The show has an ability to always be changing. Not only will the actor playing the title role change every now and then but the show itself will goes through changes all the time. One era may focus more on darker elements, another might be more monster movie-ish, another totally different from the other two. The show is about change and it is constantly doing just that. This is one of the things that it can do that other shows can not, and, again, is one of the reasons that it has lasted since 1963.

Beyond its ability to mix genres and to change, the show has a short of magic and fun quality that I think only the British can bring. I can’t describe it very well but there is just a certain tone and feeling that the British are able to endow the show with that American and other countries would be unsuccessful in doing. This can be seen mostly prominently in the 1996 TV movie that came out after the original show (1963-1989) had ended its run and before the new show (2005- the present) started its. It was produced by the BBC but filmed in Canada and made by Fox. The problem with this is that Fox tried to Americanize something that should NEVER be Americanized. It (among the movie’s poor storyline and other problems) is one of the reasons why it failed. It just doesn’t have that feeling you get from the old and new show.

Doctor Who - The Companions

If you haven’t checked it out but want to then I would recommend the old and new show. Heck, even watch the TV movie if you want. It has its problems but it does have its moments and it does have a great actor (Paul McGann) playing the Eighth Doctor. If you want a place to start then I would say to start with the new show and go from there. After you’ve caught up with that (or while you’re catching up) you can go back and watch the old series. I must give a few words of warning, however.

  1. Old Who has a much slower pace than New Who and is done in a serial type format with episodes being (for the most part) thirty minutes long.
  2. Old Who doesn’t have top of the line special effects. So don’t be surprised if you see some effects that look cheesy.
  3. Episodes from the First and Second Doctors’ eras were erased by the BBC in the 70s (it’s a long story) so you will not be able to watch all of them in their original versions. We still have all the audio from all the missing episodes, however, so you can listen to them if you wish (which, can be quite fun really).

Also for the show in general, if you don’t like a certain era of the show or don’t like a certain Doctor, then check another one out and you might very well like that one.

If you can check out the show and escape with the TARDIS, the Doctor, and his companion, you’ll have a blast.

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