Doctor Who

October 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm (Television Commentary) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I came to Doctor Who through a library portal. I’ve been aware of the series since it came back on the air in 2005 but never made the effort to seek it out. That was not until I heard there was going to be an episode set in a library; a library in space now that got my attention. It was the first episode of a two-parter and though I liked them both I still didn’t seek out the series on TV. I watched the episodes online as it was easier to find them there.

However last year, just before I went on my trip, Space started to show the most recent season of Doctor Who on Saturdays and the previous seasons Monday to Thursday at ten pm when there was nothing else on anyway. It didn’t take me long to get into the series. What can I say? It had time travel and aliens and alternative histories and fantastical characters such as the fae, cyber beings and weeping angels. Be aware that this post may contain spoilers.

The basic story involves a man (the Doctor who is also the last Time Lord) who travels through time and space in a box (the TARDIS) that is bigger on the inside. TARDIS stands for “Time And Relative Dimension In Space.” This Time Lord is the only survivor of the time war that occurred between his race and the Daleks. The Doctor is impossibly old (900 or so) and has the ability to change his appearance which he has done a lot since the original series started in 1963.

Each incantation of the Doctor travels with one or more human companions. The Doctor is intrigued by humans because we are a hopeful race but he is mystified as to why his human companions keep leaving him. They keep leaving because they want things that he can not give them.

The Doctor’s story is woven throughout the regular series and Christmas/New Year specials. Each special introduces the next season without actually being an integral part of it. While there may be recurring themes – Bad Wolf, Torchwood, UNIT – it is easy to enjoy the show at the basic level. I also found it possible to enjoy the series even when I was jumping back and forth between seasons.

What can I tell you about the men who play the Doctor? My favourite is the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. But I also enjoy what David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) and Matt Smith (Eleventh and most recent Doctor) bring to the role. My favourite episodes usually have historical settings or are set in London, where I’ve never been but would like to visit some day. I wonder if it’s easier to travel by TARDIS?

In case you are curious, these episodes are:

I am impatiently waiting for season six because Neil Gaiman has written an episode and keeps teasing us with updates on the process.

If I have any reservations about Doctor Who it is in how the women companions are portrayed. There is Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), a young shop girl from a poorer part of London. She easily leaves her widowed mom, Jackie (Camille Coduri) and boyfriend Mickey (Noel Clarke) behind to travel with the Doctor. Rose comes across as an infatuated girl looking for a daddy, whom she eventually finds in an alternate universe. Her mother is over protective and her boyfriend is too accommodating.

Next is Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) who leaves behind her hospital residency, she is studying to become a doctor, with nary a thought of regret. Her divorced parents are constantly bickering and her siblings expect her to be the peacemaker. From the beginning, Martha is smitten with the doctor and is looking for an escape from her increasingly complicated life.

After Martha, there is Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) who, I was very surprised to find out recently, was criticized as a shooting fishwife. Donna is my favourite companion. She is less trusting, more questioning, a less accepting of the status quo type of person.She has a more adult relationship with her mother and grandfather whom she lives with. The first time the Doctor asks her to come along on his travels she says no. After seeking adventure on her own, she meets up with the Doctor again and this time, agrees to travel with him so that she can help humanity.

The latest companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) is not as fleshed out. My impression of her is that she is more of a chameleon; she becomes whoever the Doctor wants her to be. She is an orphan at the beginning of season five who has been raised by her aunt to be very independent. We meet her first as a child and later on the eve of her wedding to Rory. Amy is a confused young woman seeking her invisible friend, the raggedy Doctor, to save her. Season five ended with Amy & Rory’s wedding, the introduction of Amy’s parents and the re-introduction of River Song. It’ll be interesting to see where the next season takes Amy & Rory.

Other women, such as Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and River Song (Alex Kingston) flit in and out of Doctor Who giving us brief glimpses into the past and teasing us with brief “SPOILERS.” What I know about Sarah Jane is that she was companion to the Third Doctor and is still infatuated with him after many decades as a strong, single woman and new single mother. The brief glimpses of River Song tell me nothing about the woman herself except that she both loves and betrays the Doctor.

Yes, all these women – because they traveled with the Doctor- become braver, smarter and stronger. They find what they are seeking. They end up equal partners in the quest to protect the Earth and the Universe. They are also more alone for having known the Doctor.

I want the doctor’s companions to be smarter, sassier and less forgiving from the beginning. These women annoy me because they never seem to consider the consequence of that first action, their decision to travel with the Doctor through time and space. I’m not sure what I’d do? How much I would think if suddenly there appeared before me a man with a time machine? I think I’d be more willing to step into the TARDIS if I were promised a trip to somewhere historical, if I were promised a glimpse into the past.

I hope that this review lets you know how much I enjoy Doctor Who – the man, the concept, and the series. The show makes me think. It tantalizes and teases. It gives me glimpses of another world, another universe, and another way of being. Everything is not laid out for me in just one episode. Doctor Who is a huge spider web where the threads connect here, there, and everywhere through time and space to past seasons and spin-offs. The show makes me think and also allows me to enjoy every episode in a singular fashion if I so choose.

More Doctor Who geekiness can be found here and here.

This is how I spent my summer – enjoying Doctor Who. Well, most of my summer. Unfortunately, the reruns ended in August and I had to find something new to watch. So, I checked out the Doctor Who Christmas specials that I had missed from my local library and one of them had a trailer for Children of Men, which turned out to be season three of Torchwood, a Doctor Who spin-off. Thankfully, the local library had all of the seasons.

Torchwood is an edgier, more adult look at the same questions Doctor Who puts forth. However, there is more death, more sex, and more ambiguity. Torchwood deals with bigger questions and concerns.

It centers on yummy Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and made me cry more than once. Even though, having watched season three first, I knew where the characters were going to end up.

“The end is where we start from…”

Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood

Exit Wounds; Season 2, Episode 13


1 Comment

  1. Jingle said,

    wow, what a enrichment experience.

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