Much to my friend Ashley’s delight, I finally started watching Doctor Who. I should say re-started: I’d watched the first two Christopher Eccleston episodes when they first aired, but, since I wasn’t already a fan of the original show, I couldn’t get over the cheesiness. Ashley’s been trying to convince me to give it another chance for years. I didn’t doubt that it had found its footing and developed into a great show; I just never felt compelled to give it another go. What finally convinced me was a comment from producer Russell T. Davies in last week’s Entertainment Weekly about drawing inspiration from Buffy in terms of focusing on characters’ relationships with each other (by the way, Buffy topped EW’s list of the 25 greatest cult TV series!).
I’m not madly in love with Doctor Who yet, although I can see myself getting there. I’ll probably always feel like a relative newbie because I never watched the original show, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. I’m impressed by how, despite what I assume are often deliberately cheesy effects, the show generates some truly creepy moments, as it does in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” (who would’ve thought a little kid in a gas mask could be so eerie?). Then there’s the pleasure of seeing Anthony Stewart Head in “School Reunion,” in a deliciously sinister departure from Giles (it must be weird for Tony not to be able to take off his glasses and wipe them thoughtfully). And finally, there’s the unexpected poignancy of a stand-alone episode like “The Girl in the Fireplace,” bolstered by an intelligent, grounded performance by Sophie Myles.
Obviously I’m rather unqualified to say much about Doctor Who, since I’m still only in season 2. I assume I’ll have more to say as the seasons progress; till then, if you’re a long-time fan (Whovian, is it?), feel free to drop some knowledge in the comments section!
Okay, real comment now. My dad watched Doctor Who while I was growing up and I always thought it was ridiculous, so when they rebooted it it took me a while to get on board. And it was really David Tennant that cinched it for me. I find his Doctor to be so simultaneously playful and heartbreaking that all of the silliness and cheesiness doesn’t matter, because the emotional grounding of the character–here’s a man who’s all alone in the universe, who recognizes how miraculous it all is and has to watch everyone he meets f*ck it up, who has to make these terrible choices because no one else is willing to–is really poignant.
So in that respect it DOES have a lot in common with Buffy. These are stories about people with power they didn’t ask for, who have to keep doing the right thing despite the fact that evil just keeps on coming, no matter how many times you slay it. And they have “companions” (or “Scoobies”) to help, but ultimately it all comes down to them. I love that story whether it’s about a teenaged vampire slayer or a Time Lord.
So is the original show not essential to fully understanding the new version? Is it sort of like the original BSG and the reboot?
Yeah, that’s what I gather. I think the BBC went into the reboot assuming that a lot of people wouldn’t have watched the original show, so they gave lots of explanations at the beginning of the first season. And apparently the whole Time War thing–the reason he’s the only Time Lord left–is new to the reboot; I think in the original show there were lots of Time Lords in the universe, and they would occasionally cross paths on the show.
I guess I need to go back and watch the beginning of season 1. I was thinking about doing it anyway, and it’ll probably be easier now that I’m already into the show.