Hello and welcome to what I hope to be a weekly event: a critique, review and fan-gushing about Dr Who. I shall try to keep the gushing to a minimum, but yanno, I really like this show! But why?!? Why is it so awesome? I … don’t even know, really. Not yet. Hence the critique and review! Of course, (inner cynic creeps back up) maybe I’m just suffering from that first blush of tv infatuation – you know it: just discover a show and it’s all roses and funny quotes and interesting character interactions at first. Then the seeming inevitable let-down occurs and you start to notice the repeated sexism, characters start behaving in ways that just.don’t.fit or it starts jumping the Lost shark wherein the plot gets so convoluted you start to think the writers are just making shit up and hoping they’ll be able to link it all together in the end.
Not that that’s ever happened to me before *ahem*
With something that’s been a part of the cultural landscape since 1963 it’s hard to pinpoint my introduction. I remember a British friend of mine gushing about Dr Who in the early 90s, and I think at that time the CBC was showing reruns. My first Doctor then was the iconic, be-scarfed Tom Baker. I next remember Paul McGann’s Dr Who tv movie. I liked them both; kind of odd dandies they were, but brilliant. For whatever reason, I didn’t get the bug then. Maybe I needed to watch several episodes to get hooked.
Regardless, when the series was started up again a few years back I was definitely interested in watching it, but, like many things, never got around to it. A conversation in a comment thread about First Doctor Syndrome with eloriane reminded me that I should check it out and I did. And, well, there you go. Hooked!
What is First Doctor Syndrome? As eloriane informed me, there is a saying in Who fandom that “you never forget your first doctor.” This refers to the love one develops for one’s first doctor – the actor who played the part when you got hooked. No other Doctor will be quite as good as this first one, generally speaking. This first one solidifies the character in your mind, and it takes some getting used to other incarnations. I have two First Doctors, really. Tom Baker, of course, setting the stage for a quirky, brilliant, oddly dressed Doctor (at least as I remember him!). And David Tennant, the current actor to play the role. Like Baker he’s a quirky and brilliant. In searching for photos to include with this post I came across someone who sums him up perfectly.
You see each actor who plays the Doctor throws in their own sort of oddities into the part. Tennant was just so off the wall. He rambled adorably, he was cocky as heck, and he liked to lick things – anything really. He is just a bundle of energy wrapped up in a pretty box. It is a very pretty box.
A pretty box indeed. And as eloriane wrote, adorable technobabble!
My first thoughts are that the appeal of this show is two-fold: first, you have the Tardis, the Doctor’s spaceship/time machine that is huge on the inside but looks like an old British police box on the outside. How cool is that? Everybody wants one! Not surprisingly a show with a space traveling time machine leaves a lot of room for adventures and story-lines of some considerable variation.
The other side to the appeal may lie in the quirky genius of the main character and his interactions with his human companions. We relate to the Hero; being the main character one is inevitably drawn to make connections to him. But I think he is also just so a lot of fun to “hang out” with. I also suspect that most of us who are interested in science fiction are also a bit out of the ordinary (or at least feel like we don’t quite belong somehow), and we are certainly deeply curious about different and unusual places. We can also perhaps identify with dressing a tad differently than the norm! So with the Doctor we have someone who is deeply curious, with a strong sense of social justice, a bit quirky maybe, a bit of an odd dresser (sometimes). This is someone we can relate to, if not to his genius heh. But we also relate to his sidekicks, as an audience. The bemused, excited, awe-struck humans. Through the Doctor we are exposed to fantastic worlds and creatures and peoples of various distinctions. Via his human sidekicks we also get to relate to someone else who is seeing/experiencing those same things. So we get both sides of the story-line coin as it were.
I do have a few things to say about the dearth of female quirky geniuses (and rumours of the next Doctor being played by a woman) and the female character’s almost inevitable role as sidekick, support, or reflection of the main male character in our culture’s stories. However, I shall save that for another time. In the interim I need to track down the first season of the reboot and watch it from the start.
That other guy won’t be as good as my First Doctor though. I know it.