Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Doctor... Who?

OK. So. One of those things that I'm constantly told is seriously destroying any geek credibility I ever thought I had is the fact that I've never watched Doctor Who. And I mean never. Like, as a kid it would air on PBS and my brother and I would be flipping channels (and by flipping I mean turning the knob) and we'd come across Doctor Who on Channel 2, and we'd always go, "Ew," and continue turning the channels. There was always some alien with neon flashing lights and things that looked like air ducts for arms... pretty much only a sidestep away from the technology of Yo Gabba Gabba. It didn't attract me as a kid, and it doesn't attract me now.

But then, several years ago Russell T. Davies reimagined the series and it was relaunched. I lasted about 5 minutes into the first episode with Christopher Eccleston before asking my husband why the trashcans were talking. I got one of THOSE LOOKS and I got up to go do something else.

And so, time has passed, Eccleston has given way to Tennant who passed the torch to Smith. Yeah, I know WHO the doctors are, I just don't know what they're doing.

At the Polaris event I attended a couple of weeks ago, there were several people dressed in Doctor Who outfits, and they looked fabulous. The best was one woman dressed as someone I was told was a Weeping Angel from an episode called Blink, an ep that I was told would blow my mind if I saw it. I've been intrigued to see the show long before Polaris -- I already had the first two series on DVD, still in the plastic wrap and waiting for me to finish the book -- but seeing these costumes and watching the passion with which people talked about the show intrigued me even more.

I know that Davies was hugely influenced by Joss Whedon. A friend of mine from Space told me that I had to watch the show because it was very Buffy-like, with season-long arcs featuring smaller stories in between. I recently read an article where Davies basically said screw Twilight, it was the genius of Joss Whedon that started the vampire craze and people need to thank him for it (he kinda became a hero of mine when I read that).

At Polaris I talked to my friend Cindy, who explained that the Doctor actually regenerates from one body to the next. I was surprised -- I just thought it was a James Bond type of thing. No one notices that Bond looks like Roger Moore one minute, Sean Connery the next. They change actors on soap operas all the time playing the same character. So why would the Doctor be any different? I was fascinated to learn it was completely different. It sounded like a Cylon resurrection thing to me.

And so... I've decided I'm going to give it another go. And I'm going to track my progress on here. I'm someone who doesn't have a "Doctor," another bit of lingo I've heard recently where your Doctor is the one you grew up with (my husband's is Tom Baker... he was a huge fan of the original series). I know that tiny phone box is important somehow, I just don't know why. I think the theme music is wicked. And hey, I loved Xena, so I'm up for camp.

So I'm going to post my experience as someone who knows nothing, because I really don't know a thing. You can sit back and laugh and point at me, and hope that I'll eventually catch on, and maybe I'll get to a point where I'm actually learning and we can really discuss the show. I was talking to a friend of mine recently who is British and I told him that it seems every British person watches Doctor Who the way we watched Sesame Street or the nightly news... it's just something you do, no question. Here Doctor Who isn't as widely watched, and is considered sci-fi. He said he has friends who despise sci-fi but they've watched Doctor Who all their lives, and consider it to be something else. It's a deeply British thing.

So, I'm about to jump on the bandwagon. Or... Dalek. Or Tardis. I don't know which is which. Is the Tardis his spaceship? Oh wait, it's TARDIS, isn't it? My husband can rattle off the acronym (I remember "Time" so I've got one word down). Sigh. It's gonna be a long journey, isn't it? Here's hoping I enjoy it!! ;) Wish me luck.


Stephen 'Socks' Bowron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was a very reluctant Who convert. Like you, I skipped over it whenever I saw it on PBS as a kid. I thought it looked lame.
I started watching with the Chris E season and have been hooked since.
Not every episode is a gem, but the ones they get right are brilliant.
I think you'll grow to love it.

Stephen 'Socks' Bowron said...

I don't know if it's because I'm English or what, but I remember so many 'teatimes' as a child watching the old series that when it got rebooted - with Billie Piper no less - I had to start watching it again.

I dislike how it just became a fad for teens shortly after Tennant joined, and it showed in the writing how much it changed to suit the sudden masses. But it has never ceased to be an awesome, intelligent and entertaining show.

I hope you enjoy it as much as the rest of us have.

TonyDale said...

I'll admit that I came to the Doctor much later than intended. I had watched it without regularity on PBS or some UHF channel when it was new to these shores, but, never kept up with it until. . .TORCHWOOD.
I even came late to TORCHWOOD, watching the final season's CHILDREN OF EARTH before seeing any of the other seasons, something which I quickly remedied by watching every episode from the entire series on a nightly basis on dvd.
I know WHO in a random fashion. I'd like to be able to sit down and watch every episode ala TORCHWOOD, but, seriously - TWENTY SOMETHING SEASONS! ! !
I've chosen to watch the re-invention as much as I possibly can.

Nicole said...

Ooh I'm excited to see what you think! It's so very good - I recently spent my summer watching all of the reboot versions. You might have a hard time getting through the "1st" season (like I did) but once David Tennant gets into the groove of things - it becomes so amazing! Like someone else said, some eps are not the best, but when they're good - they're amazing! Like Blink or Girl In the Fireplace and many, many others. Hope you enjoy it!

Erin {pughs' news} said...

I think you'll like it Nikki. A lot. I was just like you as a kid, and totally avoided the old-school Dr Who on PBS. It looked awful! But then I grew up and married a Brit. And when it relaunched with Russell T Davies, I was willing to give it a chance to make my hubby happy. The first series with Christopher Eccleston was pretty good, but when he regenerated into David Tennant's Doctor... oh my! Soooo good. There are some amazing episodes (Blink is one of them) and some fantastic storylines. I can't wait to hear what you think.

The Leonard's said...

I am so excited for you! I also was not into the early Doctor Who due to the late night showings on PBS but when we got netflix it opened a whole new world of BBC that we generally do not see in the states with out a dish. Davies is amazing and his re-birthing of the show is modern. I LOVED Chris E and he is my Doctor and David T is nothing to sneeze at. I am waiting for the current season to go on DVD so I can rent. Don't forget to catch all the Holiday Specials and mini series... There is just so much it blows your mind. Torchwood is more adult themed and captivating. You gotta love Captain Jack Harkness. There is also the Sarah Jane Adventures. Oh Nikki you are in for it now... Hop in the TARDIS and hold on!

Beth said...

I saw a few Tom Baker eps way back when and was pretty much "nice scarf, but--meh." I still groan every time a Dalek appears. I didn't even start watching the Davies series until somewhere in the middle of season 1, and then with the 2-parter "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" I just GOT it.

Connie [@ConStar24] said...

oh I am so glad for this!! I just started watching dr. who myself (though the last two weeks have prevented me from watching due to summer classes) but i had the same experience as you, where i knew what it was but not what it WAS. Also, as an American, i got to it pretty late, not hearing about it for longer than prob other people. but now i am getting into it and I am so glad you are too!

perhaps once you catch up to where I am (somewhere in season 2 of the reboot) I'll be able to watch more again and watch alongside you! this is super exciting. I'm a big fan of you and I really like your choices in TV shows (esp Angel, Lost and some of the other shows you haven't gotten to talk about recently) and now Dr. Who.

Justin Mohareb said...

It's an ok show. Not enough magnets.

Chris said...

I was a fan in the early 80's, dropped off in the late 80's and then rediscovered it a few years ago when the show got revived. For a "rebooted" show, it has a surprisingly large number of nods to the old days.

It is one of the few shows I watch that I don't over-analyze. I think, sometimes, we overthink a show to the point that we don't enjoy it. Just sit back, watch the fun ... and forget about scientific impossibilities or plot holes or other things that people tend to nitpick about. It's a kid's show ... so suspend your adult thinking and just immerse yourself in the fun that it's supposed to be. Trash can talking? Why not? It's just a sentient plastic alien. :D

Page48 said...

I first began watching The Doctor in earnest when they began filming in HD last year ("Planet of the Dead" with the Bionic Zoe Slater).

I then watched the remaining Tennant shows throughout 2009 and then all of the current Matt Smith season.

'Space: The Imagination Station' has been plowing through the RTD seasons this summer and that has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in the modern era DW. Like others have mentioned, some episodes are quite strong, others not so much.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Doctor and Amy Pond this season and, as much as I loved David Tennant (especially w. Billie Piper), I'm prepared at this point to declare Matt Smith my favourite Doctor and I adore Karen Gillan as Amy.

I turned my nose up at DW for years, but I've been forced to recant, and now I cannot wait for the Christmas special.

@TonyDale: "Torchwood: Children of Earth", was excellent TV. A very short season, but a beauty nevertheless.

A.G.Wooding said...

It is strange how much of a big thing doctor who is in the UK. I live in England and every1 I know watches it, its like the news or the world cup.

Seriously though, if you like russell t. davis then you will love stephen moffet because he is twice the writer, twice the genius and twice the doctor who geek. Cant wait to follow your progress

Austin Gorton said...

Like you, Dr. Who is one of those areas where my geek fu is quite weak. I've never seen an episode, though I'm familiar with the broad strokes (Doctor, companion, TARDIS, Daleks).

I almost started watching the newest series, but decided I already behind on watching too many things. Ah well.

I'm curious to see what you think.

Marebabe said...

Tom Baker is my Doctor. "Hello, I'm the Doctor."

I've seen some of the new seasons and thought the writing was brilliant.

And if I remember correctly, TARDIS = Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.

lesley anderson said...

I'm actually attempting the same feat as you are! I didn't view it as negatively, but I was always weary of the, er, special effects. :P I started with the Ninth Doctor - is that where you're starting?

Sharon said...

Best news I've heard all week! Can't wait to read your take on The Doctor...any chance that you might consider "Finding" Dr. Who?

Minna said...

I just started watching the reboot series this summer, because, like you, all my friends told me I had to. And I agree, there are parts (in the "first" season, as well as the rest) that are incredibly cheesy, but the overall theme of the show is just amazing, as are the characters. My mom and I are huge LOST fans, and after it ended, I picked up Dr Who. But my mom (who reads this blog a lot more faithfully than I do) doesn't seem to get it. Every time I tried mentioning it to her, she shrugged and didn't seem interested. I can't wait to see what you have to say about it. Maybe it will help my mom come around and jump on the Who bandwagon.

Rebecca T. said...

My parents watched Dr. Who and talk about it enough that I knew kind of what it was, but my sister and I never watched it. Then she got Series 4 of the new ones from the library and we fell in love with it. We've almost finished the 1st one now and I am SO loving it. It'll be fun to see what you think!

VW: floam - hahahahaha

Unknown said...

I look forward to reading about your experience watching the show. I don't know if I have avoided the show because I thought it would be to British for my tastes, but I have always convinced myself that I won't like it. Then there is the challenge of convincing my wife to watch it with me.

Chuck Power said...

I'm so excited for you. I never watched the original Who and was reluctant to watch this new incarnation. It didn't grab me right away but when it did, oh boy. I think I became hooked around the episode called "The Doctor Dances". It is the second ep of a 2 parter and it was when I knew I was all-in. And yes, "Blink" will blow you mind but it is the journey to Blink that makes it so wonderful. You will be amazed at how attached you get to these characters. I will go on record as saying that I actually got choked up on more than one occasion.
I thought that Eccleston was un-toppable, and then along came Tennant.
I'm excited do do a rewatch as you do your first.

I guarantee you you will soon be saying "EXTERMINATE!!!!!"

Have fun Nikki.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I've been trying to post for days using my lj ident with no success. Trying something new. If it works, I'll comment on DW, my show since I was in University and started watching Jon Pertwee (though my first Doctor was Hartnell in the sixties.)

JW said...

I grew up in a family that watched sci fi all the time, so Dr. Who is a part of my childhood and adult life. Glad you like it, Nikki!

Susan said...

I've been planning on buying some Dr. Who DVDs for my husband's birthday, so we'll be watching it right along with you Nikki.

LittleMo said...

Hey Great news Nikki and good luck with it.
You are coming in at the middle on an ongoing overall story arc that has been going on for decades so give it a few episodes to get into it (I'm sure you will).(but you know this already !)

Yes - Dr Who is an 'institution' here in the UK especially for those of us old enough to have grown up hiding behind the sofa on a Saturday night. In those days the stories were usually multi part so you usually ended with a cliff hanger thinking - will he get out of that situation - and how ? Nowadays they are mostly single episode - but longer.

In those days it was purely aimed at children and as such the stories were more straightforward.
Since the come back the show is also aimed at adults (including those who have grown up with it) so you get more subtexts of adult messages - about things like relationships, life, death and good old love. And more story lines that are more complex than just fighting aliens - though they can usually be watched at all levels. My two sons usually prefer the good old alien bashing ones to the time travel mysteries that I prefer.

Not all the episodes are great and different people like different ones. Some stories are cerebral and some are just good old alien fighting.
I love the one where the doctor barely features - called Love and Monsters, where actually (can you believe it) the doctor barely features.

Any way - welcome to your journey, it could be bumpy, but I hope you enjoy it and that we can share it with you.

EvaHart said...

Yes! You will not be disappointed!

Being from England, I am a massive Doctor Who fan and you are right, I don't know many people who don't watch it! I even did a school project once on Doctor Who as an important part of British culture. *Geek alert*
Another thing you should really check out is Torchwood, a worthy spin-off with far more dark and edgy storylines as well as a lot of lovely welsh accents!

The regeneration of the Doctor is an interesting concept, it is amazing how each Doctor brings something completly new to the character. David Tennant remains my favourite (despite the hilariously quirky Matt Smith) as he is such a fantastic actor.
A lot of people have already said that only some episodes are really amazing (Blink, Human nature, Midnight) which I would have to agree on. However although it doesn't always have the epic feel and deep mythology of other sci-fi, it has a lot of mind-bending time travel, fantastic ideas and is similar to Lost in a way as it really focuses on the characters and relationships of the Doctor.

Happy watching!

M9 EGO said...

Nik: Stick with it , some of the episodes are cheap and tacky but then you get some really good ones. My 6yr old daughter loves Dr Who.....we HAVE to watch it !

Women Shoes said...

It's an ok show. Not enough magnets.

Page48 said...

Do you fancy Billie Piper, Sir?

Colleen/redeem147 said...

When did Justin change his name to Womens Shoes?

Kevie Metal said...

I've been dippig back in to the old-school Doctor Who lately. I look at it as "detoxing from special effects"! Your "Yo Gabba Gabba" comparison was kind, to say the least. I just got done watching a classic Tom Baker episode where a parasitic space slug was portrayed by a man wrapped in green bubble wrap.

FYI the Onion AV Club has some very good DW primers:,2092/,39924/

Nikki Stafford said...

Colleen: LOL!! I was just about to ask the same question!! ;)

John esmond said...

Wow. I remembering asking you a few months ago about writing finding doctor who. And here you are ready to start your time travelling adventures. Have fun!

Justin Mohareb said...

Jesus, I've been coopted by spammers. And ones who sell ugly shoes, too.

deeannjay said...

Speaking as a lifelong UK resident I can safely state that no, not every Brit is a Dr Who fan, believe it or not! Apart from having a dalek badge (pin) when it first became popular in the mid-sixties, I actually couldn't stand it as a child / young adult and wasn't particularly thrilled when they announced it was being revived a few years back. I know lots of people who have either never watched it or watched it and found it not their cup of tea.

I did give the new version a try, as I like Chris Eccleston, but wasn't really won over by him or Tennant. However, I did make a point of watching the "Van Gogh" episode during the most recent series and thought the episode was wonderful - entertaining, moving and educational in the best possible way - and found to my great surprise that I really liked the latest Doctor, Matt Smith. I look forward to the mext series (as a very late convert!)

Page48 said...

@deeannjay, a little Bill Nighy never hurts either (spoilery video here), although his appearance was rather brief. Nighy's always a hoot. He was hilarious in "State of Play".