Saturday, April 14, 2007

QUICK!! into the TARDIS!!!

Okay, I know it's been awhile, but I've been having so much fun!
Doing what you ask?
Well....I've been spending most of my days watching DOCTOR WHO. Yeah, that's right, I said Doctor Who. What?!? That loser show that only the lowest form of geek watches. The show so bad and cheesy that American audiences stay away from it in droves? Yep! I'm a fan. Let me see if I can explain......

I'll start at the beginning. (bear with me)

I had seen a few episodes of the good Doctor on PBS when I was a kid and didn't give them much thought. Then like every other kid I saw Star Wars in the theater. It blew me away! Aliens! Spaceships! An exciting story! (okay...I was 7 yrs old..anything seemed like a good story at the time). That started my interest in science fiction. I also started reading comics at around the same time, but I consider that a different animal. After Star Wars, I got hooked on Battlestar Galactica, (the fact that it's NOT a rip-off of Star Wars is going to be the subject of another post). I saw Star Trek: the motion picture. I saw Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, etc.

My love of sci-fi was growing. (but what about Doctor Who? I'm getting there, don't worry)
Funny thing...even as a youngster, action in sci-fi movies got me hooked, but that could only take you so far. As a young teen, I needed more.

I discovered Star Trek: the original series.
Oh sure, the production values where cheap, the acting was hammy, but underneath it all they were telling, what i thought, were good, compelling stories. I must not be alone in these feelings because look at the popularity of Trek today. Now I admit Star Trek 2: the wraith of khan reeled me in to Trek, what with the action and comedy and all, but that made me want to know more about Star Trek. That movie being a sequel of not just the last movie, but of an episode of the old show (space seed) just made me want to know more. It was my first taste of continuity in a series. I watched as much of the old Trek as I could, and when Star Trek: the next generation premiered, I felt I could get more out of that show than the average viewer because of my trek knowledge.
I became a full fledged "Trekkie" or "Trekker" if you like. My love for Trek continues to this day (although my enthusiasm for it has waned a little in recent years)

The bad part of all this is that GREAT shows were being seen across the pond (the Prisoner, the Avengers, Blake's 7, and of course Doctor Who!), but access to these shows was hard to come by. I wasn't even aware of most of them. an adult and after watching countless sci-fi movies and TV shows, and loving the serial nature and strong continuity of shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek:deep space nine, and the new Battlestar Galactica, I wanted more.

I'm going to go off on a little tangent here.

I feel that the state of writing for sci-fi shows, and really movies and TV in general, has been dumbed down to a great degree. There are always exceptions, of course. For every great show like Farscape, or X-files, or Buffy, there are shows like Charmed, Supernatural, Invasion, that are downright silly. (this is just my opinion, of course. If you are a fan of these shows..GREAT! They just don't appeal to me) movies like Gone in 60 seconds (long on action, short on plot or logic) leave me cold. As American TV gets worse and worse, and networks don't give good shows much of a chance to find an audience, (Firefly anyone?) I started to look elsewhere for new ideas and concepts in my sci-fi. (England, Japan, etc.) anywhere that doesn't have the same tired old stuff that American TV kept forcing down our throats.

Then it happened!

Years ago I discovered the Prisoner. It was so unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was so surreal, and thought provoking. I was hooked! Later, I found the Avengers. I thought "man, these Brits come up with some crazy ideas". More and more I found that I was enjoying British TV. Everything from Are you being served? to Coupling, to Spaced, to one of my new all time favorites Red Dwarf! If you like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will love Red Dwarf. It took sci-fi cliches and turned them on their head. Funny, Funny, stuff! The way the Brits mixed sci-fi and comedy was remarkable to me.
The originality of shows like Red Dwarf got me digging deeper. It was inevitable that I would come across Doctor Who.

By this time, the new Doctor Who series was in it's second season (with David Tennant replacing Christopher Eccleston) and I thought "well, what the hell....I'll give it a shot". I watched a few episodes and thought what fun lighthearted fare. The effects were pretty good, the stories were a good mixture of drama, adventure, and comedy. The acting was inspired (especially the Doctor played by Tennant). This show felt fresh and new. I watched all the episodes I had missed as fast as I could. The clincher for me was the fact that instead of starting the show over from scratch when they relaunched it, they just continued from the old series. That series ran from 1963 to 1989. Then there was a TV movie from Fox/BBC in 1996 that was supposed to be a pilot for a new series. The movie bombed with American audiences (no surprise there) and doctor who did not come back as a series until 2005. It's a big hit in the UK and with it airing on the sci-fi channel and BBC America it's finally doing well here in the states.

I guess I'm not the only one who is looking for something new in sci-fi these days.

The Doctor Who series is once again a full fledged franchise with at least two spin-offs (the Sarah Jane Smith adventures and Torchwood) with a third spin-off in the works.(K-9) The third season of Doctor Who (or season 29 if you are a real fan) is currently airing in the UK and will be shown in America this summer. Torchwood is going to air on BBC America soon. Torchwood is kinda like the X-files, but smarter. It's great for people who like horror themed shows. It's tone is completely different from Doctor Who, but it is set in the same universe (Whoniverse?).

The fact that I enjoyed the new series so much made me want to track down as many of the old Doctor Who stories as possible. Thank the great maker for downloads! I now have all the old shows from 1963 to date. Many of the original shows were destroyed, but with fans and companies like Loose Canon using audio and stills,and publicity photos, they have reconstructed all the old missing stories up to the point where the show was produced in color. It's like Star Trek all over again for me in that I want to know as much about the history of Doctor Who's universe as possible. Even from the start in 1963 the show had a remarkable sense of continuity. In fact, one episode would usually lead into the next. AWESOME! I hated that while Star Trek has a developed universe, the characters very rarely changed or grew. You could sit down and watch any episode, in any order, and not miss a beat. With Doctor Who the stories were in a serial format where the ending scene would also be the beginning scene in the next episode or serial.

By the way, Star Trek is credited (rightfully so) for being one of the first sci-fi shows to tackle "real-world" events in their stories. Star Trek is also considered one of the first to have thought provoking episodes that challenged the viewers. Doctor Who premiered 3 years prior to Star Trek and was already challenging UK viewers with good stories even before Kirk, Spock and the rest started exploring strange new worlds! Doctor Who is brilliant in it's conception. Here is an alien that can travel anywhere in time or space. You have monsters and aliens in one serial, the roman empire the next. You can tell ANY kind of story in this format. But wait! What if the actor playing the Doctor wants to leave the show? Do you change actors and ignore the fact that it's someone else playing the part (like James Bond)? Nope..since the Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, when the actor is ready to leave, he just regenerates into his new form (the new actor).BRILLIANT!! I tell you! There have been 10 actors to play the Doctor so far. Any other show would be crippled with the loss of the lead actor, but not Doctor Who! it just keeps going.

I think it's fair to say the health of this franchise is in better shape than most (including Star Trek)

I can't believe how much I love this show and I haven't even finished watching the first Doctor stories from the sixties yet. I can't wait to see the later stuff, the Tom Baker stories especially. I have a TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) toy. I have my very own Dalek toy, a Cyberman too! I even have a sonic screwdriver prop. I love this show, LOVE it!

This is the most excited I've been about a sci-fi property since I was a teen first discovering Star Trek. I have that sense of wonder again! WHOOOOHOOOO!!!!
If you would like to know more about the Doctor and his world, I encourage you to check out or wiki Doctor Who, or any of the MANY websites devoted to the Doctor.

Now i gotta get back to watching those shows........LATER!