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!


Mob said...

I adore your enthusiasm.

Nicely done, post more often, I love hearing from you guys.

buckaroo banzai said...

thanks! mob old boy!
i'll post more when i get through all 1,543,865 episodes of Doctor Who!
(maybe watching a little too much BBC)

Yas said...

wow. for a while there i thought you died.

everyone and their mother tells me i need to be watching Dr. Who. i just havent caught it. I'm just a lazy punk when it comes to tv. and i hate it when shows i fall in love with get canceled because people are too dumb to enjoy it.

case in point... wonderfalls. i loved it. it died. studio 60. shut up. i loved it. it died.. lets not contineu. i think i just have bad taste in tv. lol

buckaroo banzai said...

i feel your pain Yas.
i started to think that i was cursed because of all the shows that were canned that i like.
firefly, invisible man, farscape, john doe, angel, and the list goes on....
i understand doctor who is one of the top five rated shows in the UK.
i think it's pretty safe to jump on. the nice thing is you don't have to see it from the beginning to follow it. so if you are channel surfing one night and it happens to be on, give it a whirl.
even pookie likes it and she's PICKY!! lol!!!

Blancodeviosa said...

funny, reading this, i could hear you get into it. i am with mob, your enthusiasm is incredible. and pooks laugh get me every time :)

buckaroo banzai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buckaroo banzai said...

thanks blanco!
hope your back gets to feeling better. tell macguffin to go easy on you next time!

Yas said...

oooh i used to love farscape.. when i could catch it. lol

MacGuffin said...

YOU are such a continuity whore! And I say that with the greatest affection possible. I don't have the faculties for continuity issues anymore. Wish I could watch some of the Dr. Who stuff with you. My brother was a big fan when we were kids and I use to watch some of them with him.

buckaroo banzai said...

yas-i too loved farscape and i have not completely forgiven the sci-fi channel for announcing that it would run for a 4th and 5th season, only to cancel halfway through season 4. at least they had that mini-series "the peacekeeper wars" to wrap the show up. check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

macguffin-i would love to watch the old doctor who shows with you.
i suspect your brother was into the tom baker (4th doctor) episodes. those were on PBS. check out the new show, if ya like, as it has alot of the same themes that made the old show so much fun. (minus the serial format and strong continuity)

El Vox said...

Interesting little posting Banzai. I like Dr Who too. I prefer the earlier Dr Who, but have enjoyed some of the newer episodes as well and some of the newer effects are great. I love it when they bring back people from the earlier series, like the Sarah Jane Smith appearance w/ K9 from the Tenet (last season?) show. I borrowed a Patrick Troughton episode on VHS from the library not too long ago titled The Dominators. I was surprised they had a few tapes there. There's something about the earlier episodes that have a charming aura about them. I didn't know about the spinoffs, that's pretty cool.

When you named off other British shows you didn't mention: UFO, Space:1999, or Black Adder, Mr. Bean, The Young Ones, no less Python, but I'm sure you're familar with them, eh?

Good posting though. Let me give it a thought, and maybe I'll post a few of my fave Who epsisodes. :)

El Vox said...

And don't forget to go here, if you want to check out more Dr Who stuff or read & catch up on past episodes:

buckaroo banzai said...

hey el vox,
i'm finally into the troughton episodes. i have quite the fondness for william hartnell, plus first daleks, cybermen, etc.
i love the fact that all the actors playing the doctor bring in their own quirks/personality.
by the way, if you like the appearances of old characters/villains in the new show, watch for the return of the macra (form the troughton era serial "the macra terror")in the third episode of season 3. there is also the rumor that the master returns this season as well.

ps. i've seen the shows you listed and i wished i'd have listed them. thanks for reminding me.

kitty said...

I'm with you on everything. I'm lucky, as a Brit I grew up with Blakes 7 so it warped my tiny mind at a young age. I recently rewatched it and was thrilled to see that it still held up after over 25 years.

If you like Tom Baker (who was the Dr. Who during my formative years) you'll be pleased to hear that he does a voiceover for the show Little Birtain, another fabulous show that you can catch on BBC America.

Blancodeviosa said...

omg!!! when i saw this i cracked the hell up!

buckaroo banzai said...

hi kitty!
i will check out little britain.
thanks for the tip on blake's 7. i haven't seen it in many years and would like to watch it again.

blanco, my dear, that was some funny shit! at my size and maturity level, i could see myself doing the same thing...COWABUNGA!!!

El Vox said...

New Dr Who season returns to the Sci-Fi Channel in May:

Here's a few of my fave Dr Who episodes:
1. The Five Doctors--I guess this is on everyone's list
2. Horror of Fang Rock & The Talons of Weng-Chiang--both of these episodes have sort of a Sherlock Holmes/Fu-Manchu (in Weng-Chaing) appeal to them with the fog and trench coats and Victorian England. (Plus you gotta dig the giant rat in Weng-Chiang, right?)
3. Hartnell era: The Time Meddler--I like this one, which is one of those going back in history episodes to the Battle of Hastings.
4. The War Games
5. Some of the parts to the Key to Time were pretty interesting.
6. An Unearthly Child--where it began.

Sometimes I think Troughton was one of the more interesting Doctors, and a lot of those episodes I haven't seen. I dunno there's quite a few neat episodes, and before you know it you become a fan. Granted, at times, I think maybe some of the episodes could have been edited, but then it is episodic televison, and the public tuned in each week to watch what happnened next.

MacGuffin said...

Here I am, entertain me!

buckaroo banzai said...

i'll be workin on that soon.....

Yas said...

um... mister bonzai sir??

did you die?

MacGuffin said...

So... what'cha readin lately comic wise?

MacGuffin said...

May he rest in peace apparently. You're lettin me down man.

Hale McKay said...

If I were to comment on all the points you made in this post, and they were well made and well written, I might as well post it on my own blog. Your enthusiam and knowledge is commendable.

I have a decade on you, but I share your love of sci-fi. I have been a fan of Dr. Who dating back to the original series and I watch the current series. I prefer the original because of its simplicity and ultra tongue-in-cheek scripts. The new series gets a thumb up for its obviously superior special effects.

I can only differ with you on one series that you mentioned. I cannot accept or swallow the new version of Battlestar Galactica. To me it is a blasphemous rip off from the original story. The changing of key characters from male to female; the Cylons having the ability to "become" human are an insult to the spirit of the original.
...I will concede that the acting and the drama are good and the plots can be interesting - but they could have achieved this and stayed true to the original characters. Having aliens, whether they be Cylons or any creature from space, take on human form is the cheapest and biggest insult to the true sci-fi fan that film or series makers can dish out.

...I think the one movie that proves this is the "Godzilla" remake with Matthew Broderick. It was a ripoff and an insult to the spirit of the original Godzilla.
...The ironic thing is that the film was actually pretty good. It was an a great looking monster with the element of the young hatchlings thrown in.
...If they had foregone the stupid idea of calling it Godzilla and called it something else, the movie might have turned into a hit - it was actually that good.

In short - it is okay to resurrect old TV shows and movies - stir the brew - but don't change the recipe!