Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting to know The Doctor

Pull to open, indeed.

Remember how "Doctor Who"'s David Tennant was our Nerd Man a few months ago and I said that I kind of liked the show but didn't really know that much about it? And then later I saw a few more episodes but still didn't know much about it? Well, I decided finally to do something about that gap in my pop culture knowledge and started renting what I believe is Season 2 of the new "Doctor Who" from Netflix. (Season one's the one with Christopher Eccleston, right?) I figured I'd start with Doctor #10 because, well, just look at that hair! (Yes, I am deeply and oxymoronically shallow.) I'm about seven episodes in so far and I gotta say, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

I figured it would be funny and it certainly fills my need for goofy sci-fi monsters and ridiculous plots. What I didn't realize was quite how exciting it would be or how emotional. I have to admit, I got completely choked up in the episode where Ten is reunited with his past companion Sarah Jane (and Anthony Stewart Head eats children -- that wasn't the teary part) who tries to explain to The Doctor what it was like to get left behind. Okay, I knew zero, nothing and nada about what had gone on in past episodes, but wow, it was sniffle city when poor Sarah told him no other man had matched up to him. And seriously, her robot dog got to me, too. And then realizing that the Doctor's current companion, poor Rose, would one day go through the Companion Ditching, too. Ugh. This must be what "normal" women feel like when they watch "Sex and the City." Except for the robotic dog part.

Oh, and the two-parter with the Cybermen! Seems lame on paper: mad scientists puts human brains in robotic army to take over world. Oookay, but damn, it was exciting! Poor Rose and her parallel universe family. At least they named the dog after her.

The real draw, though, is Tennant. He's so frenetic, careening from one emotion to another. So charming and effusive one minute and then truly scary the next. He gives the Doctor more than enough edge to keep him from going cartoony. And I like the fact that the Doctor is not always a nice guy. He can be cold and deeply arrogant. But flawed heroes are the best heroes, right? All I know is, when the Doctor yells, it's six parts scary and four parts sexy...and that's pretty much reason enough to watch the show right there.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel watching a new Doctor when the time comes. And that conceit of a new doctor every few years ties in with the one thing about the show I don't actually like. It's the same thing that always bothered me about "Star Trek" actually and that's the fact that the show is restricted by its format. I know just by watching the ten or so episodes I've seen that the relationship between Rose and the Doctor will likely never be resolved in a satisfying way because the Doctor is always meant to change and the Companion is always meant to change. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I can see where the writers hold back on what could be very powerful scenes or character developments because of the impermanence of these individuals. It's kind of a drag, but certainly not enough of a drag to get me to stop watching.

This post was meant as my act of contrition to any and all people who told me I'd grow to love this show. You were right! And yes, you don't even have to say it: I'll be trying "Torchwood" too.

ETA: It's now official that Tennant will be leaving after this coming season of "Who." Was it something I said??


Michele said...

I think it must have been something you said... ;D

David Tennant - when he's allowed - is absolutely brilliant as the Doctor - but RTD has saddled him with some really awful scenarios on occasion. And the whole "Rose is his special love forever" thing RTD had going has annoyed those of us who used to watch back in the days when RTD was a little kid.

I hope Moffat ditches that nonsense once and for all.

crone51 said...

I can't really say anything that won't be a spoiler for our host here...but I was encouraged last night after reading this news when I reflected upon the season four finale and what it means for perhaps a return of the incredibly sexy, adorable, and talented David Tenannt. He could drop in occasionally , right?

At any rate, he's astounding and delightful and I have a very inappropriate( for one of my advanced years) crush on him.

And I would suggest to our lovely host that she check out the ninth doctor as well .. Christopher Eccleston did a terrific job.

And then she might want to check out the Tom Baker years as well.

RedCochina said...

I haven't seen any of the "original" Doctor Who episodes. I started with Christopher Eccleston and fell in love with the Doctor then. I remember when he was replaced with Tennent and it was heartbreaking! I like Tennent but Eccleston will always be my "first". :) You'll probably feel the same way about David.

You should check out the first season if only to see how Rose got hooked and how her relationship with the Doctor started. There's also some good Dalek back story.

TinyFrenchStudio said...

Liz, don't lose hope. While things are never "resolved" with characters on the show, the writers do sometimes find very clever ways to make it up to you. It feels like a consolation prize sometimes, but then again, if you're old enough to remember the Moonlighting Rule..... when character's hook up, it's the end of the show!

I imagine old Who can be very bizarre and trying to watch if you've started with the 21st century stuff, but if you go in expecting something very different (and much more chaste, and filled with gravel quarries), I think you may still find some gems in there. I, like Tennant, had always considered Tom Baker (doctor #4) my favorite. If you want to watch an old eppy sometime, I'd suggest "City of Death." It was penned by Douglas Adams, after all.

Michele said...

There's plenty of affection between the earlier incarnations of the Doctor and his companions though. I've just watched "Spearhead from Space" and "The Silurians" for the first time (having been born too late to see them air) and there were some moments when I was thinking "Liz Shaw and the Brig, and Liz and the Doctor - there's definitely sparks there!" :D

(Doctor Who fans call it "shippiness" (as in relationship) - doesn't always have to be sexual, but some good old Unresolved Sexual Tension goes on in those older stories too, I think...)

Kathe said...

It's a sad day for me. I too love Tennant, but I would agree - check out the very first season with Eccelston, he's brilliant and you really get a sense of the relationship with Rose and the Doctor. I'll admit I was not a fan of Rose, but she grew on me. And you get your first glimpse of Captain Jack in the all important season one finale. Torchwood starts off slow in it's 1st season, but this last season was fabulous. And if you are expecting Dr. Who, well, let's just say there is a lot more va-va-va-voom to Torchwood! :)

Adri said...

The old eps with Sarah Jane are amazing. (Sarah Jane was companion to the 3rd and 4th doctors, and it's the same actress who plays her now)

I'm sure whoever plays the next Doctor will be awesome, but... it's true you NEVER forget your first Doctor.

agent57 said...

No, no, don't worry. The hair was a big part of what got to me, too. And the suit. You're not the shallowest among us.

Alyson said...

Liz, if you enjoyed season 2, season 3 really blows it out of the water, thanks to the collective talents of writers Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat (who are responsible for all of my favorite episodes of New Who) and Tennant, Freema Agyeman, Harry Lloyd, John Barrowman and Jon Simm. Everything from episode 8 through the end of the season is just amazing television.

That said, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Christopher Eccleston, who was fantastic! as Nine. I miss him.

NerdyArtist said...

I've just recently started to read your blog, so I was SUPER EXCITED to open the page today and see the TARDIS staring back at me!

I, too, am one who thought I was totally in love with Nine, until I saw Ten. While I will never forget my first Doctor, I can't imagine a better one than Ten. (And the interwebz almost agree with me - David Tennant and Tom Baker are neck and scarf-covered neck) And I agree with the commenter... Series 3 is absolutely BRILLIANT! So many wonderful episodes in there.

I'm going to be starting Torchwood tonight, actually. I hope it is half as great as DW..

Michele said...

nerdyartist: have you tried the Sarah Jane Adventures? Don't be put off by the "for kids" label. It's as intelligent as Doctor Who (but without the angst), more grown up than the supposedly adult Torchwood, engaging, thought-provoking and fun. If you like Sarah Jane as a character, you'll probably enjoy SJA...

Anonymous said...

While old Who looks quaint and antique by today's standards, there are some really good stories in there. The first two or three seasons when Tom Baker was the Doctor were fairly incredible, and a couple of them (e.g., "The Deadly Assassin") are absolutely terrifying. And there often was some very nice chemistry and banter between the Doctor and his companions: Four/ Sarah Jane and Four/ Romana, especially.

WRT the new series: I watched all of season one in a marathon viewing session in 2005 and all of season two in a marathon session in 2006. While I enjoyed Eccleston and the obvious break from the old show's sometimes fruity excesses, he often struck me as less the Doctor and more of 'a completely new character loosely based on the Doctor and heavily influenced by Angel.' (Seriously, Nine/ Rose are so obviously RTD's version of Angel/ Buffy, it's not even subtle).

Tennant, OTOH, grabbed me immediately. By the end of the Pudsey Cutaway, I was absolutely in love with him. Maybe it's because DT was a fan of the original series, but I always felt like he just "got" the character more than CE did, and this deep love influenced everything in the way he's played the character--his vocal inflections, facial expressions, the look he'd get in his eyes. Nothing against CE, he's obviously a great actor, but I always felt DT brought so much more depth and understanding to the role, and I think it's because he could connect things from the past to moments in the present-day scripts. With CE, I just didn't get that sense of character history (it was there a little bit at odd moments, but with DT it was much more of a constant, ongoing thing).

Nevertheless, I would recommend season one on the strength of the writing alone (and the stories really do set the background for the rest of the series). I'm a little more "meh" on season three, mostly because I found so much of the writing coy and obnoxious, and Martha was IMO terribly under-written. But there are some individual moments here and there that are quite good, and "Human Nature"/ "Family of Blood" and "Blink" should not be missed. Any hardcore DT fan will SWOON over HN/FOB--he's just soooooo sexy in that story.

Season four is IMO the best of the new series to date--I won't spoil too much here, but the DVD set is out in November, and really, don't wait for Christmas presents. : )

For more DT goodness, some of his earlier work is available on DVD (some of it region 2 only)--for sheer sexy, it's a toss-up between "Blackpool" and "Casanova." YUMMY!

Liz said...

Nerdyartist, so glad you found the blog!

Anonymous, that's very interesting about DT and his ability to reach back into the history of the show. I'd read somewhere what a huge fan he'd been and I would have to think that would play into it. I just really enjoy his performance. And I just saw Human Nature/Family of Blood last night after my DVR accidentally taped it (that was good luck!). It was really outstanding and Tennant did a great job. I liked it too because you could really see the dark side of the Doctor's character and how he's equal parts scary and amazing.

Thanks, everyone, for all of this good Doctor Who talk! Not too many of my friends watch the show, so it's really nice to be able to chat with people about it and get some insight. I'll definitely check out season one and see what Nine is like, but, as everyone's said, I'm guessing you never get over your first Doctor. :)

I'd like to check out the Sarah Jane Adventures, too. Who shows them in the U.S. Does Sci-Fi?

Michele said...

Yes, you can find SJA on Sci Fi - they showed the first season back in April, but it's out on DVD over there. Season 2 is nearly half airead over here, but should be airing over there soon.

agent57 said...

"With CE, I just didn't get that sense of character history (it was there a little bit at odd moments, but with DT it was much more of a constant, ongoing thing)."

One could argue that that disconnection perhaps stemmed from the character trying to run from his tragic past. I mean, if one wanted to be that fanwanky. :)

But that's the greatest part of the show for me: that they don't try to make the incarnations of the Doctor the same. Personally, I think my favorite parts of the show are traditions that originally must have come from restrictions. The actor playing your title character wants to leave, when you feel you're just getting started? Bring someone else in as the same character! (And actually give a reason, instead of just hoping no one will mind. When that's done, it's annoying.) You've thought up this fantastic time-traveling ship that can change appearance to fit in with destinations, but you find it's outside your budget and perhaps the special effects of the time? Have it stuck on "big blue box", and have people you meet not even bat an eye. Oh the TARDIS, how I love you... (I'm only speculating that those are the reasons, but I often think that a limited budget can lead to some great problem-solving and a stronger product. Star Wars Episode IV versus Episode I, anyone?)

"Any hardcore DT fan will SWOON over HN/FOB--he's just soooooo sexy in that story."

I think I mentioned it before elsewhere: tweed. I mean, come on! I can't be the only one who thinks that Indy is as [or more] sexy giving lectures as he is running away from giant rolling boulders.

Please forgive my recent chattiness. I guess we've stumbled upon a couple of my favorite topics.

Michele said...

OMG Yes! to Indy in the tweed jacket.

And I totally agree about DT as John Smith in the tweed three piece suit. GUH!!

(Look out for DT in another similar suit when he's playing Eddington opposite Andy Serkis' Einstein in the soon-to-be-aired (in the UK at least) "Einstein and Eddington"! AND the dark frame glasses. I will be a *puddle* I can tell ya!)

crone51 said...
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crone51 said...
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agent57 said...

I was going to say that there should be some kind of post here listing some of the best Halloween/scary episodes of our favorite geek shows... since they're always my favorite. (Bad Blood! Fear, Itself! Um... others that I can't think of right now.) I couldn't really figure out where to mention it, but I figure your comment about Blink is as good a segue as any.

I wish I had thought of it before it was actually, you know, Halloween night. But whatevs.

Jen Anderson said...

When you try watching Torchwood, just know that it gets better after episode 4. Much better.

Do not give up because of the craptasticness. It gets better.

NerdyArtist said...

anon - the reason DT may seem like he really "gets" the DW history is because as a child he told his parents that he was going to be an actor to be on Doctor Who. (I can NOT for the life of me remember where I read that. Wikipedia, maybe?)

If you watch DT's video diaries on the DVDs you just get this sense that he never forgets that it is a privelage for him to be playing DW. He just seems very humble and thankful through every series.

I will say that while I didn't dislike Martha, she definitely wasn't my favorite. She seemed a bit blah or beige. Rose will always be my favorite sidekick... I say this, not having seen the 4th series... will I be wrong?

Michele said...

nerdyartist: David's comments about deciding to become an actor as a very young child in order to be in Doctor Who have been repeated in numerous interviews. More recently, his father repeated it in the Confidential for the series 4 episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (Sandy McDonald had a non-speaking role in the episode having popped down from Scotland to see David filming and been asked to play an extra butler).

elimare said...

Oh Ten, how I love that hair, and the suit (brown or blue? oops giving stuff away there)
Liz, wait till you get to season 4 with Donna. Wasn't sure how Catherine Tate would fit in (she's apparently the oldest companion the doctor has ever had - mid thirties) but by god, by the end of it - well that would be spoiling it, suffice to say there were lots of surprises. Jealous that you've got it all still ahead of you. :)

Has anyone heard who the guest companion will be for the Christmas ep?

Michele said...

Actually Donna's in her late 30s - and she's not the eldest companion - that'd be Romana since she was into her second century when she began travelling with Four.

Of the humans, Dr Evelyn Smythe (a Big Finish audio companion voiced wonderfully by Maggie Stables) is the eldest - she travels with Six.

Blue suit's best! :P

crone51 said...

Blink" is incredibly scary. Human Nature/ The Family Blood is , I think ,my favorite episode ( I still have a couple of eps I haven't seen yet.. I am stretching them out. sigh.
The only good news about Tennant's departure is the fact that he could possibly be able to bring his Hamlet to New York. Here is what Neil Gaiman ( and why hasn't he made Geek Man of the Month BTW?) had to say when he heard DT was doing Hamlet
From on May 17
" I know that David Tennant's Hamlet isn't till July. And lots of people are
going to be doing Dr Who in Hamlet jokes, so this is just me getting it out
of the way early, to avoid the rush...
'To be, or not to be, that is the question. Weeelll.... More of A question
really. Not THE question. Because, well, I mean, there are billions and
billions of questions out there, and well, when I say billions, I mean, when
you add in the answers, not just the questions, weeelll, you're looking at
numbers that are positively astronomical and... for that matter the other
question is what you lot are doing on this planet in the first place, and
er, did anyone try just pushing this little red button?'
Isn't that perfect? I love Neil Gaiman. I love this blog as well.

crone51 said...

Oh, and definitely- Indy in the tweed with glasses.
And DT in the three piece tweed suit.

SFG said...

So what do people think of the idea of having a female Doctor?

Michele said...

Given RTD has said many times that Martha is the Doctor, I'll vote for Freema Agyeman ANY DAY! (I've seen that done in fanfiction - where Martha opens the watch at the end of Family of Blood so that John Smith can have that happy life with Joan - darned good story, that was...)

agent57 said...

Is Romana really considered a companion, so much? I mean, she's company... but kind of on equal footing, as a timelady.

Nuh-uh, brown suit! With the blue one you can barely see the lovely pinstripes! We can't have that... I know the stipes on the brown are probably white, but they always read as blue to me, and for some reason I really think that's classy.

I'm an artist, I'm easily affected by colors and things. The blue looked good with the coat, but by itself I just thought it was too shiny and monotone.

But, well, if you're talking about the implications of the suits, it might be a little harder to decide.

crone51 said...

Theoretically the idea of a female doctor is wonderful. I just don't know if I want it to happen. Is that wrong and bad and bad and wrong of me?? Actually I think that what I really am feeling is that I just don't want DT to leave. But a female doctor could be a blast-theoretically. As a good feminist I should really be wanting a female doctor but back in the day I fell in love with Tom Baker and now I am hopelessly crushed on DT and....
I am just a foolish old woman. Bring on the Girl From Gallifrey! The regeneration alone would be worth it! I nominate Catherine Tate. They could figure out some way to do it...

Michele said...

agent57: Yes, Romana's considered a companion - after all the main definition of companion is someone who travelled with the Doctor (although that's widened for the Pertwee era since he was mostly earth-bound, so that Liz, Jo, the Brigadier and Benton are also considered companions).

Sorry, I just prefer the colour blue, to the colour brown.

crone51: plenty of people are wondering why the Doctor didn't take Donna's Time Lord consciousness out of her head and put it in a fobwatch - because it was the obvious thing to do - and RTD frequently *does* the obvious (too frequently for some people!)

And many of us who are fans of the earlier era were half-convinced Donna was actually the human version of Romana, like John Smith was the human version of the Doctor and Professor Yana was the human version of the Master.

agent57 said...

crone51: I think I kind of feel the same way. Theoretically a female Doctor would be sweet, but I'm not sure if I really want it to happen... even though I can't really think of any good reason why I shouldn't want it to.

(Except maybe for Donna. Not even Martha, though. I think Martha's the one who managed to have the best sorta-closure so far, I kind of don't want that derailed even in the name of becoming Doctor-ness.)

I'm hoping some more Timelords and -ladies start popping up, though. I still don't buy that nobody else made it out. (Besides... you know.)

Hey, guys, more then 30 comments on one post! It's pizza party time!

Michele said...

Considering the way Season 3 ended, I am constantly amazed that Martha is the only one of the recent female companions who got to choose her time of leaving, not once, but twice - AND got to walk away with her head held high, knowing that she was good.

And how much do I love the fact that she, like the Brigadier, has a means to call the Doctor to her - unlike anyone else besides the Brig. Oh Martha, I love you!!

(Sorry for waxing lyrical!)

As for 30+ comments - I frequently comment that I never know when to shut up - and get me started on one of my Geek loves, well...

Liz said...

I love all these comments everyone! I feel like I'm getting a crash course in Doctor Who and that is a very, very good thing indeed.

With regard to a female Doctor, the selfish side of me says no, I'd rather keep looking at dashing British men. I just can't help it!

Thank you again for the great conversation, I'm really enjoying it!

crone51 said...

I am an idiot. It never even occurred to me that of course, that it what the Doc should have done with Donna. Michele! I am ridiculous! My excuse is that I am new to the new show...but that's no excuse at all!
Huh. Ok, now I am upset.
Agree that Martha had the most satisfying departure. I loved her "this is me 'getting out'" speech. And I love the actress ( although I love Tate as well).
The show is just delicious. Like the best chocolate *with* almonds. I am devoting the rest of my dotage to watching/listening/reading every Dr. Who incarnation. Of course I will still have to leave time for other worthy geek pursuits but Who is something I have neglected for far too long and I must delve further. Oh, and also make room for a real world life ( so overrated).

Take care , all!

Michele said...

I am an idiot. It never even occurred to me that of course, that it what the Doc should have done with Donna. Michele! I am ridiculous! My excuse is that I am new to the new show...but that's no excuse at all!

You're an idiot? What about RTD? I mean, how lame can you get - it's an SF show that used the fob watch twice before to store someone's Time Lord consciousness, so why not use it a third time to save Donna? The fact that no one's allowed to mention the Doctor in her presence in case her brain burns up is just ridiculous. I can't believe RTD didn't think of it!

And yes, Martha's "getting out" speech was excellent.

And Freema is lovely - she's captivated my heart. I'm enjoying watching her in "Little Dorrit" currently, and looking forward to seeing her in the new version of "Survivors" and in "Law and Order: UK" as well...

crone51 said...

Glad to see Freema is getting a lot of work. We don't get to see that much on our side of the pond, I knew she'd been on Torchwood, right? Anyhow she is gorgeous and talented.

Maybe when Moffatt takes over the show he'll figure out some way to get Donna in the fob watch.

That was an odd last sentence for anyone who doesn't watch the show to try and decipher.

Sigh. I am still in denial about Tennant.

agent57 said...

Argh, man! I didn't think of the fob watch possibility, either.* Another reason to be dissatisfied with the end of Donna's storyline! I was just hoping she'd start mutating or something. She could have picked up some genes. Really, what's another heart?

*Now that I think of it... it's possibly a process a human couldn't really survive? It looked pretty intense. I can't remember all of the details of that story, though.

Michele said...

It's entirely possible I've given Donna's tale entirely too much thought, agnet57! :D

crone51 you may get to see "Little Dorrit" at least - knowing the Beeb's tendency to flog its costume dramas overseas. And yes, Freema was in three episodes of Torchwood's season 2 where they cemented her friendship with Jack even further...

Elimare said...

There was much discussion about the fob watch in our house as well... Dammit.
btw, Michelle, when I said the 'oldest companion' I should have clarified it as 'oldest actress playing a companion'. All the others would have been in their twenties when first brought into the series I believe.

Michele said...

Elimare said: btw, Michelle, when I said the 'oldest companion' I should have clarified it as 'oldest actress playing a companion'. All the others would have been in their twenties when first brought into the series I believe.

I don't know how old Ian and Barbara were meant to be, but both actors were in their late 30s when they took on their roles.

But Catherine Tate's definitely bucking the trend for New Who...

darling said...

Not to add any spoilers, but I was definitely satisfied with the Rose/Doctor resolution and I think you will be too when you get to that part of the series.

I will definitely miss David Tennant. I didn't like Christopher Eccleston, but I do think it would be good for you to go back and watch the previous season because you'll pick up a few more tidbits about the Rose/Doctor relationship.

Oh, and BTW, I never watched any of the old Dr. Who episodes. They always looked too lame for me. So, I don't have any context for Doctor comparison. But I've been very happy with the new series.

Elimare said...

Michele I bow to your superior knowledge! :D

SFG said...

Every female Whovian I've talked to feels the same way. He's sorta the ideal nerd guy: superhumanly bright but also polished and self-confident.

agent57 said...

...and so cute with the glasses on!