My “British Invasion” TV reviews continue! Time to cover a classic—a show that has been a staple of British television for nearly 50 years (in fact, the show has a 50th anniversary special coming up in November). I am talking, of course, about Doctor Who. While this show has always been steadily popular across the pond, it’s taken a while for the U.S. to catch on. In fact, aside from a significant cult following, the U.S. has yet to truly latch onto Doctor Who. Which is a shame, really.
I’ll admit it: about a year ago, I was someone who judged diehard Whovians. From my perspective, it was a show that attracted oddballs, so I turned my nose up at it—a pretty snooty response, I suppose. But for whatever reason, my opinion toward the show gradually softened until one night, I was curious enough to check out season one of the rebooted show (which started in 2005). In all honesty, I watched the first episode and didn’t come back to it for months. It was jarring, strange, corny, and just all around didn’t seem like my cup of tea. But eventually I gave it another try, and you know what? I am so, so glad I did.
Synopsis: “The further adventures of the time traveling alien adventurer and his companions.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: If you knew nothing about the show and the above synopsis threw you for a loop, bear with me. Yes, the show is about a 900-and-something-year-old alien time traveler who saves Earth and various other planets from chaotic fates all while traveling in a spaceship known as the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which is disguised as a London police box from the 1960s. Weird premise? You betcha. But somehow, it all magically comes together. The more you get to know the strange leading man, who calls himself “The Doctor,” the more interesting and entertaining the show gets. Because, to say the least, he has quite a personality. Brilliant, quirky, goofy, adventurous, curious, and lovable are just a handful of the adjectives you could apply to the huge, ever-changing character of The Doctor. I say “ever-changing” because the way he acts may drastically alter from season to season. His character has the fascinating ability to cheat death by “regenerating,” or creating a new body for himself. This has allowed 11 different actors to take on the role of The Doctor, though only three actors (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith) have played him in the 21st-century reboot. The regenerations not only keep the show fresh, but allow for talented, often unknown actors to make names for themselves. Give these actors solid scripts with imaginative plots, and Doctor Who transforms into a unique, highly entertaining 45 minutes of television. Favorite moment: So much happens over the course of seven seasons that it’s nearly impossible to choose, but I must say that the introduction of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) is one of my favorites. After crash landing in Amelia’s backyard, the hungry Doctor demands various foods from the bewildered little girl, only to try them and find out his newly regenerated body hates them. He finally, ridiculously settles for fish fingers dipped in custard. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship, and it showcases Smith’s unique, physical style of humor.
The Bad: Remember that part where I said I watched the first episode and didn’t return for months? Yeah. I could very easily see that happening with other viewers. It’s just that wacky. There’s so much craziness thrown at you so quickly that it can be too much to take in. Plus, the first episode (and arguably much of the first season) is pretty corny. Add to all that the fact that Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, though a solid and likeable character, lacks much of the charm of Tennant’s Tenth and Smith’s Eleventh, and you may find yourself struggling through season one. If you can’t take the cheesy and the bizarre, you should really prepare yourself before diving into Doctor Who. Least favorite moment: I absolutely adore David Tennant and hate to speak ill of him, but I’m afraid my least favorite moment of the series involves his Doctor. Or at least the writers for his Doctor. The Tenth Doctor’s exit from the show is just very…clumsy. I don’t want to ruin anything, but he has this lingering, overly nostalgic end that is clearly an attempt to appease overzealous fans. It’s almost a relief when he finally regenerates (not to mention when the brilliant Steven Moffat takes over as creator in the following season).
To Sum It Up: Yes, Doctor Who can be hard to get into at first, and, yes, it can be very cheesy. But once you really give it a try and break into season two, there’s a good chance you’ll end up hooked. Every episode is jam-packed with family-friendly action and clever humor, and the actors who play The Doctor are all pretty phenomenal, though each in very different ways. There’s a great, elaborate story told here—one that any sci-fi or fantasy fan would enjoy immensely. To steal a line from the Eleventh Doctor, you just have to jump in and say, “Geronimo!”
My Grade: A-