Normally I try to answer most blog comments, but yesterday involved a broken car, broken garage door, and other assorted chaos that kept me offline for most of the day. My thanks to everyone who commented and shared their own stories on yesterday’s post, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to respond to them all.
I have a confession to make. Despite ranking at the very top of the geek hierarchy, there has always been an unforgivable gap in my geekness. I’ve never watched Doctor Who.
I remember as a kid, getting a few glimpses of this weird guy in a scarf who apparently flew around in a blue phone booth, but it looked way too cheesy. Then there was that robot dog thing…
These days, it seems like half the people in my SF/F circle are Doctor Who fanatics. Not to mention that Torchwood thing, which apparently raced to cult status in its own right. So one day I was crashed out in my hotel room at a con, and I spotted an episode with David Tennant and something about quantum statues that only move when nobody’s looking.
Cheesy, but intriguing. I ended up watching and liking the second half of “Blink,” the episode that won the Hugo Award.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I saw that BBC America was showing Doctor Who, and programmed the DVR to start recording ’em. I figured it was time to see what the fuss was about.
I’ve now watched a half-dozen episodes, all with Tennant as the Doctor. It’s interesting. I keep mentally contrasting the show with Star Trek. Doctor Who is much lower budget, sometimes over-the-top, and yet … more often than not, it works.
Take the opening scene of “The Girl in the Fireplace,” when The Doctor says how disturbing the ticking of the clock is … since the clock on the mantel is broken. Star Trek would have used louder, more dramatic music and lots of special effects and not done half as good a job creating a foreboding atmosphere.
And Tennant is just fun. “I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour!” He’s so damn full of himself, and generally having such a good time … I don’t know if that’s a part of the character or just this incarnation, but I love it.
It doesn’t always work. In Fireplace, I rolled my eyes at the random spaceship horse. And given that the Doctor knows time passes more quickly on the other side, Narnia-style, how did he not see that ending coming?
Then there’s The Doctor’s meeting with Satan. “What does the devil need with a starship?” So much better than Star Trek V’s take. (But I know that’s not saying much.)
Overall, I like it. Even if the Cybermen are a blatant ripoff of the Borg. (No, wait … strike that. Reverse it.) Even the ridiculously over-the-top moments, like The Doctor lighting the Olympic torch. I like how they do so much with so little — a child’s drawing, or a simple statue — concentrating more on ideas and story than flashy effects. Heck, the episodes with better effects seem weaker to me, overall.
I’m still ignorant about a lot of things, and we’ll see what happens when we move into other series with other doctors, but I think it’s safe to say my assimilation has begun.
August 31, 2010 @ 9:48 am
Friend got me liking Dr. Who when the series restarted. Enjoyed it ever since.
Have you seen SkyOne’s Hogfather?
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 10:15 am
I have not, though it’s another of those things I heard about and made a mental note to check out when I had time…
August 31, 2010 @ 10:26 am
Awesome. 🙂 My partner and our housemate have been Doctor Who fans for ages, but I never really paid attention to the show until the Ninth Doctor came along. Christopher Eccleston was awesome and I can genuinely say he’s the Doctor that actually made me a fan.
But then we got Tennant, and HE is the Doctor that made me a fangirl. I miss him horribly, although the new guy is growing on me too. 😉
That said, I’ve also quite enjoyed going back and watching the classic series as well now that I have the active interest. It was particularly amusing watching my housemate’s sampling of Dalek episodes, since that got me introduced to almost all of the classic-era Doctors in one fell swoop.
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 10:31 am
Same sort of thing here, though I missed Eccleston. (I’m told I’ve missed a lot, and must remedy this as soon as possible!) But it’s the new shows that got my attention and finally sucked me in.
August 31, 2010 @ 11:24 am
You’re lucky that you caught Blink as your first, it’s an episode that I use to convince people that I think might have a hard time accepting the whole idea and the way the show is made. I consider it one of the finest hours of television ever produced.
Though I admit that going back and watching New Who in order starting with “Rose” also makes quite a bit of sense because it really pulls together a lot of plot threads and you can grow and change along with the characters as well.
The Satan episode remains one of my least favorite of the entire new run of the show. I’ve watched every episode twice now, with the exception of the Matt Smith run which I’m only just now getting to, but I admit I haven’t seen any of the older stuff at all. I just don’t know where to start. Maybe I should stop worrying about it and just jump in.
August 31, 2010 @ 12:06 pm
I also started with David Tennant episodes on BBC America but I had the misfortune of seeing the episode where he lost Rose as a companion and I had no idea what was going on. But I’m slowly catching up with it all. It’s an amazing show and I love the cheese factor it has. Yesterday Sy-Fy had a mini marathon of Doctor Who, too, and it made my day. I’m actually in the process of knitting a TARDIS scarf. Oh Doctor Who, how you’ve inspired my nerd/geek-ness to new heights.
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August 31, 2010 @ 12:19 pm
One of us! One of us!
August 31, 2010 @ 12:29 pm
Yeah, you should definitely swing back and catch Eccleston when you get the opportunity, just to get the beginning of the entire Rose arc. Watching her react to Nine’s regeneration into Ten is one of my favorite bits in the entire series. 🙂
Also definitely go back and check out the older Doctors if you can. The sampling of Dalek episodes I watched was really an excellent way to do that, so you might consider something similar–picking and choosing older episodes that all follow a theme of that nature.
August 31, 2010 @ 1:04 pm
I got hooked on Doctor Who back in the 80s when watching episodes with Tom Baker as the Doctor when it aired on PBS. Since then it has always been one of my favorite sci-fi series. Glad you are getting into it.
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 1:22 pm
I’m definitely curious about Rose and where she came from. She hooked up with the 9th Doctor and stayed on through his regeneration, yes? Definitely want to catch that backstory eventually…
Overall though, jumping in seems to work pretty well 🙂
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 1:23 pm
I had seen the “farewell” scene to Rose on YouTube at one point, and it didn’t make a lot of sense. Having seen a few episodes and then catching that one definitely helped.
And yep — the faithful DVR grabbed the entire SyFy (hate that name) marathon 🙂
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 1:24 pm
If nothing else, I was getting tired of feeling left out of so many of my geek friends’ conversations 😉
August 31, 2010 @ 1:44 pm
Yup, Rose shows up in pretty much the first scene of the first new episode and stays through the end of Season Two. Then she comes back a few times, though frankly more often than I’d like. She actually is a bit of a fun character for two seasons, though there are moments I disliked. But her revivals all just make me like her less and less.
But I believe Netflix should have the entire series on Watch It Now, if you have a subscription. That’s how I got my friend’s hooked recently.
Jim C. Hines
August 31, 2010 @ 1:46 pm
Nope, no Netflix here. Just not enough TV time with everything else going on.
August 31, 2010 @ 1:59 pm
I know that feeling, I’ve had the same discs at home for a month. But hope springs eternal that I’ll be able to watch them “in a few days” every time.
BBCA should cycle around through all of them though, I’m sure. Then it’ll be a bit like living The Doctor’s life, seeing it out of order ; )
August 31, 2010 @ 3:16 pm
Don’t fret. I have hardly seen any Doctor Who episodes, so you’re not alone!
I had them in my instant queue for a while, but I just never could quite get hooked on it. Its not in the queue anymore, but maybe one day I’ll give it another shot.
August 31, 2010 @ 3:32 pm
I’ve seen the end of three companions now, but haven’t seen the last episodes of David Tennant yet and how the new Doctor gets his companion. I think the 10th Doctor had a good number of companions, but then again I haven’t caught any of the older doctors and how many companions they had. You’ll have to catch Torchwood next, they’re filming a new season of it. I’ haven’t caught many episodes myself, but it holds up pretty well with Captain Jack Harkness who started out with the 9th Doctor.
August 31, 2010 @ 9:10 pm
You lucked out with Blink being your first episode. I have to say it is one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever! Even my husband, who doesn’t particularly care for Doctor Who, will sing the praises of that episode and recommend it to others.
Personally, I am a massive fan of Doctor Who now that I’ve actually gotten around to watching it. Like you, I was surrounded by people (probably a lot of the same people) who would gush on and on about Doctor Who. I resisted until I decided to check it out and now I love it. Most of the Doctor Who’s that I have seen from before the 9th Doctor were thanks to the lovely and wonderful public library. Most all of it has cheesiness, but given the years they were made I give them some leeway. (And I have a high cheese tolerance when it comes to movies and TV shows)
I have found that some Doctors are better to watch than others. Personally of the OLD Doctors, I prefer number three and four. Five is okay but I haven’t seen much with him. Six was atrocious in the few ones I’ve seen. Seven was okayish though his companion was a bit more interesting. Eight was in the movie… which … well, I kind of enjoyed it, but I know others who hated it and I freely admit I am a fan of the character called the Master who was in that so very much biased.
I loved Torchwood, though let me say… it is very much more depressing and dark than Doctor Who ever really gets. So… enjoy! Glad to see you are being assimilated… er I mean … upgraded.
September 3, 2010 @ 12:58 am
I haven’t watched Dr. Who either. I didn’t like the idea where one of the main characters changes so drastically as part of the plot line. If I give it a chance I will probably grow to like it. I am after all, a geek. If you want a really weird/crazy scifi show with complicated characters and a indepth plot that has a beginning, middle, and end, I suggest Farscape. It is by far my favorite show; and this comes from a girl who, as a child, was allowed to watch Star Trek if she behaved. There are 4 seasons and a miniseries that finishes it all up. It flew low under the radar because it was shot in Australia where few people appreciate good science fiction.
Jim C. Hines
September 3, 2010 @ 8:18 am
I’m aware of Farscape — it’s another of those that I’ve heard good things about, and maybe someday when and if I have a little more downtime, I’ll be able to check it out and catch up on it. (There are many things that fall into this category, sadly!)
I do expect the whole regeneration thing with Doctor Who is going to be pretty disconcerting. On the other hand, it impresses me that they’ve been able to use that plot device to keep the show going off and on for decades…