Friday, November 10, 2006

Doctorin and Diggin the Tardis

Dr. Who is the longest running sci fi television show...ever. It started out in 1963 with William Hartnell playing an old and wise mysterious 'Doctor.' Due to his race of Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey being able to regenerate their bodies when near death, he turned into Patrick Troughton and then Jon Pertwee and then the one I remember as a child, Tom Baker. There was four more Doctors after that until the show petered out in 1996. It was relaunched with a bang in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston taking up the reigns, at least for the first season, when he decided he didn't want to be 'type cast' (WTF?) and left leaving us with the tenth version of the Doctor played by David Tennant. I loved the show. The effects were very, er....some shiny paint on some cardboard kind of thing. You could never understand what gripped the crew with such fear when you could see it was made of Paper Mache or tell it was a guy in a rubber suit. The best thing about Dr Who was that it really set up the brits as being no nonsense and no panic types even when faced with totally bizarre aliens, Cybermen or the dreaded Daleks. The military were the best. You always knew that when a bloke showed up in a green sweater with patches on the elbows that things were going to be dealt with. You also see this 'stiff upper lip' stuff in the great miniseries 'Invasion Earth.' I highly recommend renting this bleak tale. The Daleks were Dr. Who's greatest nemesis. Which I never understood since, clearly running up a flight of stairs would stop THAT pursuit since they existed on little wheels. They dealt with this in the relaunched version in 'o5 when the Daleks finally figured out how to float. The Daleks really are a cultural icon for the UK. Along with various nemesis, the Doctor was always joined by some plucky (and mostly female) sidekicks. The one's that I remember were Sarah Jane Smith, an investigative Journalist, who recently resurfaced in a new episode and a poignant reunion with her beloved Doctor. My favorite was Leela. She was some sort of 'primitive savage' adorned in a leather bikini outfit. But she was tough and could fight, and I dug that. Trailing them about and pulling the Doctor out of scrapes was the robot 'dog' K-9, who also made an appearance in the new series. The world of Doctor Who was not just the tv series...there was as hugely successful spin off series of books. I don't know one boy who didn't read them in the UK. There was also comics and a couple of movies too, including my fave, the 1966 'Daleks Invasion of the Earth: 2150 AD, with Peter Cushing as the Doctor, filled with very brightly coloured Daleks...and a city of the Daleks that had steps leading up to it. Hmmmm. Now, there is a spinoff series called Torchwood. We haven't seen it yet in Canada but it has been a big hit in the UK. Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who and is a special group set up by Queen Victoria to help combat all things alien and supernatural. This series follows the action around the Cardiff base and is led by Captain Jack Harkness, who we met in the first season of the relaunch. He was an immensly popular character and everyone seems to have enjoyed his 'omnisexuality' and enjoyment of hitting on anything really that he finds attractive. He is also very dashing and 'heroic' in a comic bookey sort of way. I look forward to watching this too. So check out Dr. Who if you haven't already. In the states it can be seen on the Sci Fi channel. In Canada on CBC.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Sarah Jane Smith is a favourite of mine.

I've been seeing Torchwood as well. Be prepared for some shocks. It is set in Cardiff, and has some very adult storylines with four letter words. A world away from 'Doctor Who'

SQT said...

I haven't even seen or heard of Torchwood. I'm not even sure it's broadcast here.

They only recently started showing the new Dr. Who this year so I haven't really had a chance to get into it. I saw part of the episode where the Dr. reunites with Sarah Jane Smith, but I didn't really know enough of the story to get into it.

Crunchy Carpets said...

jean-luc..yeah I was reading that.

The grown ups version of Doctor Who!

Mother Jones RN said...

When I was a kid growing up in Iowa, my family and I watched Dr. Who on our local PBS station.
My father, who was a philosophical redneck, thought the plot was stupid, but since it airing on PBS, and it was British, he didn’t mind if my brother and I watched the show.

Long live Dr. Who.


Hey there, Skippy said...

Crunchy Carpets! I LOVE Doctor Who! Thanks for this post... I could write about Who forever (I won't, though).

I've just watched the first three episodes of 'Torchwood'... it's kind of uneven. As mentioned, I love Doctor Who (of which Torchwood is an anagram, fact fans) but there's something amiss with this spin-off. Yes, theres cursing and sex (gay, straight, bi, alien) which is nice, but retains the slightly wacky air of a children's show. A sexy children's show with sexy John Barrowman. Perhaps it just needs time to find its stride.

There's another spin-off in the works; "Sarah-Jane Investigates" which is supposed to be an actual children's show. SJS is awesome; easily the best assistant.

The best version of Who, I always thought, were the 'New Adventures' novels: After the BBC first cancelled Who in 1989, these were a series of very grown-up Doctor Who novels from by Virgin Publishing. Proper science fiction; the Doctor is very dark, manipulative and ultimately alien. They're pretty rare now, but worth seeking out if you get a chance.

Must stop writing about Doctor Who...

Hey there, Skippy said...

Oh, my God - the theme music!

(OK, stopping now...)

The Curmudgeon said...

I became a big Dr. Who fan when the shows ran on PBS in Chicago, starting, I think, in the early '80s. The Doctors after Tom Baker weren't that good -- the show started to lose its humor and become violent and grim. And violent and grim and with cheesy special effects is no fun. But they showed the Jon Pertwee episodes in Chicago too; if I hadn't seen Tom Baker first, I might have liked him better. From what I've seen, the new ones on Sci-Fi seem to recapture the tone of those Pertwee/Baker epidsodes.