Respectful Insolence

More on the new Doctor Who

Based on some comments on my previous post complaining that the first episode of the new Doctor Who was a bit uneven and the stories not so great, I thought I’d mention my overview of the season.

I have one thing to say:

Patience.

I agree that the first couple of episodes were uneven and realize that I have the benefit of hindsight. I also understand that it’s also a bit hard at first for longtime Who fans to get used to the new format of one hour episodes with self-contained stories (although there are some two-part stories scattered throughout the season). Remember that it always takes at least a couple of stories (each of which, in the old days, usually consisted of four half-hour episodes, complete with cliffhangers at the end of them) for a new Doctor to settle in. I would further point out that the first couple of stories with Tom Baker weren’t exactly the ones that we remember him most for or consider high points of his seven season run on the series. The first and second stories with Tom Baker as the Doctor, Robot and The Ark in Space, were pretty uneven, for example. The third story, The Sontaran Experiment, was better, but only somewhat. It wasn’t until the epic six-part story Genesis of the Daleks (one of my three favorite Who stories of all time) that Tom Baker truly came into his own playing the Doctor. Finally, even the “classic” Who seasons contained some stinkers. Does anyone remember, for example, The Brain of Morbius with special effects reminiscent of They Saved Hitler’s Brain) or The Horns of Nimon (one of my personal picks for a list of the worst Doctor Who episodes of all time)? I can point out similar episodes from the tenures of all the Doctors with the exceptions of Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell (mainly because I’ve seen only one Troughton story and zero Hartnell stories).

Over the course of the 13 episodes, I came to view Christopher Eccleston as being in a tie for my second favorite Doctor of all time after Tom Baker.

Here are some episodes to look out for:

  • The Unquiet Undead (an “old-fashioned” Doctor Who set in Victorian London)
  • Dalek (a new and different take on an old enemy, so much so that you almost feel sympathy for the Dalek–almost)
  • The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (two-parter, in which another Doctor companion, Captain Jack, is introduced; also set in World War II-era London)

And, in particular, the two-part season finale:

Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways (Two words: Dalek invasion. There are also some wicked parodies of reality TV and game shows.)

One thing that’s cool about this series is that there are recurring themes, and actions the Doctor takes have repercussions that we don’t find out about until several episodes later. This is a series that grows on you, as does the character of the Doctor. One thing they try to do in this show is emphasize a bit more the Doctor’s alienness. He doesn’t always think like humans, and his sense of morality does not always jibe with ours.

I also think Rose’s mother and boyfriend are both a hoot. And, looking at the trailers, they’re bringing back the Cybermen, K-9, and Sara Jane Smith for appearances in the second season of the new Doctor Who, which, if this first one is successful in the U.S., will almost certainly appear here. Even if it doesn’t, I still have my mother recording episodes for me off of Canadian TV.

I’d be interested in hearing what the skeptics think as we get further into the season and particularly after they’ve had the chance to see all 13 episodes. I rather suspect their opinions will become much more favorable and that they–as I do–will be sorry that Eccleston only stayed for one season.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt McIrvin
    March 18, 2006

    The Unquiet Dead is set in Victorian Cardiff, actually.

    (Which led to some objections to Sci-Fi’s trailer describing the setting as “England”… though some people on LiveJournal mentioned that there was actually some old law declaring Wales to be functionally part of England from the mid-19th century into the 1960s, so there was a sense in which it was accidentally correct.)

  2. #2 Jody
    March 18, 2006

    Being one of those people who couldn’t wait to watch, I bought the series direct from England in January (I got that nifty TARDIS packaged set.) I promised myself I’d only watch “the first episode” after it arrived.

    Thirteen hours later…

    Stick with it folks. It’s really a fun series.

  3. #3 Orac
    March 18, 2006

    Heh. Now that I finally have a region-free DVD player, I could order the series from the U.K. as well. I’ve already ordered the first three series of Blakes’ 7.

  4. #4 Ali
    March 18, 2006

    I like it. I’m disappointed whats-his-name left and the other whats-his-name is taking over, but oh well.

  5. #5 Brent McKee
    March 18, 2006

    Actually Orac you can order the series from Amazon.ca. I tend to find the set a bit pricy at $99 Canuck bucks but I’m willing to bet there are deals out there. And yes, it does take time to develop but remember it wasn’t like a previous series with a previous Doctor had just aired last year. Fans might have picked up on it but here were a lot of newcomers to the series out there and they had to be eased into the mythology of it.

  6. #6 Aaron M
    March 18, 2006

    Ali: I was disappointed that Eccleston left only after one season, but having see the Christmas special which introduces Tennant as the new Doctore, I’m relieved. He does a great job, capturing both the playfulness and the intensity of the Doctor in almost no time at all.

  7. #7 EoR
    March 18, 2006

    The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is probably the best of the new series, but it ends really badly with the Doctor hurriedly “explaining” how he got rid of all the nanobots and resolved everything happily. Nothing of this resolution is shown – it’s just talk. This is just bad scriptwriting. Oh, and you’ll probably never get to see much of Troughton’s Doctor since the BBC wiped two thirds of his stories. There’s a few more Hartnell ones left though, and a number of these are available on DVD.

    Oh, and I have a terrible feeling that Sarah Jane Smith will have a zimmer frame by now…

  8. #8 Julia
    March 18, 2006

    Where do you get a region-free DVD player? (I have a friend who is a Blakes Seven fan and wants them on DVD….)

  9. #9 usagi
    March 19, 2006

    Sometimes, you go along thinking you’re on the same page with someone and suddenly the shortcomings of the false intimacy of the Internet slap you hard across the face…

    You didn’t like Brain of Morbius? Second only to Pyramids of Mars as the coolest Doctor Who ever? (And complaining about the effects in Doctor Who is sort of like complaining about the logic at an ID lecture, don’t you think?)

    One really nice thing about the hour format, not loads of filler, just the meat of the plot.

  10. #10 Orac
    March 19, 2006

    Where do you get a region-free DVD player? (I have a friend who is a Blakes Seven fan and wants them on DVD….)

    Try DVDoverseas.com.

    To get Blakes’ 7 from the U.K., try Amazon.co.uk:

    Series 1
    Series 2
    Series 3
    Series 4 (Scheduled release date: April 26, 2006)

  11. #11 Julia
    March 19, 2006

    Thanks, Orac! We knew about getting the DVDs from amazon.co.uk, but the region-free player was a sticking point.

  12. #12 Orac
    March 19, 2006

    Sadly, I don’t think that Blakes 7 will ever be released in the U.S. Too much of a cultish, niche series, and it hasn’t been on U.S. television anywhere, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, since the early 1990’s (which is when I first discovered it).

  13. #13 Jody
    March 19, 2006

    I give it 5 years, 7 tops, and Blakes will be available by broadband download from the BBC iTunes(ish) store.

    Of course it might be programmed by DRM to blow-up your computer after 20 viewings, but then, there you go.

  14. #14 usagi
    March 19, 2006

    Don’t give up hope for a Region 1 Blake’s 7. DVD is made for the release of cult shows. Plus if it’s already out, the major part of the work is done (yes, I know it needs to go from PAL to the US format, but how difficult can that be at this point).

  15. #15 Prup aka Jim Benton
    March 19, 2006

    I still worry about Sci-Fi Channel’s willingness to promote it properly. All of us remember it from the PBS rebroadcasts or the like. But the majority of SFC’s audience probably wasn’t born when the last original one was made — I ignore the 8th Doctor — and a good portion of them weren’t watching much tv when PBS stopped the re-runs. In England it was kept alive the way STAR TREK was between TOS and TNG, with about 200 books, DVDs, audios, and other WHOvia. (I think the magazine ran pretty steadily as well.) But little of this got major distribution in the states. Most of my books I got from the Brooklyn Public Library’s sale shelves.
    Will this be able to reach a new audience, given the balance between the old and new series.
    I still think SFC should have spent the week before the premiere running classic episodes.

  16. #16 Lord Runolfr
    March 21, 2006

    Umm… I like “The Horns of Nimon”, silly though it is. Does that make me a bad person?

  17. #17 Kiltreiser
    March 21, 2006

    Look out for Bad Wolf!

    (Uber-geeky but that was half the fun of the new series)

  18. #18 Orac
    March 21, 2006

    Umm… I like “The Horns of Nimon”, silly though it is. Does that make me a bad person?

    No, but it makes me wonder about your taste. ;-)

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