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Not Your Grandmother’s Doctor Who

Friday, October 6, 2006
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doctor-who1.jpg

“Change my dear, and not a moment too soon”
Colin Baker as Doctor Who Number Six

On October 9, CBC will be airing the first episode of the second series of my favourite television show: Doctor Who.

Now let me say straight-off, nothing can ever re-capture the magic of the ‘classic’ series (1963-1989) in all its cheesy glory, but the new series (2005-?) serves as a perfect companion. It beautifully walks that fine line between appealing to core fans, and attracting newcomers, without kowtowing to either. For example, instead of casting an older, more typically ‘Doctorish’-like looking actor, they chose Christopher Eccleston, an actor with tremendous range, but most well-known as the crazy roommate in Shallow Grave and the megalomaniac captain in 28 Days Later. I thought it was an inspired choice, and I wasn’t disappointed. Eccleston managed to capture the eccentricities of the character while at the same time managing to make the Doctor hip and dangerous.

Of course, he was aided tremendously by an extraordinary team of writers assembled by head writer/producer Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, among others). Steven Moffat of Coupling fame provided an absolutely amazing two-part episode and Mark Gatiss, a script editor for Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen, Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman also contributed some brilliant moments. Davies wrote the bulk of episodes, not all entirely successful, but not as bad as some fans have labelled them. I do agree though that Davies’ strengths lie more in his overall structure of the plot arcs and his vision for the show, rather then his actual scripting.

Billie Piper as Rose

As well, part of the show’s success should go to Billie Piper, as the Doctor’s travelling companion, Rose. She is quite different from most Doctor Who ‘girls’, some of whom (but certainly not all) were forced to parade around the galaxy in skimpy outfits and high-heel shoes. Fortunately, Piper gets to wear normal clothes, and her on-screen persona is refreshingly natural. Davies wisely chose to make the focus of much of the show about Rose, while the Doctor’s character is divulged in bits and pieces.

And I can’t resist mentioning the return of the Daleks. They terrified the crap out of me as a child, when I watched the program on TVO. But as I got older, the terror of the Daleks waned. However, new, computer-generated Daleks, with lasers and explosives and the ability to fly and think tactically, makes them thrilling to watch once more. Robert Shearman’s episode, economically titled Dalek, is a joy to behold.

EXTERMINATE!

Monday on CBC however, while you’ll be watching Piper return as Rose, you won’t be watching Christopher Eccleston. Nope, you’ll be watching David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, the second youngest actor to take on the role. Tennant is perhaps best known in North America for his role in Harry Potter 4, and Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things. His resume is however, long and varied, despite his youth. I can’t say for sure whether he makes a good Doctor, but his introductory episode, aired last Christmas on CBC, showed a lot of promise, and I’m sure he’s going to make the show just as exciting as Eccleston did. And apparently Tennant is in for the long haul, unlike Eccleston, who chose to leave after just 13 episodes (but who can blame him – he seems like the kind of actor that wouldn’t be very happy playing the same role for years on end).

So I, like my fellow Canadian Who-nerds are pumped for 13 brand-spanking new episodes of Doctor Who, plus a Christmas special coming in December. And while some die-hard fans may resent the changes Davies has made to the show (there’s a bit more sex, a few more pop-culture references), personally I think he’s done a great job. The very nature of the show demands change, it’s one of the few television show concepts that can run forever if it adapts and changes along the way. Its canvass is pretty much…well…anything and everything.

Doctor Who is dead – long live Doctor Who! llewopemearg

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, October 6, 2006 9:53 pm

    You’re only just about to see the first episode of “Series” (damn Brits) 2? Pff. I finished “Series” 2 several months ago.

    Though my experience with the old Doctors is mostly periphery (me Mum was a fan, eh guv’na), I can confirm that the new Doctor Who is damn fine (and can assuage you that David Tennant is a good Doctor). There’s a two-parter from the Eccelston “series” (The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances) that is some of the best science fiction I’ve seen on TV.

    So, in conclusion: graeme is correct. Good for you, graeme. Enjoy “Series” 2, and if you want to know exactly what happens months before you’ll see it, just ask Beal.

  2. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, October 10, 2006 2:25 pm

    I still think Eccelson screwed everybody by purposely taking on the role for only one season, thereby ‘wasting’ a regeneration.

    There’s only, what, two or three more to go now? They should have got someone who was going to stick around, either Tennant right off the bad, or Anthony Stewart Head, who would be awesome.

  3. Tuesday, October 10, 2006 2:48 pm

    Oh, they’ll get around it somehow. The Master (the Doctor’s arch-nemisis) was able to live past his 12 regenerations (though with some ugly side effects). They’ll do some crazy sci-fi explanation when the time comes. (though I doubt that they’d keep continuity from the original show, which portrayed the Doctor’s last regeneration as evil…)

    As for Anthony Stewart Head, he’s actually in an episode this season, as a baddie (haven’t seen it yet. Though yes, he would make a good Doctor, or a good Master, even.

  4. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, October 11, 2006 2:26 pm

    Yeah — better Master than Doctor for the ‘ole Head, I imagine.

  5. Thursday, October 12, 2006 7:58 am

    Only twelve regenerations? I’m so “wholess”…

    Now, that means they get their original form, plus 12 new ones?

  6. Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:55 am

    Yeah, 12 regenerations, so I guess that would mean 13 bodies. We’re on number 10 right now.

    Three ‘series’ seems to be the average length of time an actor stays on board – though the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann got shafted as he was only in the Fox tv movie in 1996 (though he’s been continuing to play the Doctor in a series of exceptional audio dramas for BBC radio). Tom Baker is the current reigning champion in terms of years, at seven ‘series’. So I hope Tennant stays for at least three.

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