Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Am a Whatvian

Disclaimer: I have done my best to avoid any and all possible spoilers in this article. I'm not one of “those people.”

As some of you know, I recently became interested in the British science fiction series Doctor Who. At this point I've seen all of it since the 2005 revival, and I've also checked out various spin-off material and several episodes from the classic series. I know you're wondering: What made me turn away from the sane side of the internet? Well, truth is, I'm still more sane than about 95% of the internet.

Let's start with the age-old question: What is Doctor Who? It's a science fiction television series that initially aired back in November of 1963. It lasted until 1989, when it was officially canceled. There was a movie in 1996 that was meant to revive the series, but it failed. Eventually it was successfully revived in 2005, and has been going steadily ever since. Now, it's important to note, the series was not rebooted in 2005; it was revived. It's the same continuing story.

Now, how can a series go on for that long without rebooting? The main character must be old by now! Well, technically, the main character is even older than you might think, considering he's currently over 900 years old. Enter "the Doctor," a Time Lord from a planet far, far away. He's a traveler. He looks like a human, but apparently his race looked like that first. Doctor Who is the story of his adventures through time and space with whatever people he decides to bring with him along the way.

Time Lords might look like humans, but they are completely different. They have two hearts, and brilliant brains. Enough to baffle even the greatest Earth geniuses. They also don't age—or, at least, their lifespans are massive. In addition, when a Time Lord is about to die, he or she can regenerate into a brand new body. This is how the series has been able to switch actors but keep the same main character over the years. It might sound like a cheat, but it's actually pretty awesome and pulled off very well.

At the beginning of the revival series, many years have passed since the 1996 movie and the classic series. We are greeted by the Doctor in his Ninth incarnation (portrayed by Christopher Eccleston). He just recently returned from a war—the Last Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords and a great enemy—of which he is the only survivor. The Time Lords were fairly frequent throughout the classic series, but now they're all gone. Forever.

So, this is an interesting turn of events. It makes the whole story of Doctor Who a little darker, and a lot more sad; but at the same time it makes the story awesome.

Now, the only place to start watching the Doctor Who revival series (which I recommend doing over starting at the beginning of the classic series) is at the beginning of the 2005 season. At that time they had a very low budget, the CGI was pretty awful, the acting wasn't too great, but you need to get through it first, no matter how cheesy it might seem at the beginning. Believe me, it's worth it. This is the kind of series that you cannot watch out of order.

Why do I love this show, you ask? Well, for numerous reasons.

1. The Story

Doctor Who has one of the best stories of anything I've ever watched, read, or played. It's the story of a lone Time Lord traveling the universe and all of time with his companions, for no other reason than to explore. Of course, there are over-arcing stories, usually with key story points in the season finales. These are brilliant, but so are the individual episodes.

The writers of Doctor Who are some of the best writers I've encountered in my years of watching television. Logic as we know it doesn't exist in the Whoniverse, because the time-travel theories are all out of whack and so many things just don't make sense, but that's the way things work in that universe. It's not the same as our universe, and it's not even supposed to be, and that's just something you have come to grips with. Earth might exist and play an important role in that universe, but it's not our Earth. After all, the world wasn't actually invaded in 2006.

However, the fact that the Whoniverse works so very different from our universe is part of why the story is so good. The writers get to do things that people would never think of. Writing for Doctor Who allows one to let their imagination run wild, and create things so far outside the box, but things that at the same time are so very brilliant. Basically, by the time you get a few seasons into the series you'll know exactly what I mean.

2. The Characters

Doctor Who has a brilliant cast of characters. The current showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat is amazing at creating characters you will never forget, and all the characters introduced before he took over were often brilliant as well.

The Doctor is one of my absolute favorite fictional characters. If someone were to ask me my favorite action hero, I would say the Doctor in a heartbeat. While he does have a habit of saving the world time and time again (not to mention the entire universe now and then), he's not always a hero. He has great power, with all of his technology and brilliant brainpower. Being the last of the Time Lords, he is quite possibly the most important person in the universe; but with great power comes great responsibility.

A number of times, far too much power has been placed in his hands, and he doesn't always make the right choices with that power. He's flawed; he's just as human as anybody. (Though technically, he's not actually a human at all.) He faces all of the emotions, struggles, and internal battles that anyone would face in the situations he's placed. Speaking of which . . .

3. The Emotions

What goes along with the story and characters in Doctor Who is the emotions. When I said that the writers were brilliant, I neglected to mention just how much they can get under your skin. This television series is more emotional than any other I have ever watched.

Something Doctor Who is known for on occasion is devastating emotion. The kind that makes you want to find a corner and sob for a while. But the story is sooooooooo freeeaaaking gooooooood! This amount of emotion adds to the brilliance. While so many episodes have happy endings, sometimes they're not so happy. Sometimes they're bittersweet, or sad, or even downright devastating, but it makes for amazing story.

For all of the amazing episodes with Happy Happy endings, just one Sad one in every few is just as memorable as all the rest, if not more so. I apologize for using this word so much, but it's brilliant.

4. The Music

I didn't notice the music of Doctor Who really until the third season. That was when I noticed it and thought, “This is actually really, really good.” As time progressed I fell in love with the show's soundtrack, and I've purchased nearly all that have been released. I listen to the music almost every single day, and as a matter of fact, I'm listening to it as I'm typing this article.

My brother's favorite composer is Howard Shore, who is the creator of the beautiful Lord of the Rings and Hobbit scores. I agree that Shore is one of the greatest composers in the entire world, but my personal favorite is Murray Gold. He has a unique style, and it's brilliant. I've never fallen so much in love with a soundtrack that I immediately went and purchased it. That is, not until Doctor Who.

5. It's Very Clean

Doctor Who has always been partially directed at children, and that is how it can be one of the best science fiction series of all time, and also be one of the cleanest science fiction series of all time. I must emphasize, however, that being partially directed at children does not at all mean it's a “children's show.” In fact, it can be enjoyed even more by an adult than by a child. (I mean no offense to any younger kids who might read this—I mean you'll probably enjoy it even more when you're older!)

There is, however, the occasional content to which people I know may object. The creators of Doctor Who are very much for the acceptance of homosexuality, and so that comes up every now and again. It's not explicit, and if all else fails, you can just ignore it. There is one (occasionally) recurring bisexual character who would be found offensive regardless of the fact that he's bisexual. Just ignore him (even though he can be rather hilarious at times).

6. It's a Legacy

Doctor Who is coming up on fifty years this November. Fifty years! It's been around for a loooong time. It is the longest-running science fiction series in history, and it's one of the most well-known science fiction series, both for the classic and revival series.

I haven't watched a lot of the classic series, but I've really liked what I've seen. Of course it has cheesy effects and stuff—all science fiction did in the age that it was made! However, I would watch classic Who over classic Star Trek any day. For old 60s-80s science fiction, it was brilliant. Not to mention, it's the same main character that I love so much from nowadays. Unfortunately a lot of episodes of the classic series are missing from the BBC archives, so it's impossible to watch them all in order, but I've really enjoyed watching what I've seen.

Doctor Who has withstood the test of age. When there were talks of reviving the series that led up to it actually being revived in 2005, everybody was on board. Even the network was on board, which shows that British television networks are about a thousand times better than American networks, who care considerably more about money than the content they produce. What started as one simple sci-fi show in 1963 has turned into one of the greatest series in the history of the universe.

Also, because the series has been around for so long, it has built quite a lot of lore. Planets, universes, various things stretching across billions (er, trillions) of years of time, and it's constantly being expanded even more. In addition to the television series there are books, graphic novels, audio plays, and just about every kind of media out there.

So, there you have it. That is a summary of why I love Doctor Who so much. I still reject the term “Whovian,” which is used to describe fans of the series, but I will definitely say that I am a fan, and you should be too.

(Special thanks to Adam Bolander, Eli Johnson, Ashley Procko, and Taylor Bomar for your proofreading and constructive criticism!)

1 comment:

  1. Too bad you can't see all the originals; there's a charm in them. They were beneficent and yet held an undercurrent of angst, lurid undertones of a travel-weary adult who was avuncular, grasping for youthful simplicity, miffed, delightfully pleased with himself, young, immature, and whimsical. The Doctor is never one-dimensional and each reincarnation brings a different facet of his being to light. The writing was also done by some of the best talents in Britain, even though some scripts were sophomoric and predictable. They created some of the most awesome characters imaginable – who have stood the test of time. It was perhaps a better show because it lacked a big budget – can we recall ‘crowd scene’? Now they have all the tools at their command and leadership that would make JNT pleased. Keep watching, it is life-long, life-wide learning at its best! 3015/07/09 (Voyager 2 Saturn encounter).