Monday, November 7, 2011

Get In The TARDIS, Ya ‘Tardies!

Eyes on the ball, homo sapiens! Tonight I will tell you about a strange man. A mad man. In a box.

Doctor Who has been a phenomenon in the UK almost since its first broadcast in 1963. That’s right, this shit’s almost as old as television itself. It ran until 1989, with a failed 1996 TV movie filling in the gap between that and its 2005 reboot.

Over the decades, there have been nearly twice (!) as many actors playing the Doctor (11) as there have been actors playing James Bond (6).

What the shit is Doctor Who about???

The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He lives on his ship, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space – bigger on the inside), a vessel capable of space and time travel. Normally a TARDIS adapts to whatever time period it lands in, but this one got fucked up and now it’s stuck looking like a 1960s police box, aka that blue sorta phone booth you see in the picture above.* The Doctor has adventures across space and time, usually with a human friend called a Companion. Whenever a Time Lord is killed, his body regenerates and he comes out looking different. Handy in a scrape or when your main actor gets bored with the show!

Oh, and I’m gonna get this out of the way real quick: the TARDIS is a living being that is grown rather than built, and its living computer tricks people’s minds into not noticing it. Also, it sort of “preps” the time traveler for whatever environment he will end up in (ie, end up in Ancient Rome? BAM! You know Latin.)

Why would I watch this? I’ve already seen Quantum Leap!

Beautiful Scott Ba… NO WAIT uhhhh – it’s totally different, really! First of all, the places the Doctor takes his friends are slightly more off-kilter than “the last three decades of US history”. How about vampire-infested Renaissance Venice? Space Britain ruled by weird insert-a-coin fortune teller guys? A dead planet right at the edge of a black hole (the reason why it’s not falling in is too juicy and hilarious and awesome to reveal here)? A decadent luxury cruiser come to watch the end of the world? Stonehenge under Roman rule? This show’ll take you anywhere.

And I do mean anywhere! The show’s not afraid to ask some very heavy questions for what is essentially a family adventure programme. If you can go do anything, anywhere, anytime… why would you ever want to return to your normal life? Likewise, from the Doctor’s perspective, as the Tenth so aptly put it: “You’ll know me your entire life. I’m not that lucky.” At one point, he’ll have to leave you, because he’d rather not watch you die.

On a more light-hearted note, the show is incredibly inclusive. Whenever it (lightly) touches on homosexuality, it’s not preachy or LOLFAGS. That guy likes guys, and that’s it. Black people, Asians, muslims, in positions of authority or just shown as regular people (instead of OMG RESPECKFUL DEPICKSHUN OF NON-CHRISTIAN). It’s totally exemplary.

Doctor Who is essentially a show about the thrill of exploration, the beauty of knowledge, the most wonderful journey of all: self-actualisation. The Doctor took a shine to us crazy hairless monkeys, and there’s nothing he wants more than to see us fulfill our true potential.  A trickster/scientist rather than a warrior, pretty much every conflict is resolved in an imaginative and (relatively) peaceful way.

Okay, cool, brah. But damn, that’s a lotta TV to watch!

Don’t worry, Chad or perhaps Trent! There’s a pretty easy way to get into it, with a minimum of baggage.

1) Watch the first two episodes of Season 5 (2010), introducing Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.

With the information you’ve gathered in this blog, you should be well able to start this show in its fifth season. If you think it a bit strange that you’re completely able to skip four previous seasons of a show, that’s where we get to step 2.

2) If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far, go back to episode 10 of season 3 (“Blink”), followed by episodes 8 and 9 of season 4 (“Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”), a two-parter.

In these episodes, some concepts are introduced that will be somewhat central to the Matt Smith series.

3) By all means, do continue with seasons 5 and 6!

Why can’t I just start with the first season of the 2005 reboot?

Because you’ll say “What is this cheap fucking shit?” and go back to watching XTREME ANIMAL PHOBIAS. The first four seasons were shepherded by Russel T. Davies, an uneven writer to say the least. The best episodes from those first four seasons are invariably by a man named Stephen Moffat, who became showrunner starting with season 5. He also did the excellent modern day Sherlock re-imagining and Coupling aka “that British version of Friends that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to say you liked”. Seasons 1-4 have their ups and downs, but season 5 is just SO MUCH BETTER it’s kind of amazing.

Why start with season 5, jump back to those couple eps in 3 and 4, then resume 5? Why not just watch those couple episodes, then just jump into 5?

There’s not really any problem with starting with Blink, then working your way chronologically through the rest, but Matt Smith’s first episode is SUCH a killer intro to the character and the series I wouldn’t want to rob you of it.

I dunno if I wanna commit to 40 minutes on a show I’m unsure about…


Can you commit to 9 minutes then? Can you? Here’s a little standalone two-parter where the Doctor basically does Portal.



*Funny: in the Who-series of decades past, the Doctor would always be explaining sci-fi concepts like “teleportation” or “downloading” to his companions. In the reboot, he’s had to explain the relatively simple concept of “a police box” several times already.

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