Horton, Here’s a Who

Tom Baker as the Doctor

Tom Baker as the Doctor

Until recently, apart from a single 1996 tv-movie I hadn’t watched Doctor Who since the 1970s, back when Tom Baker played the main role.

[Aside to readers unfamiliar with the show (there’s probably at least one): Doctor Who is a British science-fiction series that initially ran from 1963 to 1989, then suffered a lengthy hiatus (interrupted only by the aforementioned 1996 tv-movie, pilot for a failed revival) before being brought back in 2005. The eponymous protagonist, a quirky and enigmatic traveller through space and time, maintains his immortality by periodically regenerating, a process that leaves him with not only a new appearance but also, to some extent, a new personality – thus both allowing the show to survive the periodic loss of its lead actor, and allowing each new actor to put his own spin on the character (there’ve been eleven main actors so far).]

I had some reasons to watch the revived show: I’d liked the original; Steven Moffat of Coupling was now one of the writers; and Catherine Tate of The Catherine Tate Show was now one of the lead actors.

David Tennant as the Doctor

David Tennant as the Doctor

But I had reasons not to watch, too: the few times I’d spun past the new Who and seen a minute or two it hadn’t grabbed me; Tom Baker’s image was too ingrained in my mind as the Doctor for David Tennant to dislodge it easily; with three decades of continuity, plus all the recent interconnected spinoffs like Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures, it seemed like a lot to jump into and get caught up on; and with my busy schedule I tend to be wary of getting hooked on another show (I haven’t even watched Caprica yet). Plus what I primarily liked Tate for was her skill in playing a dizzying variety of characters on her own show, so seeing her play just one character wasn’t as strong a draw. So I ended up not watching it.

Recently I’d found a couple more reasons to start watching. Moffat was moving up from a writer to head writer; and a new Doctor, Matt Smith, had just been cast (thanks to a recent regeneration), which meant to some degree a new start, making it seem like a convenient time to pick up the show. (Though on the downside, Tate had left.) Still, I didn’t make a point of watching it.

But then the other day I came across the new season’s second episode, “The Beast Below,” by accident, and found it rather charming; so I hunted down the first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” and liked that too. So now I was kinda-sorta committed to watching more.

Matt Smith as the Doctor

Matt Smith as the Doctor

Then I read a bit about the show and discovered that two of the upcoming episodes, “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone,” would make more sense to me if I’d watched three earlier episodes, from the Tennant era: “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” and “Forest of the Dead” (all written by Moffat, incidentally). So I found those online and watched them – and now I’m much more hooked on the Tennant series than on the new Smith one. (This isn’t a judgment about the two actors specifically; it’s about overall story.)

However, I’m about to watch the new season’s “Victory of the Daleks,” on BBC America, so we’ll see.

12 Responses to Horton, Here’s a Who

  1. Roderick May 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    Well, I’m halfway through and not too blown away; but then I’ve always found the Daleks a bit silly as antagonists. Next week brings back the Weeping Angels from “Blink” and River Song from “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” so hopefully I’ll like that one better.

    • Roderick May 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

      That timestamp’s half an hour slow, btw.

  2. Roderick May 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Well, the Daleks themselves weren’t that interesting, but the Doctor’s personal conflict over them was a bit more so. And the mystery about the Doctor’s and Amy’s memories diverging presumably sets things up for an ongoing cosmic problem. I’ll keep watching.

  3. Miko May 5, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    (This isn’t a judgment about the two actors specifically; it’s about overall story.)

    But you should keep in mind that all of these were (as you mention) by Moffat and as such were the best stories from the Tennant era (although most all of them are worth watching).

    • Roderick May 5, 2010 at 8:14 am #

      True, but they were also better than the Moffat-scripted two first episodes of the new season. (Though last night’s still weaker Dalek episode was not Moffat.)

      • Roderick May 5, 2010 at 9:16 am #

        Exchange from “Forest of the Dead” that most reminded me of Coupling:

        — What’s that say about me?
        — Everything. … Sorry, did I say “everything”? I meant to say “nothing.” I was aiming for “nothing.” I accidentally said “everything.”

        Similar exchange from Coupling:

        — So she asked you if you had a girlfriend. What did you say?
        — I said “yes.”
        — Good, fine.
        — Of course I did. What else could I say?
        — Great.
        — I … I may have phrased it badly.
        — How badly can you phrase “yes”?
        — “No.”
        — That was quite badly phrased.
        — Okay! You know, I meant to say “yes” and I missed by one word!

  4. Black Bloke May 5, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    Another I’d highly recommend from the Davies era is, “Midnight”.

  5. Black Bloke May 5, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    OT: I think you might find this fascinating:

  6. Thomas L. Knapp May 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    They need to quit messing around and cast Henry Ian Cusick as The Doctor, for as long as he wants the role.

  7. Jesse Walker May 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    The revived Who has its ups and downs, but “Blink” is pretty clearly the high point. The only episode that comes close to being as good is “The Girl in the Fireplace,” also by Moffat.

    The best non-Moffat stories are “Love & Monsters” (a wonderful satiric story about fandom) and the two-parter that begins with “Human Nature” and ends with “The Family of Blood.”

    I think the new season has been good so far, aside from the Dalek story, but then, Dalek stories almost always suck. At least this one gave us the frisson of seeing a monster that originally represented the Nazis seeming to work on behalf of Winston Churchill. If they had stuck with that idea, they could have had an interesting story.


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