*Spoilers up to episode 6×04*
I blame Tallulah for bringing Dr Who into my life, but I am deeply thankful to her for doing so. Because I feel that I have to write about everything that interests me, I thought it high time for a Dr Who post.
Let’s get the problems out the way. Every series has them, and they are less harmful than one would think. Dr Who doesn’t need me to defend it (there’s an army of fans stretching over the 43 years the show has been running who can do that) and the show’s many positive aspects far outweigh the negatives.
One of the little things that grates me is the constant reuse of enemies, to the point where the Daleks are like endless boomerangs. I dig them, but only because they are dreadfully silly and as about as intimidating as a kitten with a carapace. (Although they really are ugly on the inside and make me want to burn them with holy fire.) I know a show that is as long-running as this will reuse enemies, and that’s fine. It worked for Batman and Alan Shore. But come on, Daleks three times a season? The reason why Blink struck such a chord with the fanbase is that it was a genuinely terrifying new enemy, one that very human, very vulnrable Sally Sparrow went up against. It was new and fresh and mad. The same goes for the Empty Child episodes and the Silence, a deeply terrifying enemy. See what happens when there are new monsters? It brings a new challenge to the show, a new challenge for the Doctor. In a massive universe, how come the same fifteen enemies keep showing up? Thankfully, Moffat seems more enamored of new, terrifying creatures instead of doing the fanservice thing with Daleks and Cybermen.
Anything else I have to say beyond this point is subjective, and I have only watched some of the episodes twice when re-watching them with Graham. I haven’t seen the episodes before the 9th Doctor, and I cannot pretend to integrate that knowledge with what I have now. And people are entitled to an opinion as long as they can defend it, so here’s mine about what I love about the show, and what I find particularly interesting. I so rarely have anything like fan-gushing because I haven’t been in love with many series. At the moment my top five series are (in no order) Boston Legal, Community, Dr Who, Dragonball Z and Blackadder. And I had to think hard to round out that list.
Right, to the companions first. The companion is, ostensibly, to be the audience stand-in, the normal to the Doctor’s brilliance. So each companion, and why people love/hate the companion, has less to do with the actual character than the audience to an extent. Personally I find the Doctor interesting and relatable enough to not need a companion. Anyone can relate to being lonely and weird, we don’t need a pair-of-pants companion for that. But if I had to choose which companion I liked the most, it has to be Martha with Rory as a very close second. And I hated Rory until he came back, the boy who waited two thousand years. Martha because she learns from the Doctor and walks out with her life intact. Martha, because she walked the planet alone and was never suicidally idiotic. She’s smart and tough and survives the Doctor better than Rose or Donna did. I admire her for being brave enough to leave the Tardis, for having the clarity of mind to not hang her whole life on waiting for the Doctor. Its not fair on the Doctor to have to love someone in return just to make them happy, so perhaps she did more for him than the others.
Ah, Rose, what so many call The Wesley. Adored by Doctors 9 and 10 and thankfully mostly unnoticed by the 11th, she was awesome for me until the other companions came along. In retrospect she was still good, but I agree with the TV Tropes page: she is a Wesley. Everyone loves and adores her and it goes over my head. Like Martha says, “of course she was blond!” and I think she awesomely expresses the frustration that some of us feel. Rose was more interesting without the Doctor but she still whined a lot and wandered off a lot and still gets mentioned in the two seasons after she leaves because she was, liek, the bestest ever. Perhaps some of the resentment with River comes from those who see 10 and Rose as The One True Pairing. River, however, can make a Dalek beg for mercy. That makes her way more awesome.
(Is she a companion? Jury’s out on that one.)
Donna was great, but I think she came into her own a bit later. There was some quick character adjustment after the Runaway Bride episode, and I admire her refusal to let 10 have the last word sometimes. Her departure was very sad, especially since she wanted to travel with the Doctor forever. She also had baggage and a horrific shrieking mother (why are all the mothers so awful?) that so many could relate to and she was determined and kind. I was fond of her, and I really do feel sorry for her for all she’s lost. On a sidenote, her father is a great character even if he does kind of Ruin Everything.
Amy. Oh, Amy. Poor badly-dressed Amy. Why does the wardrobe person dress her like a fifteen-year-old trying to sneak into an over-18 club? She is so beautiful, and does not need to always wear bloody mini-skirts regardless of the weather or the location. And she is growing on me, but Rory is actually much more interesting. He’s a nurse and cares for complete strangers and waited for her. She’s starting to become dedicated to him, but its sad to see him work so hard for her and be so in love and she ran away on their wedding night.
I’ve only seen three Doctors so far, and will come back and edit this post once I have seen some of the older stuff. For now, I have to admit that each Doctor was very, very good in the role. Its hard to pick a favourite when they each bring something different to the role. The 9th Doctor was lonely but still found the earth and humans exciting and worth defending. All the Doctors are mad, but each of them differently so. Its difficult to pinpoint how exactly, but there you go.
The 9th said that sometimes there aren’t clear and easy choices, and sometimes someone has to make the shitty moral decision. (I can’t remember which episode, and the Wikiquote article does not help.) That is something that the Timelords do that I have found far more interesting than I think the show explores. If the Timelords really are ultra-powerful and able to decide wars and the fate of races, then there must be times when someone has to do the difficult thing. Its easy to eliminate the Daleks since they are pretty much metal Nazis obsessed with racial purity. (Exterminaten!) But if there are other races that are running around and killing everything from puppies to geriatrics but aren’t clear-cut evil, then who steps in and deals with it? If it is to be the Doctor, then why is he the villain if he doesn’t save/fix the bad guy as well?
Apparently the 11th Doctor is controversial because he’s a bit less “I must save them all!” than the Doctor before him. I haven’t found anything about the new episodes that clashes with my understanding about the show, but then again I’m not a puritan. I thought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was better for the addition of martial arts because while it was a bit flashier, the fundamental point and themes were still there. A show must grow and change and offer new things and a show as long as Dr Who will throttle itself if each Doctor doesn’t do something new. I loved 10, because he was a romantic and beautiful and had great suits. (The trainers still grate me though. Did not do adequate justice to his magnificent coat.) David Tennant is theatre-trained, which is why his face is so massively expressive. Sometimes it bordered on melodrama because what is good for the stage isn’t always good for the television. Matt Smith is a bit subtler than the other two and feels a lot lonelier than 9 and 10, especially in the 5th Christmas Special. I just wish his pants were a bit longer, looks like he stole them from someone shorter. But when he said that the bowtie was cool because he liked it, I had to adore him for it. The Doctor has never really cared what anyone thought for his eccentricities and that’s something I admire. As someone who does dress a bit funny and would rather travel than be rich, I love the Doctor. Its why I feel he doesn’t actually need a companion at all. I know the companions keep him in line, but its also a bit condescending to suggest that he hasn’t been able to look after himself unless there was a human around. What about the 850 years without a human?
So far, each Doctor has been equally good though I am terribly fond of David Tennant because he is handsome and dashing and that smile is enough to melt a few pairs of panties. And the 11th Doctor is sexy in his bad-ass genius and his wisdom and loneliness. The 9th Doctor made me feel proud to be a human because he just enjoyed Earth so much and watching humankind grow. And the manic grin, as Graham pointed out, is reminiscent of a great Sensei of mine.
I love the show for all it is, because it is one of the few shows that has meaningful female characters (and before Amy, no gratuitous boobage) and great dialogue, vast ideas and wonderful settings. The Doctor is one of the most interesting and complicated characters in television, a delight for anyone who wants depth and challenge in their viewing. There are nightmare creatures, such as faceless people, scarecrows, the gas-mask people, the Angels, the Autons.
It takes more than just the Doctor to make a memorable show: if the show had a bad writer and crew, it would have become godawful, scenery-chewing melodrama with bad props. It takes so much work for a show to be and look so good, and I wish I could thank the people who make it all possible. I am going to buy all the box sets, and if the merch was more affordable and available here, then please believe me I would have that Tardis Cookie Jar.
Well, that’s just a skimming of the surface of my Who-thoughts, and I know that there are thousands of people who will disagree with me and call me a blasphemer etc etc. But that’s one of the exciting things about Dr Who: it has a dedicated fanbase for very good reasons. It inspires fandom just because there is so much to enjoy and sink one’s teeth into. I’ve thought a few times that the different worlds would serve a sociology paper quite well.
Dr Who is more than a show: its an institution and a friend, and I am glad that the blue box has charged into my life. I know it will be around for a very, very long time.
…unless the Angels get hold of it again.