I have begun watching the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. It is wildly popular with my friends and, of course, worldwide. I was convinced to watch, not just because I felt I was missing out on cultural inside-jokes, but because when so many people whom I like and admire all start talking so positively and so passionately about one thing, well, that means it is probably pretty good. So, to sort of locate myself within this discussion, a little about me: I am a non sci-fi person, so the genre is not a natural fit. I started watching mid-December 2013, so 8 years after the new Doctor Who aired, and 50 after the original. I am an anglophile who was raised on Masterpiece Theatre and lived in London for 6 months in 2003, so the British aspect has appeal. So, while the potential for me to like this show was there, it was sort of unlikely.
The main factor that made me resistant to watching in the first place is that I am a non sci-fi person. I do not like Star Wars, Star Trek, or other classic sci-fi programs (and I have tried a couple of others that I have been told I would love and, well, I didn't) and the fact Doctor Who is about aliens and space travel and all of that is what kept me from watching it in the first place. So, even though people said I would like it and I should try it I did not want to be that person, again. The one who rains on the parade. I assumed that it was simply a genre thing, and I said I just didn't like things set in space. But, really, there is a sort of genre cheesiness and style that some sci-fi viewers will put up with that I just can't do. To me (and I know this is blasphemy) Star Wars and Star Trek are often not constructed well as art. And the acting and writing, well, not the level I was looking for.
So, for a second here, I am going to sound like a pretentious ass, and that's okay with me, but for only about 3 seconds, then I am far more likely to switch to fangirl gushing. There is an aspect of expectation that as a viewer who is a trained literary critic and the fact that I have academic degrees in the humanities, I value the quality of a show more than any other aspect--this means I do not suffer bad writing, I need good-to-decent acting, good dialogue, and the characters have got to be likable and developed (or developing), I want the cinematography to be lovely or at least interesting, and most of all, I want fantastic stories. I am making an assumption that many of my friends who love some of the sci-fi stuff that I don't love grew up watching those shows and may have an emotional attachment that allows them to defend some of the technical aspects that I just can't forgive (like the horrible costumes). Maybe, if I had watched more sci-fi as a child, I'd have a better understanding of how camp and cheese is a good thing. Maybe. On the other had, any time you try to figure out why someone else likes something that you don't, you just end up making weird assumptions and sound like an idiot, so enough of that. Anyway, I was more than pleasantly surprised that Doctor Who delivered beyond my wildest expectations for most of these things, and manages to make camp and cheese seem more like whimsy and charm.
I have so much to say that I think the best approach is to respond generally and then move on to specifics. I will likely write about this a lot as I am pretty interested right now (although that is what I said about Jane Austen and THAT didn't happen. Ah intentions...wait, don't get distracted! Focus). Today, let me lay out the topics that are interesting to me.
1. Context. I am sort of fascinated by the idea of coming late to such an active cultural phenomenon. As I said before. I am at least 8-years late (maybe 50 depending on the math). This means that while I am still struggling about whether I love 9th or 10th doctor more, the rest of the world is mourning the 11th and preparing to welcome the 12th. While I am just learning about the Tardis, and wondering whether or not 10th Doctor had sex with Rose, the rest of the world is wearing t-shirts about a 50th anniversary. This idea of watching a show about the relative dynamics of space and time in the *wrong* time fascinates me. I am like Harriet Jones, holding up my Doctor Who Analysis and offering insights, and the rest of the world is responding, We KNOW already.
2. Netflix Vs. Real Time (BBC America). Another aspect of how I am watching this show is one that I have been talking about with another friend who is watching on about the same pace as I am. She and I started at about the same time and while I am a bit ahead (for now). We are both "binge-watching" or what I have been told is actually called "netflixing" which is when you watch whole series of television programs in a very short amount of time. I am not sure of the exact date I started watching, but it was not more than three weeks ago. Tops. In that time I watched four seasons, and season 1 and 2 twice. That is roughly 120 hours of TV in three weeks. And while I know I could never keep that pace for long, because life, it has possibly made for a unique viewing experience. One thing my friend and I had been discussing is just how emotionally we were responding to the show and wondering if everyone felt this way when they watched or if it was unique to the binge-experience. Something, that I am not sure how we would really find out. The main question being, that if you watch without time between to distract you or to mellow out the emotional response are you, in effect, multiplying the experience by condensing it?
3. Emotional/Personal Response. This show is killing me. I literally (and I mean this is the old-fashioned sense of the word) have to take breaks. The sheer amount of personal loss and devastation about losing characters (or about their personal plot developments) is over whelming. Areas that were particularly hard are the personal relationship between Rose and the 9th and 10th Doctor, and the one they call tentoo (which I won't say too much about because I don't think Brandi has gotten there yet). The way S4 ends. The relationship between Donna and her family. The issue raised by the character of Donna about how you can be this amazing person but just won't be *successful* in the world because your skill set doesn't translate in a career. And again, I have more to say, but I'll wait until I am sure Brandi is caught up...The other two areas that have been so emotional for me are about loneliness, the theme of regeneration and change, and the sheer amount of Carpe Diem mythology.
4. Characters. Of course there are four sort of characters. The Doctor (for me, I've only seen two Eccelston and Tennant). The Companions, Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Sarah-Jane, and I guess you'd have to throw Astrid in there too. The villains, Daleks, Cybermen, Henry Saxon... and of course more, and then what I am calling The Rest Jackie, Martha's family (which I can never remember their names) Sylvia, Wilfrid, and more. I started the show already liking Eccelston, and sort of not liking Tennant (I don't know why, something about Hamlet and all the press maybe). So, there is much to be said here.
5. Individual episodes. By far and away I like two kinds of episodes the best the "Rose/Doctor" episodes, those that focus on Rose and the doctor's relationship, and those written by Steven Moffat (which I guess means I am in luck because after S4 that is ALL of them). The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is still my favorite, then Blink. I also find this interesting, because he never writes about Rose. I don't think he likes her as much as I do :( I also prefer episodes where they travel back in time the best, then the one's in present day, and those in the future the least (prolly my own non-sci-fiction bias). I love the ones with literary connections (Dickens, Shakespeare, etc) a lot too.
Whew this is getting lOOOOOOng. So, I'll just start listing.
The role of guns, violence, and free-will. The idea of actively participating in history and people's lives (the idea of "fixed" and "flux" points in time). Gender (can the doctor ever be female?). How much hotter Tennant is in 2009 than 2005. And it isn't perspective, he just *gets hotter*...And more, much, much more.
I will close this first discussion by saying. I am surprised by just how much I do love this show. I also know that it has to be about timing. I know I would not have liked it this much in 2005. I was reading a forum on IMDB where someone who started watching around the same time that I did started a discussion in which they asked "When does this get good?" People were giving advice like, "skip to the Tennant years" or "don't give up, it gets better." My response: For me, it got good in the first 9 seconds...so, if you are forcing yourself to watch it, then MAYBE, it will never get good, maybe you just don't like it. At least not today.
What about you? What do you think? Please... discuss!
While the Sun Shines
2 years ago