I want you to know that I Goolged that title before I slapped it down, and I want you to know that I’m the first person to use that bit of wordplay.
Which should also make you worry about what you’re getting into here.
Not in the least because what follows is a bunch of rambling head poking.
Or, as I just told L, this is me rolling Doctor Who around in my brain like you’d roll a fine whiskey around your tongue. Savoring it, examining it. Thinking on why it is Good.
So. Doctor Who.
A cultural vein in the United Kingdom that runs deeper than Gundam to the Japanese, and miles deeper than anything else that we’ve got in the States. And that’s not hyperbole. The show’s been on and off, but mostly on, for the last half a century. Close to a dozen actors have portrayed the main character, all of them giving it a unique tweak. I’ve only come in on all of it since the last reboot, and I’m intentionally ignoring all of the bits that came before the 2005 relaunch by Russel T Davies.
For those that have no idea who (hah) or what Doctor Who is, here’s a quick primer:
Doctor Who is a show about an alien that travels about in space and time. He does so by means of a space ship called a Tardis. Both he and the Tardis are the last of their kinds. For some odd reason he spends a lot of time around Earth picking up companions. These companions are female and meant to be the familiar, human part of the show to the Doctor’s over the top curiosity and ancient, knowing wisdom. Danger and adventure, of course, always seem to find them. The Doctor regenerates when he “dies”, coming back with a new face and a new personality. It’s a brilliant trick that keeps the show going.
That’s the ground work of it, at least.
When Davies picked up the show in the early 2000s, he was working with damaged goods. There had been lots of attempts to revive the Doctor, problem was by the end of its last television run in the 1980s, the show was a joke. Which was actually a blessing for Davies. Instead of some curly headed, half-queer fop with a scarf, he cast Christopher Eccleston. Thickly accented, his hair cropped close to his scalp, sporting a leather jacket, dark jeans and v-neck sweater, Eccleston was something completely different in the universe of Doctor Who.
To match the different look, Davies had a new story to tell. No longer was the Doctor the overly-involved-in-the-dealings-of-lesser-being renegade from this people, the Time Lords, but instead he was the last of them – and the one responsible for their complete annihilation. Some where in the gray between the last time the Doctor was on broadcast television, the great war, the Time War, between his people and the Daleks came to a climactic close. It ended with the Doctor deciding in order to save all of time, he had to sacrifice the Time Lords to destroy the Daleks.
Mind you, Davies is too good to come out and say this all at once. Bits come out, dripping slowly, like out of a leaky faucet. Moments where the Doctor will make a quick reference to having a family, to knowing what it is like to lose a grandchild, to being suddenly all alone. This story ideas are perfectly matched by Eccleston’s thousand yard stare. At a moment’s notice, he can drop the lively curiosity of the Doctor and give this look, this look of pure emptiness. Vacant and filled with ash. At first I wasn’t sold on the show. It’s production was very…English. Everything was shot on grainy video, and the visuals were very low rent. But there was something that went screaming through the back of my head the first time Eccleston had one of his thousand yard stare moments.
It is hard to explain. Eccleston and Davies gave you the feeling of Something More. That great nebulous Thing that would swim past you, not touching you, but making the world shudder just enough to let you know it was there. Dollhouse had the same thing, but not this perfectly executed.
And if any of you know me, you’ll know I’m a sucker for Something More.
In a matter of mere weeks, my girlfriend and I tore through five years of Doctor Who. We watched our beloved Eccleston regenerate into some skinny little stick named Tennant. We watched companions change once, then change again. We found ourselves unsure of each new person, but, in a true testament to the writing staff of Who, we found ourselves in love with them and crying for more by the time their curtain call had come.
But, that’s about the show. I want to talk about the Something More.
You see, the Doctor is a metaphor for exploration and new and wonder. His companion is a human being guided along by a modern demi-god. The companion is our proxy, loving every second of it, even when they are moments from death, be it theirs or everyone’s. But, the cool thing about Davies was that he brought a real since of gravity to that danger. That was the Something More of his Doctor Who.
Making the Doctor responsible for the destruction of his people and the Daleks was the best idea Davies had. In the same stroke of a pen, he made him into a genocidal killer, and the savior of all of time. The blood of his people, his wife, his children and grandchildren are all on his hands. But, he’s still out there, gaily skipping about space and time getting into scrapes just to show he’s smarter than everyone else.
This is what really got me interested. You see, I figure the Doctor is the world’s bravest coward. He keeps doing all of these crazy adventurous things hoping that one of them will be his end. Sure, he does want to help people, but more than that, he wants the pain to stop.
Really, the Something More of Davies’ Doctor Who is that if you turn over the character that is the Doctor, you’ll find this bloody, charred mess on the flip-side. One side is all magic and awe at the universe, the other is death and suffering. It is a beautiful dichotomy that is handled perfectly by Davies and his crew.
L and I are working on getting to know the new Doctor, but we’re not hopeful. This is a much cleaner Doctor, and the show appears to be more about his potential future than his past. Which is a smart corner to turn, but it leaves the Something More that I loved so much in the dust.
I guess only time will tell, won’t it?
Oh, and the impetus for all of this?
L sent me this earlier today. She’s doing a whole series of posters for season 1.