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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Love Who

I grew up watching Doctor Who. PBS showed half hour installments at 4:30 every weeknight, right before dinner, and the entire 2 - 2 1/2 hour episode at 10 PM Friday nights. I wasn't allowed up past 10 except for special occasions, so I rarely saw an entire episode at once.

Here's the premise: a nearly immortal alien called a Time Lord (his race is Gallifreyan although not all of them are Time Lords) hijacks a time machine and wanders about the galaxy meddling in stuff his people won't touch and basically saving bits of this and other universes in every episode. He has a special fondness for humans and tends to hang around them a lot, usually hosting one or two as companions on his travels.

Time Lords look human but they aren't. They have two hearts, some telepathic ability and instead of dying, they regenerate into new bodies with their old memories, more or less. This is the truly brilliant idea of the writers, because it allows them to change actors without the audience crying "foul!" Need a new Doctor? Easy. Severely damage the old one, and he'll regenerate into somebody else. The Doctor gets to be the tragic hero, and the writers have a whole new actor to abuse.

Doctor Number Four was who I started watching (Tom Baker for the real fans). Most folks would recognize him if they saw him, even though they might not know who he is. Floppy hat, big nose, buggy eyes, exceptionally long scarf looped around his neck three or four times - yeah, him. That's Doctor Who.

He doesn't always look like that.

I've watched John Pertwee (#3), Peter Davis (#5) and Colin Baker (#6). They did cast a Doctor #7, but I saw him in two episodes and he was so awful I prefer to gloss over him entirely. It would seem the BBC felt the same way because they ended the show with him.

I should pause to say there was an oh-so-terrible-made-for-US-TV-movie however long ago starring Paul Gant and Eric Richards, but they messed with the story line, made the Doctor half-human (ridiculous!) and actually tried to introduce a love interest. I scoff at their pitiful efforts.

Then in 2005 the BBC resurrected the Doctor. They thankfully forgot about Doctors 7 and 8 and moved on with Christopher Eccleston as the unnumbered Doctor of now. Originally, Time Lords were allowed 13 regenerations. This limitation hasn't come up yet, and I'm willing to leave it alone. The Master survived far longer than that...though, to be fair, he was an evil Time Lord.

PBS actually ran the first 13 episodes of the new Doctor Who, so I was able to see and covet. Then funding stopped (I won't complain; I don't support PBS' liberal agenda) and so did my access to the new Doctor Who.

Thanks to Elder Brother - will I ever stop being thankful to him? - I have the next installment.

I adore Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. He's just the right mix of goofy intensity with an occasional unprecedented hardness to him, no doubt brought about by the total destruction of the rest of the Time Lords by the Daleks. I love him, naturally. I love all the Doctors (except 7).

But David Tennant's storyline brings a bittersweetness to the Doctor I find irresistible. It is the same bittersweetness that caught my attention in the first season of Monk. The awareness of mortality and loss. You know, the things that make being human seem horrible and being not-human seem better.
I've watched 5 episodes now, and I can't help but feel it's preparing me for something I'm not going to like. The exit of Rose the human companion, for example.

You see, the Doctor changes companions more easily than he changes bodies. To my knowledge, only one companion has ever died while in the Doctor's company (that was Adric and Doctor #5) but companions do get returned home (Sarah Jane Smith and Tegan), left on other planets (Nissa, Leela and Peri) or occasionally shuttled off to other dimensions (K-9 and Romana, the only other Time Lord to travel with the Doctor for a time).

I will miss Rose. She's a fiesty little gal and I hope she ends well.

I hope the Doctor never ends.

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