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Welcome to the Whoniverse: A Introduction to Doctor Who
Guess who’s back…and I brought a friend
All I’ve brought with me is my latest obsession: Doctor Who.
I say latest even though this started at the beginning of my current school year. I haven’t been this involved with a TV show since I discovered the X-Files (FYI - they’re continuing the series via comic books starting from the last movie, to hopefully start coming out in June). For something that was originally toted as a children’s show, it’s very smart. It’s like Harry Potter, something that may have originally been geared towards kids, but can be enjoyed by all. Between this and Sherlock, my BBC compulsion is increasing.
Now, before I get set upon by daleks, I started with nuWho, the 2005 revival of the show, so Christopher Eccelstein was my first Doctor. I do plan on going back to the beginning, and I would join in on the marathons on BBC America, except I don’t have cable. So I have to get access to the show through other venues. And of course with this being the 50th anniversary year since the shows debut, there’s a lot of media dedicated to the milestone, and a lot of people just discovering the show because of it.
Before I get asked, I don’t have a favorite Doctor. I stopped favoring one over another, and just appreciate the talent of each of the actors who became the faces and voices of this particular Time Lord. To quote the Brigadier, “Splendid chaps, all of you.” Because the Doctor is always the same man, no matter what face he wears.
For those coming to the show for the first time, there are various YouTube videos that act as trailers to the show, spanning its entire history, and I’ll include them at the end. Also check out Craig Ferguson’s skit on the show.
As an introduction, you can start with either the classic show or the new continuation. It’s entirely up to you. I started with the new show, and enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to going back to the old episodes. A particular staple of the new show is that most of the people, who are dedicated to creating the show, were fans of the show as children. Current show-runner Steven Moffat tried to submit scripts for the show at 7 years old. So basically, the inmates are running the asylum.
I should probably introduce the show, give the option of looking further or ignoring me.
Basically, there is an alien, a Time Lord called the Doctor, who has a time traveling spaceship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). At the beginning of the new show, the Doctor is 900(?) years old, and is the last of the Time Lords, having survived a Time War that spans all of time and creation, against an alien race called the Daleks, who hate and destroy anything that isn’t a Dalek. He often finds himself on Earth, intervening to correct the history of the human race. Also he is known to take human companions with him in his travels. For the Doctor, violence is a last resort, usually out-thinking and out-talking his opponents, but often the outcome he is faced with is the lesser of two evils, to minimize the destruction that he finds himself surrounded by.
During his travels he occasionally comes upon some catastrophic event that leaves him near death. Because of his biology, he is able to cheat death by regenerating, in which his cellular TNA is rewritten, and his appearance changes, with new attributes, while retaining his memories. Due to this genetic quirk, as the Doctor gets older, the younger his regeneration appears to be.
This is where come upon the Doctor at the beginning of the reboot of the show, recently off of his regeneration into his ninth body, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. The Ninth Doctor is the soldier returned from war, battled scarred and bitter when he meets his soon-to-be companion, Rose Tyler. Over the course of the first season (or series for the UK), we are given glimpses into the psyche of the Doctor so soon after the Time War. He is sarcastic with a biting wit, yet charming in his child-like glee at exploring the universe, partly due to his friendship with Rose. Along the way they pick up Captain Jack Harkness, former Time Agent from the 51st Century, who flirts with everything that moves, regardless of gender or species. In the final confrontation in the finale, the Doctor, in order to save the life of one of his companions, is forced to regenerate again.
Enter David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, who seems more joyful and manic, but demonstrates that he is as always the same man. With the fate of two worlds in his hands, his companion Rose is lost to him, trapped in another world with no way back, for now. Medical student Martha Jones proves herself to be smart, courageous, and determined, and just what the Doctor needs in a crisis on the Moon. After a run-in with the Doctor’s fellow Time Lord foe, the Master, Martha departs to rebuild her life. Donna Noble returns, having made a brief appearance after Rose’s disappearance and before Martha’s arrival, searching for the Doctor, and unknowingly meeting another companion, and proves to be the most important woman in all of creation. A final visit from the Master and the Tenth Doctor confronts the regeneration he has been foretold about in a previous adventure. In the early days of the Tenth Doctor, classic companion Sarah Jane Smith returns, bookending again near the end, having gotten her own spin-off after her first visit to the new regime.
Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor has been described by Steven Moffat as “a young man created from an old man’s memory”. He is clumsy, rambles and abrupt, and doesn’t always seem coherent, but this is a façade to hide the true danger to those that cross him. Amelia Pond is the first person he meets in this new body and travels with him for one of the longest durations for a companion, along with her husband Rory, to the point where he is an established family member until the Ponds’ being swept off to a point in time that the Doctor can’t reach them. Doctor River Song, introduced in the days of the Tenth Doctor, with her death, has distorted temporal relationship with the Doctor, and her history is integral part of the background plots for two years. Whether we will see her again in the new series at this point is unknown. We are, however, fascinated with the newest companion, Clara Oswald, who the Doctor has met twice before, and she has died both times. What her story will be is yet to come.
Thus far only David Tennant and Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) have been confirmed to be returning for the 50th anniversary special, with Christopher Eccleston confirming he is not returning. Any and all others are as yet unknown, and unless there is yet another slip up of information leaking, we will just have to tune in for the 90 minute episode in November. And so I depart for parts unknown, searching for the Doctor, or a vortex manipulator to occupy my time, for I have an awful lot of running to do.