It’s Day 9 of the 30 day Geekgasm. The prompt is a classic TV show, and you had to see this coming. Doctor Who. I get this odd sense of elation every time I write it down. Doctor Who. Ope, there it is again. I can foresee this being a long post. Do stick around.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen Doctor Who, I will void my usual instruction (leave) and ask that you stick around to see what all this fuss is about. Yeah? Yeah.
Okay. Now, I know that one does not simply say what Doctor Who is about. But I think we can all come to the consensus that it’s more than just a madman in a box. It’s about everything. Adventure and love and loss and fun and, perhaps most importantly, running. And, you know, time travel. As we say here in the land of the Whovians, wibbly wobbly, timey wimey…stuff.
I couldn’t not finish that quote.
For a quick crash course: The show follows an alien called the Doctor who travels through space and time in a time machine called the TARDIS which is shaped like a police box. At the start of the show (50 years ago) the Doctor was 200 years old and had just stolen the TARDIS with his granddaughter (the first companion) to explore the universe and help people. Currently, he’s more than 1100 years old and has had a ton of companions and eleven incarnations. By that, I mean when he’s about to die his body kind of resets itself and he gets a new everything. This is called regeneration. Regeneration is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing in the world to watch.
The thing that has always made the show brilliant is it’s use of exposition in the face of an initially poor production quality. You really care about the characters. Each Doctor, each companion, they all mean something different to different people. Prepare yourself for cheese, but to be perfectly honest to me they mean everything. Doctor Who is one of the only things that makes me truly happy. It makes me feel, and that’s one of the best things a show or movie or book could do for me.
Let us take the time to go through a few things that make the show great.
I had to mention this before i really went into this. Most of the stories in the show are just brilliant. There are hinted season wide story arcs, stories within episode that manage to mix bursts of uncontrollable laughing and crying in 45 minutes, and generally unique and well thought out ideas. It would take me so long to describe just one of these stories it would take over this whole post due to my entirely unchecked enthusiasm.
Doctor Who villains are notoriously ridiculous or strange. Or both. Mostly both. I had a hard time picking which ones to put in here, so before I go into that, some honorable mentions: Cybermen (They’re here to upgrade you) and Vashta Nerada (Count the Shadows).
A running villain through Eleven’s run, the Silence was an organization hell bent on killing the Doctor before he could reveal his name and cause the destruction of the universe. These guys were the core members. What made them cool (other than the impeccable fashion sense) was the fact that you could only remember them if you could see them. The moment you couldn’t see them, they were erased from your memory. This caused for a lot of trippy instances and fun with markers.
The Weeping Angels
Basically, if you’re looking at them they’re stone. If you blink even once, they attack you, send you to the past, and feed off all of your potential time energy. The lonely assassins. As Ten says, “The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.” Because you get to live out the rest of your life. Just, you know, decades before you were born.
Who’s your Master?
A Time Lord, like the Doctor, and stark raving mad. Also like the Doctor, but the Doctor doesn’t generally – well I mean, there is quite a bit of genocide in this show. The Master is nutso in the evil sort of way. Sure, he wants power, but a large chunk of his reasoning is ‘for the lulz’. The hero’s evil counterpart, he’s been terrorizing the show since the Third Doctor’s run.
Third Doctor: You’re risking the total destruction of the entire cosmos!
The Master: Of course I am. All or nothing, literally! What a glorious alternative!
Yeah. He’s that kind of guy.
Do they look scary? No. Not unless you have a phobia of pepper shakers, plungers, or whisks. But they’ve been around since the very beginning. They’re war machines, the best in the universe. They have no emotions (other than hate), their armor is impenetrable, and somehow the Doctor always beats them. They were stylized after the Nazis, and this is extremely from how they hold their plunger to their desire for universal ‘purity’. From the unmistakable cadence of their voice to their catch-phrase (Ex-ter-min-ate!) they are a truly iconic part of the show.
For another great list of villains, check out this link! (Really clever – mentions The Doctor as a villain as well – more on that in a later blog)
This is something that must be included. In many shows, one-off characters are mere plot points. It’s rare to see these sorts of characters who serve any other purpose. In Doctor Who, at least since 2005, most of the one time characters have been there to provide emotional development for the Doctor and his companions and show how they are growing together. Or just break your heart. Off the top of my head, here are my favorite three:
She appeared in the episode “Blink” (season 3, episode 10) which introduced the Weeping Angels. She was basically a companion working without a Doctor, and it was really interesting. The Tenth Doctor appeared in the episode briefly (mostly in video tape as Sally tried to piece together clues). She had real life emotional trouble, really drive beyond curiosity, and she was generally a ton of fun to watch. Also, she had a happy ending. It was refreshing after the tear jerker that was the previous story. And since *spoiler* most of the one-time characters only appear once because they die. And she lived!
She appeared in the Christmas special between the 3rd and 4th seasons (“Voyage of the Damned”). She was the perfect companion. She was lonely, she had no family, all she wanted was to see the stars, and she wouldn’t gripe about spending time on Earth because that episode was the first time she had been to Earth. I cannot recount what happened to her, because the entire scene will play in my head and my face will start leaking. Her character put the Doctor in an even worse place than he was before, preparing him for the woman who would go on to pick up the pieces.
Madame de Pompadour
She appeared in the season 2 episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Aside from being an epic historical figure, she just worked so well on the show. Just as with Astrid, the Doctor was so excited about her and prepare to take her with him to travel the stars. She was prepared to leave her life and go with him. Because of the conflicting time streams, he’d known her only a few hours and she’d known him her whole life. Which made this a sort of love story, and that much more heart breaking.
The Doctor’s friends and followers throughout the show. Again, there are many. The point of the companion is to have someone in the show who has no idea what’s going on, much like the viewer. The companion is usually female because it’s more interesting that way. But, the Doctor often has multiple companions at a time. Here are a couple of my favorites.
A nurse, and eventual companion to the Eleventh Doctor. He was one of those characters that was kind of a dope, but he was generally capable and also unimpressed with the Doctor. he sort of grounded the group. And, you know, there was that time where he dressed up as a centurion and walked onto the Cyberman spaceship facing away from an explosion and demanding to know where his wife was. There is definitely that.
Captain Jack Harkness
Shameless flirt, shameless pansexual, and generally awesome. We first meet Jack as a new companion toward the end of the Ninth Doctor’s run. But we really see jack in action when he comes back for the end of the 3rd season with the tenth Doctor. He’s one of those characters who just keeps dying. The great thing about his returns is he’s only ever gone for a few minutes. He’s basically a fact of the universe.
She started as a one-off character, but came back to be the companion for the 4th season. What I love about Donna is she’s the reigning queen of sass, definitely a match for the cheeky Tenth Doctor. Their friendship was beautiful and just what the show needed.
I have to add Rose. She’s not technically one of my favorites, but she means so much to the show. She was the first companion of the new series. We got to go through her entire journey with her, as she matured and as she and the Doctor gradually fell for each other. She was the emotional force that led Nine to Ten and drove much of Ten’s stories.
Sarah Jane Smith
Easily my favorite companion of all time. She started with the 3rd Doctor, was with the 4th Doctor for the time, and came back to meet the 10th Doctor. She’s met a few of the other Doctors, too. She’s stubborn and wonderful. I love her and I miss her. And i don’t think I have the words to describe how great she is.
I know to really get the show, you’ve got to watch it. I could give you a run down of all the Doctors, but what makes the Doctors great is what people take from them. Part of their defining characteristics are how they dress and how they wear their hair and such. Have some pictures.
I’ll be posting specific highlights for each Doctor as we get closer and closer to the reveal of the 12th Doctor. My favorites are Ten, Three, Four and Eleven. They’re all a bit wacky. The thing about the Doctor is he’s basically the same man every time, but completely different. He’s been a hardened momma bear badass, and a sweet old man who was really just a big kid. But what never changes is that he cares so much. In all of time and space, he’s never met anyone who wasn’t important.
The love I have for this show is incredible. Incredibly geeky, but incredibly pure. Because, for me, when it comes down to it, in each incarnation of the Doctor I see that desire to run, to be anywhere but where they are now. I see someone who is slowly going numb to things they once thought to be incredible, someone trying so hard to move forward from all the pain, only to face more every day. Someone who is lonely. Someone who can still smile.
Have a nice day.