Thursday, February 07, 2013

Doctor What? Doctor Who?

I'm neck deep in my Doctor Who indoctrination period, so please pardon my rabid descent into unbridled fandom. I started with the Ninth Doctor and have not yet caught up to the newest Doctor. Yet I'm both regressing and progressing in terms of timeline ... which, coincidentally, feels very situation appropriate. Like Tardis via DVDs.

My father and I periodically exchange chatty phone calls. On Tuesday evening, I told him, "I've started watching Doctor Who."

He laughed. "Oh, really? I thought that would be too campy for you."

I should take this moment to note that my dad and I are both sci-fi/fantasy fans. I stole his Anne McCaffery and Robert Heinlein. We sat on the same couch every week to see the new FarScape episodes as they came out while I was a teen.

"But it's got this great narrative storyline." I said. Each season is downright brilliant in its structure and foreshadowing which draws to an inevitable yet surprising conclusion -- exactly what good fiction should do. "And I'm willing to forgive the campy aliens and cyborgs since I understand that they're based off a storyline born out of 1960s special effects creations." A lesson Star Wars could use (or one the Who-reboot producers derived from the utter patheticness of Star Wars I-III). 

Yet, it's both more and less than that.

Doctor Who is humor and levity. There's that fight to overcome odds. There's the notion that the most ordinary and idiotic and absurd among us, those with menial jobs, and too much eyeshadow, and not enough self-worth can save the universe. A brilliant message that ordinary humans are fabulous creatures. Brilliant. 

Several years ago, I unknowingly caught the latter half of one of the Christmas specials on TV. With no Whovian knowledge -- no campy effect background info or larger-message notions -- I could hardly stand watching Voyage of the Damned. And to be honest, it's not the best of the Who-verse. Not by a long shot. Although, as absurd as a giant spaceliner named Titanic was, I flipped back to the channel as many times as I flipped away. Even then I wanted to know what would happened. But arriving at it now, via a greater understanding of the mythos, I gladly watched the whole thing end to end. Not just because I know the tales of the mythos and therefore the set up and plot forms a better sort of sense in my mind, but because I have finally learned to embrace the inherent message in Doctor Who:

It's not just about ordinary people saving the world, although that is a great big giant wondrous part of it. It's about not taking yourself too seriously and yet fighting for everything that is right and important and worthwhile. That flourish and verbosity are not bad things. That shoot first and ask questions later is a bad policy. That even the malicious deserve a chance to change. That allowing someone to change their mind is a kindness, not a weakness. That we are nothing but the sum of our choices, a sum that is always changeable.

But I think I got carried away.

I just meant to say that I've previously had an issue with taking myself too seriously for my own good. It's hard to laugh at yourself if you wrapped up in (the possibility of) achieving accomplishment, accolades, recognition and advancement. Too focused on facts and figures and praise.

The new Doctor Who may have started airing seven years ago, but I wasn't ready for the message back then. But now I'm finally ready for the Doctor's visit.


Jud said...

Welcome to the underground. I started with Doctor #4 in high school from reruns displayed on Saturday evenings on PBS.

I am not a die hard fan, though, and watch it occasionally. I did enjoy David Tennant's interpretation of the character.

There have certainly been some well written stories over the years. And, to your point Cybermen just look silly and it is hard to believe that the Daleks could take over a planet if they could be foiled by a flight of stairs.

JES said...

Oh boy. This is a wonderful love letter both to myth and to pop culture. Looking forward to your further comments on the series. (And maybe later, assuming you end up too exhausted to continue in the short term, you can take up the Torchwood spin-off.)

Jenny Cabotage said...

Eileen - lovely post. So very true, and you stated it all so well!

ud - I think you must have missed all the episodes of Daleks flying through air. They can deal with stairs quite handily.

I think there's something interesting going on with how silly the daleks and cybermen look, versus how deeply terrifying they are to the Doctor and the other characters who know them. You learn from the behavior of the characters about how deadly and dangerous they are, and start feeling shocked and anxious and scared whenever they appear. Their silly appearance sort of becomes something of a cruel, macabre joke.

Of course, if you really want some bona fide scary, the weeping angels do it up just fine.

Jud said...

Jenny - I must have missed those, indeed. The weeping angels are some amazing scary villains.

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

I get the impression that Daleks "couldn't" fly until the 9th Doctor; they make a joke about such a deadly creature defeated by a flight of stairs ... and then the Dalek levitates. :)

That particular Dalek back in the museum was especially scary because the Doctor was scared, the less scared of Daleks the Doctor acts the less scary they become.

JES said...

P.S. You might like this Dalek Valentine.

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