Monday, June 24, 2013

How I Came to Love the Doctor Who

"Well, let's see - you've got a time machine, I've got a gun.  What the hell.  Let's kill Hitler."
--Melody Pond, Doctor Who "Let's Kill Hitler"

I recently started watching Dr Who on streaming, and discovered what all the fuss has been about!  While the Star Trek franchise is losing its way in an attempt to make itself modern and gritty and militaristic, Doctor Who is showing us a view of science fiction that's still fairly optimistic.  And it's full of madcap fun - like the episode quoted above, where The Doctor and his time machine get hijacked by River Song to return to 1930's Berlin on the pretense that she wants to assassinate the Fuehrer.

Watching the first 6 or so seasons of the 2005 series, I'm constantly impressed by the epic scope of the show.  Worlds are threatened, all of time and space is frequently brought to the edge of extinction, and yet every season manages to break new ground and one-up the previous year.  There is absolutely nothing on American network TV that comes close in terms of writing and over the top style.  Go Brits go.

I mentioned the optimism built in to the show; humanity is just as venal and grasping as ever, but The Doctor never abandons his belief in reason and non violence and people's capability to do the right thing when it matters.  His refusal to pick up weapons and his commitment to solving problems through clever wits and diplomacy are refreshing against the rest of the field.  As an alien being encouraging humanity to strive for our better natures, The Doctor is practically a surrogate spiritual figure descended from above (albeit a humanistic rather than divine one).

I'm also seeing there's plenty of inspiration for gamers in how the series is structured.  Just about every episode features a new locale, with The Doctor and his crew rolling in just in time for the adventure - a perfect analog for your wandering characters in a sandbox RPG.  Many of the episodes feature horror themes - "The Lost Child", the weeping angels, the Silence, "The Waters of Mars".  I had a room full of kids sleeping on my bedroom floor (with the lights on) after they saw the one with the creepy gas mask kid, "Are you my Mommy?  Mommy?"  Since that debacle, I try to look ahead and make the two young ones skip the episodes that are obviously creepy.

And then there's the "Who Girls".  I'd have Amelia Pond's picture taped to my locker if I were like 13.  The Scottish accent is adorable.  My wife tells me the Doctor always has "fabulous hair", so I suppose there's something there for the ladies, too.

I've noticed that the show tends to lean a bit to the left.  When River Song is questioned by some Nazi soldiers, here's how she replies:  "Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, Gosh, the Third Reich's a bit rubbish. I think I'll kill the Fuehrer."  British TV seems to be a bit more progressive in general than American broadcast TV.

I'm most of the way through season 6, and I'll need to track down seasons 7 and 8 through re-runs if possible (since they don't seem to be on streaming yet).  Tell it to me straight - is there more good stuff on the way?