Doctor Who: Hope in a Brave New World

Live theater’s great and all, but time, theater schedules and money prevent us from experiencing it every day. So sometimes, we have to get our rocks off in different media. And there’s none more exciting right now than television, but that’s another post altogether. Today, I want to talk Doctor Who.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me fangirling about this show for the past couple weeks. Prior to that, I was slogging my way through the brilliant yet bleak Breaking BadIntellectually, I knew that was a great show. The acting was subtle and nuanced; the writing was complex and intense. Yet I found myself dreading watching every episode, simply because its world view, its view of humanity itself, is so depressing. After reaching the end of the first season, I needed a break from the blackness.

For years I’d heard about this Doctor Who thing, some kind of retro 1960s British something or other involving time travel, a police box and a man who changes his face when it’s convenient to change actors, a la James Bond. I’d turned my nose up at it, assuming it was silly sci fi stuff (and I, of course, am a very serious fantasy fan). I assumed I’d need a lot of back story about the Doctor, since the show had run for more than 20 years in its heyday from the ’60s to the ’80s. Then one day, for reasons I can’t recall, I fired up Netflix and found the reboot, started in 2005, available for streaming. And I set off through time and space with the Ninth Doctor and the indomitable Rose.

There are a lot of things to love about the show. Its silliness, its quintessential Britishness. The clever way it plays with the laws of physics and time; the irreverent way it ignores them when it suits the greater narrative purpose. Its fantastic characters and the relationships between them (and I ship Rose and the Tenth Doctor like whoa). But most of all, this is a show that gives me hope.

Silly thing, to think a TV show could give you hope. We tend to think of TV as disposable entertainment, not the same kind of serious mental stimulation as theater or literature or even film. But you try hearing the Ninth Doctor exclaim “Fantastic!” without smiling. You try to see Rose’s insatiable curiosity for life without gazing up at the stars and wondering. You try listening to one of the Tenth Doctor’s odes to humanity, to our boundless potential for greatness and, yes, terror, without being a bit in awe of all the wibbly, wobbly stuff inside you.

Doctor Who is often described in England as a show for kids, but I’d argue it’s a childlike show. The most powerful force in the Whoverse is curiosity. It’s what keeps the Doctor sailing through time–even though he’s lived more than 600 years, he can still be amazed by everything from an intricate clockwork robot to a single amusing word. Curiosity is what inspires every companion to leave her life behind for one of danger but infinite possibility. In the beginning of the series, it wasn’t the Doctor (in his ninth incarnation, played with real verve and menace by Christopher Eccleston) who drew me in; it was his cockney companion Rose, who wanted, insatiably, to see everything. Her childlike joy and wonder at the world was what kept me watching.

In the world of Doctor Who, it’s only when we stop wondering, stop feeling, that things go dark. Both of the Doctor’s most fearsome enemies, the tin can Daleks and the hollow Cybermen, have cut out all emotion. All wonder. All hope. That is what we have to fear, not what lays beyond the stars.

In a way, Doctor Who most reminds me of that other campy, silly, moving show, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAt first glance, the similarities are small. Male lead, female lead. British, American. Sci fi, fantasy. Sure, they both play off fascinating gender norm subversions. Buffy subverts female stereotypes: she’s active, she’s violent, she fights with her hands and her feet and Mr. Pointy. But the Doctor fights with his massive brain and a sonic screwdriver. He usually abhors violence, except when he doesn’t. At times, he’s almost effete, often sexless. Compare that to his vital second companion Martha, who for all her faults, is a truly physical character: a physician, a fighter, a sexual being. Everything’s flip-flopped and it’s fantastic. 

But even more than that, both shows are tales which, at their best, lead us to believe in the unending goodness of people. They’re stories of people who walk through great darkness but don’t let it consume them.

No matter how many times Buffy had to save the world, even if it meant sending her boyfriend to hell, she always had a quip and a smile. She always remembered that the school dance was almost as important as killing those weird dog monsters.

Likewise, the Doctor chooses to keep traveling with human companions, even though “you can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.” He chooses to laugh and to smile and to dance. He chooses not to let his loneliness as the last of the Time Lords (dumb name, yeah) devour him, but to use his gifts to save as many people as he can.

Sometimes he fails. Sometimes Buffy failed. Both shows have a lot of death. But through it all, both characters choose to fight and live every day as best they can. Which is all any of us are doing, when it comes right down to it.

As anyone who watched Buffy can tell you, the darkness got her in the end. Also, the show became kind of awful. But both of these characters represent a kind of hope you don’t find that often in media any more. They’re heroes, dammit, not these new-fangled anti-heroes. They’re people who fight, even when it’s hard, because it needs to be done.

Ultimately, it’s about the idea that what’s important is the fight, that our everyday struggles matter, and the belief that even if we can’t win the fight, maybe we can make the world a little better place just by trying.

I’m sure I’ll go back to Breaking Bad one of these days, and I’m sure I’ll have a profound experience on the nature of despair and man’s capability for evil. But for now, I’ve got three and a half more series’ worth of wondering what’s above us, behind us, and most of all, ahead of us. No matter what face the Doctor may wear, I’ll be along for the ride, and fighting the good fight beside him.

Buffy can come, too.

Find Doctor Who, Buffy, and Breaking Bad on Netflix on Demand.. 

About allisonlcarter

I’m a 20-something native Hoosier living and working in the Circle City. I have a wonderful job in marketing and spend my free time consuming stories–theater, TV, movies, books, you name it. This blog will focus on pop culture of all kinds, with a special emphasis on news, analysis and reviews of things happening right here in Indy. Follow me on Twitter @AllisonLCarter
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104 Responses to Doctor Who: Hope in a Brave New World

  1. Wonderful analysis of Dr. Who, and I’m not just saying that because you pretty much hit on all the things I love about it, too. (Okay, I am just saying that because you hit on all the things I love.) I also enjoyed your comparison with Buffy, another show I fell in love with the first time I saw it. I haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet, precisely because of the things you named; I probably won’t watch it, also precisely because of those things. I don’t doubt that it’s brilliant — there are just some things I can’t bear to watch. Thank goodness Dr. Who and Buffy aren’t among them! (And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!)

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Great minds think alike, right? It’s so refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of human nature, but still tries to believe the better angels will win out in the end. Breaking Bad truly is a brilliant piece of film making, but…right now, I guess what I need is a little hope and faith. By the way, subscribe via email button added per your request. Thanks!

      • “It’s so refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of human nature, but still tries to believe the better angels will win out in the end.” Yes, yes, yes — beautifully stated. Deep Space Nine is my favorite Star Trek series; a lot of Trek folk found it too dark, but that’s the very thing I enjoy most about it. (By the way, you might want to give Firefly a look some day — plenty of darkness and better angels, plus some of Joss Whedon’s best one-liners.) And thanks for the button — I’ve already clicked it! 🙂

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Well, I stole the better angels line from Abraham Lincoln, but I’m sure he’d appreciate the line being used in conjunction with a science fiction show. I’ve never really gotten into Trek, though I understand it’s kind of analogous to Dr. Who–America’s hope for space exploration and the idea we can spread beyond the stars, etc.

        And yes, I’ve seen Firefly. Not my favorite of Joss’ (sorry, Angel will always reign supreme for me), but it does have some of his best drawn characters. Big damn heroes, indeed.

  2. Welcome aboard. As someone who has been following Doctor Who for over twenty years I think I can safely say you are going to enjoy the ride.

  3. ChrisKincaid says:

    Tom Baker still remains my favorite incarnation of the Doctor! His ability to recite Time Lord lingo like poetry, coupled with his sense of humor and addiction for Jelly Babies.

    Yeah I never got the whole ‘It’s a kids show!’ line. I watched as a kid and scared the Muto outta me! 🙂

    Cool read!

    • allisonlcarter says:

      I’ve never seen the older series; not sure I’ll delve into it. David Tennant will always be my doctor, I think; I liked Eccelston, but Tennant took it to insane heights in terms of acting quality and character.

      Yeah, some of this stuff would be incredibly heavy for kids, not to mention terrifying. If I’d watched “Blink” as a kid, I probably would have gotten permanent eye damage from trying to keep my eyes open.

      • OMG! The ‘blink’ episode! It is 2 AM here at home, I can’t sleep and I don’t think I’ll be able to go to my bedroom now! hehe Cool post! Congratulations on getting FPd

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Blink is so, so good! One of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Brrr. Sorry for the nightmares. 😉

      • Have you watched the 11th Doctor at all?

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Yes, I’m almost through with series 5 now (it’s an obsession). I still miss Tennant. A lot. I think I like Matt Smith; I think some of my inability to warm up to him is due to the writing. With the showrunner change after series 4, it just seems to be missing a little spark, a little of that old mad joy. Plus, his Doctor is so cold, always telling people to shut up. And I’m not crazy about Amy–she’s a little too precious and twee for me. But there are still always reasons to enjoy an episode.

  4. I started watching Dr. Who with my 15-year-old son last year. We have been working our way through the previous seasons and just got started with Donna Noble. I love that it’s a show we can watch together and doesn’t make me cringe as a parent, i.e. no meth manufacturing, serial killing, etc. I am not that enamored of the anti-hero thing. Anyway, great analysis of the show–thanks for the “hopeful” commentary. 🙂

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Oh, man, Donna may be my favorite companion of all time (though I do love Rose). I loved how she was never afraid to question and challenge the doctor and the thorny moral issues they worked through together. Also the refreshing lack of romance between them–so nice they could just be mates. And yeah, it’s so great everyone can watch the show together. It works on so many different levels that it’s a great family show. On a similar level, you might check out “Once Upon a Time” on ABC, which will be starting its second season in the fall. Interesting spins on fairy tales which are both interesting and family friendly.

  5. belle.morgen says:

    I had to read your post because once I see anything about Doctor Who I’m all alert 🙂 I enjoyed your analysis of the show. I got into Doctor Who with the ninth doctor too but it took me a while because it seemed so silly at first and I had not heard of it previously. Now that I think of it I probably felt the same way about Buffy at the time, although I have watched a couple episodes. I should probably get Buffy on Netflix 🙂

    • allisonlcarter says:

      The show does seem a bit silly, doesn’t it? Farting aliens, crazy police box time machines, but once you start watching, none of that matters. I’m sometimes not sure if the show is great in spite of the silliness or because of it, which I think is fantastic.

      Buffy is rough at the beginning. ROUGH. If you have a hard time getting through the first season, skip ahead to the season finale, “Prophecy Girl.” That’s where the show really achieves greatness. Then the second and third seasons are pure gold before a tragic decline in quality. Good luck!

      • belle.morgen says:

        All that wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimey stuff 🙂 Another comparison between the two shows is that they both had very successful spin-offs: Torchwood from Doctor Who and Angel from Buffy. Thanks. I will check out more of Buffy 🙂

    • I’ll second what Allison said. Season 1 is very much Buffy finding it’s feet as a show. I wouldn’t skip it (personally) because so much character development takes place, but you do to have to be patient with it. On the up side, it was a short season – 13 eps., I think? And Buffy was finding it’s groove by the the later episodes.

      • allisonlcarter says:

        I agree, Season 1 is well worth watching and has some great episodes, but some people have a hard time getting past some of the rougher standalone episodes. It’s a shame for people to dismiss the entire series because it starts off so unevenly. But Prophecy Girl remains one of my favorite episodes of all time. “I’m only 16. I don’t want to die.” Ugh, gets me every time.

  6. Angela says:

    Haha… I’ve only recently gotten into Breaking Bad and I feel exactly the same way. My sources of necessary lightheartedness after particularly intense episodes? Mad Men and Archer. But maybe I should check into Doctor Who too!

  7. Oh, boy, are you speaking my language! I’m a Buffy fan from way back – which led to me being a fan of all things Whedon, eventually. I got to present a 3 part seminar on Whedon’s moral philosophy at the Cornerstone festival this summer, which was recorded & I’ve linked to my blog. Here’s a link to the first session, if you’re interested. It was a fun crowd.
    http://strangefigures.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/joss-whedon-seminar-session-1/

    My oldest son started watching “Doctor Who” a few years ago and persuaded me to try it, starting with the 9th Doctor. It took about 2 episodes for me to be completely hooked. Both shows are, as you point out, relentlessly hopeful, although Dr. Who has a little more optimism about human progress. The tone is, as you say, childish, or childlike. Buffy started that way, but didn’t stay there long. Whedon has, I think, a more vivid depiction of the darkness of humanity in his shows, but its combined with a very deep moral sense.

    And now that same son has me watching “Breaking Bad”, early in Season 2. I sort of dread every episode, though I’m usually glad that I’ve watched after it’s over. It’s just so dark & I know it’s only get to get darker….

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Oh, very cool! Thanks for the link, will have to check it out. And glad you got to meet some Hoosiers, we’re good folk. 😉

      While Doctor Who may be more optimistic about human progress, I’d say Buffy is equally hopeful about the human spirit. After all, everyone is ultimately fighting so hard to stay human, to retain those qualities. And Buffy kept that optimistic tone through its three golden seasons, to differing extents. After all, even after the desolation of “Becoming,” you still had the redemptive hope of “Anne.” And of course, what could be more hopeful than “Graduation Day” or the beautiful umbrella in “The Prom”? After Season 4…well, Buffy had to grow up, and growing up is hard, something the Doctor has learned in various incarnations, too.

      People are tweeting about the season finale of Breaking Bad right now; it sounds seriously hardcore. I think I prefer time travel, for now.

  8. Btw, I just noticed your from Indianapolis. There was a large contingent from Indy at the Whedon Seminar. WONDERFUL people who run this concert venue:
    http://www.piradicalproductions.com/hoosierdome/

  9. samacwns says:

    I love Doctor Who! You hit the nail on the head…it’s silly but it’s fun, it’s so completely British, and it’s characters and worlds you care about. I just watched the latest Christmas episode (yeah, I’m a little late) and I was both cheering and crying. It’s a powerful show!

  10. obsessivefangirling says:

    One thing you said: “I’d turned my nose up at it, assuming it was silly sci fi stuff” It IS silly sci fi stuff. But that’s what makes it so great.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Exactly, right? A little madness now and then and all that. But beneath all the rubber masks, there’s a big heart.

  11. brookenado says:

    Hope is such a powerful thing, and I think you definitely summed up one of the main reasons Doctor Who has lasted so long and remains so loved. Thanks for your thoughts, I enjoyed reading!

  12. Catalina says:

    I was also a bit weary of Doctor Who before I started watching the reboot. I’m not really into sci-fi and I saw some Classic Who clips on YouTube with hilarious special effects, so I didn’t think I would get into it.

    But you’re right, it’s a show that gives you hope in a way very few things do in the media anymore, and even the saddest of episodes still leave this feeling. It’s great to watch something that focuses on how good the human race can be.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Yeah, not sure I’m ever going to be able to get into Classic Who. I mean, one guy wore a stalk of celery on his lapel. All the time. I’m all for silliness, but I’m not a fan of dumbness. But yes, it’s incredibly refreshing to feel better about your fellow man after watching a show instead of worse.

  13. Jim says:

    From one Hoosier to another, great perspective on Doctor Who. I watch it with my teenage sons on Netflix — we bond over it.

  14. Alons-y, Alonso! 🙂
    Last summer I had the chance to visit a s.f. exhibition in the British Library in London: the Tardis was there!!!! (Unfortunately Doctor Who was outside. Somewhere saving the world, as usual…)

  15. dvdiva says:

    I really enjoyed your discussion that linked 3 of my favorites shows. I had really never thought about the juxtaposition of Buffy, Dr. Who and Breaking Bad. BB is rather bleak. But it is also the tightest story telling on TV right now and so beautifully crafted. There is always a glimmer of hope and redemption for some of the characters, maybe not the one you started out rooting for. It is a rollercoaster ride that the dark side of my soul enjoys. I hope you return to it and share your thoughts about it in the blogosphere. Congrats on being FP!

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Oh, it’s undeniable that Breaking Bad is great television. You can’t argue with that. But when I left off after season 1, leaving it where they did with Tuco, I just knew things were going to get rough. I’m sure I’ll get back to it one of these days. Gotta do Torchwood first, though.

  16. catsworld1 says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve been watching The Doctor since the ’70’s (Tom Baker, with Lala Ward as Romana) and ever since the second episode I watched, it’s been “must see TV”, to borrow a phrase from one of the networks). I must admit the reboot is much better in many ways, although I do miss K-9.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  17. Dr Who is naively grown up. Children should only watch it from behind the couch

  18. Miriam Joy says:

    Now that is a wonderful way of explaining Doctor Who, both to those who have watched it and those who have not. I’ve seen some negative reviews of the series seven premiere (from Saturday night) and I’ve found myself struggling to explain to people why I like it when their only experience of it is an episode they’ve read bad reviews of, but from now on I shall direct them to this post. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! 😀

    • allisonlcarter says:

      I’m not up to series 7 yet (it’s so nice to know I have those episodes on the DVR for when I’ve finished plundering Netflix), but I have to say, the show does have a very different feeling after the end of the Tennant/Davies era which I’m not totally sold on. But it’s still completely worth watching. Tell them to watch “Blink.” If they don’t love Doctor Who after that, there’s no help for them.

      • Miriam Joy says:

        That’s a good one to recommend. It is awesome. I generally prod people in the direction of series four (because in my opinion, Donna Noble was a fabulous companion and I miss her greatly), but now that I have series three on DVD I can introduce them to the glorious of ‘Blink’ as well! 😀
        Yes, that’s the way to phrase it – a different feeling. It’s not exactly the same show, just as it wasn’t the same show with the Tenth as it was with the Ninth. But that, I feel, was less of a change.

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Donna Noble, I think, may be my favorite Companion. Loved the way she wouldn’t take any of the Doctor’s crap and constantly made him re-evaluate his actions. Poor Donna.

        And you’re right, there was definitely a shift between the Ninth and the Tenth, but you still had Rose who was familiar, and her supporting cast. But with the Eleventh, that world of companions essentially closed. Heck, even the TARDIS is different!

      • Miriam Joy says:

        That’s true! I was thinking as I wrote my comment that perhaps the totally revamped and much lighter TARDIS console had something to do with the feel of the show – the console before had a darker, more ramshackle appearance, which linked to the fact that the Doctor always seemed to be running from something. This Doctor seems determined to face everything, but often that’s because he’s misunderstood what he’s fighting against.
        Donna was just … brilliant. The way she just wanted to be friends, the way she wouldn’t let him mope but at the same time, understood that he missed his past companions, especially Rose. The way that she thought she wasn’t important but still saved the world.
        Amy seems to be this important girl generally. Rory’s known to the world as the Last Centurion. River’s messing up timelines. And then there’s Martha who just happened to be a medical student in the right place at the right time. Donna who was just a temp from Chiswick. Rose who had no qualifications at all and was working in a shop. The glories of that era were that ordinary people became wonderful. Recently, they seem to be less ordinary, and less relatable, and more like the Doctor in that you can’t imagine them in your own life.
        But that might just be me.
        I’m sorry, I’m writing essay-comments all over your blog. I should probably just put all this stuff in a post and stop spilling it here, ehehe.

      • allisonlcarter says:

        By all means, please! I love the essay. 🙂 But I think you’re absolutely right in pinpointing some of the (serious) issues I have with the post-Tennant/Davies era. I just finished watching series 5, and it’s not the same. The Doctor is so cold, so alien, so unrelatable. I never really get the sense that he cares all that much for anyone, and the plots seem to be much more focused around saving themselves from whatever trouble they’ve dropped into rather than helping other people. They glimmered around the edges of it in “The Beast Below” and “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood,” but it still all felt…off. There’s just a sense of compassion missing, and the fact that everyone is so “special” probably feeds into it. Plus, River grates my last nerve with her smugness. Ah, well. It was naive to think the show could keep up that level of quality forever.

      • Miriam Joy says:

        You’re right about the compassion thing. I hadn’t thought so much about that aspect of it, though I knew there was something about the Eleventh Doctor that I disliked. My main issue has been with the companions.

  19. Oh, Doctor. I would totally go gay for you.
    Unless Amy Pond was in the room.

  20. musingsofamadgradstudent says:

    Welcome to the Doctor Who fandom! We’re a pretty awesome bunch. Doctor Who is like a British TV gateway drug. Have you seen Torchwood yet? It’s pretty intense.
    Stephan Moffat and Mark Gatiss (part of the production team of Doctor Who) are also at the helm of the new BBC Sherlock, which has a lot of Whovian elements.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Torchwood is next on my list; looking forward to it as I always enjoyed Captain Jack. I loved how his sexuality was handled so nonchalantly, that was wonderful. And I’ve watched the first series of Sherlock and enjoyed it immensely. Cumberbatch, besides having the best name in the history of names, is awesome.

  21. I grew up on the old classic Doctor Who, and I’m a little bit of a skeptic of some of the new stuff. I really enjoyed David Tennant and Christopher Eccleson, but I was only able to watch one season of Matt Smith before getting sick of him and the way the show is all constant music, insanity, unfollowable twists, and breaking of their own rules. It’s all about adrenaline, not story, anymore, and I don’t understand why everyone can love that about it. How do you handle it? Just to be fair, I WILL be watching last year’s season now as this year’s season starts up, so Matt Smith and Moffat will be getting another chance, but as things stand now, I’m disappointed that they destroyed one of my favorite shows after 50 years. Does anyone have any thoughts in its defense?

    • allisonlcarter says:

      No, I’m 100% in accord with you on the changes in the show following the end of Tennant/Davies. The show is lacking that fundamental warmth; I don’t really get the sense this Doctor cares for his companions or saving people anymore, merely that he’s rushing from one chance to show his brilliance to another, all the while shouting at everyone to shut up. I actually just finished series 5, and am thinking I need a pause before I go on to series 6. It’s just lost that vital spark I loved, and it does seem more cynical. One part in particular was when the Eleventh Doctor told Amy he traveled with companions because he couldn’t see the beauty of the universe without their fresh eyes. And I thought how wrong that was. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors still held that wonder, and often even heightened their companions’ excitement because of their own. Maybe that’s part of this regeneration’s personality; maybe it’s because of the heartbreak of how the Tenth Doctor died, but I think that single scene captures my main beef with this new era of Who. Ah, well.

  22. I just started watching Doctor Who recently and I love him. He’s quirky, intelligent, and has the right amount of spunk. I’m gonna have to start watching from the 2005 series, but I too love Rose and now Amy. It’s a fun show that keeps the viewer engaged, something that is hard to come by these days.

  23. Rachel Louise Jones says:

    Doctor Who is one of the things that will always continue to keep me proud of being British. One day why not consider finding the older episodes from 1963-1989; sure, the budget is incredibly low compared to 2005 series onwards, but you’d find it interesting to see how it all began, and it’s nevertheless a vital part of television history, perhaps even more so than the 21st Century re-boot.

    Oh, and I apologise for being pedantic, but the character of Rose isn’t Cockney, she’s a South Londoner. Cockney is more East London, but even then there isn’t really such a thing as the stereotypical Cockney we know from My Fair Lady and, dare I say it, Mary Poppins, anymore.

    Either way, welcome to the world of loving Doctor Who!

    Rae

    • allisonlcarter says:

      I may go back and watch the older episodes, but it’s not likely. First of all, I’m a completionist, so the idea of watching it out of order or in fragments (since many episodes are missing, as I recall) sets my teeth on edge. But maybe a couple of specials for the heck of it one day.

      Apologies on the incorrect accent identification; I thought I’d seen it referred to as Cockney somewhere, but obviously my wires were crossed. Thanks for the correction. 🙂

  24. Molly says:

    That’s exactly how I felt while watching The Wire for the first time (haven’t even able to start Breaking Bad yet). I opted to rewatch Angel and a few Doctor Who highlights instead. It’s impossible to feel down about humanity while he’s shouting “Just this once, everybody lives!”

  25. clemarchives says:

    I got into Doctor Who in January and I think it may be my new favorite show, and exactly for these reasons! It manages to combine so many different elements together marvelously, too — in fact, it basically is every genre wrapped into one. A good balance of campy good fun with some serious emotional drama from time to time that never overwhelms and makes you feel like you’re watching a soap opera.

    And, in my view, it only gets better. Matt Smith does the eccentric, aloof, but charming thing so unbelievably well that I must assume it’s how he is in real life. And I’m assuming you haven’t gotten to Catherine Tate’s season. I had always thought of her as kind of a silly but not exceptionally great actor; now I know otherwise.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      It is a fantastic show–I’m not normally a huge fan of camp, but at its best, the show evens it out with such heart and sometimes, such despair, that the camp is much-needed and appreciated. I have seen the Donna series, and I love her. She’s tied with Rose for best companion in my book, maybe even nudging ahead for the way she was never afraid to tell the Doctor exactly what she thought. I think in many ways, she’s the most realistic companion.

      I do disagree with you a bit on Matt Smith, though. While I’m sure he’s lovely, I find his Doctor to be cold, rude, off-putting and (yeah, I see the irony) too alien. I think Tennant will always be my favorite Doctor, though Eccelston certainly had a rough-spun charm about him.

      • clemarchives says:

        Oh, I love Tennant. And I actually just rewatched some of season 5 and I think Matt Smith is better in season 6, because he does seem less… Intense. More comfortable with the character. But I don’t know, hrm.

      • allisonlcarter says:

        I loved, loved, loved the Tenth Doctor. After series 5, I’m still having a hard time warming up to Eleven and his colder, more brusque ways, but your comment gives me hope that maybe he thaws a bit in the 6th series. Thanks!

  26. amelie88 says:

    I love Dr. Who! I discovered the show for the first time while studying abroad in Spain and ended up watching the entire first season of the “modern reboot” with my Spanish host mother. Granted, I didn’t understand much of what was going on because it was all dubbed in Spanish but it was fun to watch! I’ve got bits and pieces of different seasons over the years and I would like to watch all of it from start to finish someday. Are the DVDs for sale on Amazon?

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Ha, I can only imagine watching it in Spanish, but it’s such a visual show, I imagine you could follow a lot of it. Looks like the DVDs are readily available on Amazon. or it appears to be available on Amazon Prime Instant and Netflix Instant. Enjoy!

  27. Karen says:

    Such an excellent write-up! Makes me want to watch this. For real! 🙂

  28. iRuniBreathe says:

    What a great comparison of the Doctor and Buffy! I enjoy both shows and never really thought of the parallel draw/appeal of them both. I have enjoyed all of the Doctor’s travels and companions, as well as the many incarnations his newer self has presented. This was a great post on a brave new world. Well said.
    Cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Thanks so much! I think Buffy and the good Doctor have a great deal in common. Mainly? They’re both incredibly good TV.

  29. Doctor Who is one of the greatest television shows ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. loisdavies says:

    I grew up with the Doctor, saw the very first episode starring Willian Hartnell in black and white, I was cowering behind the settee at age 12 lol its gone form strength to strength and I love your review. Very interesting analogy between Buffy and Doctor Who. Heroes and Villains in both are in equal measure and both have their ‘Nemesis’ The Doctor has moved and changed with the times as well, which keeps the series fresh for children and us adults alike!

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Absolutely, it’s remarkable the series has endured for so long (albeit with a little break in there for a couple decades). Bottom line is, great storytelling never goes out of style.

  31. Leah says:

    Ten is my favorite! I hope the rumors that the 12th Doctor will be a woman come true. Bonus points if she’s ginger. 😉

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Oh, man. I’m with you on the lady Doctor, but I hadn’t even considered that the Doctor might finally get to be ginger. That would be perfect.

  32. The Smile Scavenger says:

    Oh, all right! I’ll watch it. Everyone’s been telling me to do so for ages. Thanks for giving me the last push! 🙂

  33. Ahh, The Doctor and Buffy in one post! These two series have a special place in my heart (and video collection). Unfortunately, the 11th Doctor doesn’t do it for me as others have previously explained. Hubby forces himself to watch it to keep up with what’s going on (even though the rule changing is frustrating). This Doctor is losing ratings in Britain, too. But he’s got a contract until I think through 2013?
    Torchwood is drool-worthy and more adult-oriented. You should like it!
    We’ve been getting all sorts of British TV and we LOVE their Sci-Fi/Fantasy! (Fades, Black Mirror, Paradox)

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Yo know, I’m entirely with you on the Eleventh Doctor. This post was written while I was midway through the Tenth, and the show has really lost a little spark. While I adored Tennant’s performance, I suspect the culprit has more to do with the change in showrunners than in Smith’s performance. The Doctor is just so cold and rude (constantly telling everyone to shut up so he can think is not endearing), and the companions seem to be shoved down our throat rather than revealing themselves organically.

      I’ve watched a few episodes of Torchwood and am enjoying it so far. Certainly different, but it’s interesting to see the darker side of the Whoverse.

  34. Pingback: Never Gonna Give You Up… [Part One] « Miriam Joy Writes

  35. thespacebetween2 says:

    Good review. Matt smith not a great actor though, tennant was great.

    Heres my review of this show:

    http://thespacebetween2.wordpress.com/

    ———————
    By the way you should watch a mother son its pretty bleak and womanish but it was actually quite interesting watching it. And I dont like romances, depressing stuff or stuff with teens in them…. lol.

    • mistertwot says:

      Tennant was rubbish compared to Smith, his acting is too over the top and pompous where as the show is a lot more nuanced now and a much more darker affair. It wouldn’t have worked with him as the doctor in this setting. I did enjoy him at the time but I do not lament his leaving for a moment.

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Gotta completely disagree with you. While I don’t mind Smith and think he’s a fine actor in his own right, I find the writing behind his character to be off-putting in the extreme. I find Eleven far more pompous than Ten, Time Lord Triumphant aside. For me, Ten is the definitive Doctor. A sense of wonder and joy wrapped up in a package that feels at once brand new and terribly, terribly old, a menacing pacifist. The perfect contradiction. Eleven comes across more as a really mean college professor, convinced of his own greatness. Not that there aren’t some good stories to be told there, too, but I do miss Tennant and Ten.

      • mistertwot says:

        And that is exactly what I like about Matt Smith, he is like a mad professor falling backwards through time!
        And therein lies the beauty of Doctor Who.

      • thespacebetween2 says:

        You’re in a minority of about 1, don’t think you will find too many people who think smith is even anywhere near as good as Tennant. Tennant was a great actor.

      • mistertwot says:

        Pretty much everyone I know and all proper doctor who fans are in agreement.The nature of the show is change 🙂
        Anyway, it’s the same historically everyone has their favorite I just enjoy the show and may even say the same about whoever takes the reigns next, enjoy each incarnation and their nuances. What other show do we get to do that with the lead actor?

      • allisonlcarter says:

        Hey kids, let’s all play nicely. We’re all “proper” Doctor fans. It’s okay for us to disagree, but let’s keep the gloves up.

      • mistertwot says:

        Is this the wrong time for me to mention that I really don’t like Tom Baker? lol

  36. mistertwot says:

    Doctor Who is something that has always brought the family together once a week after dinner on a saturday night for nearly fifty years now (minus the hiatus). I think it is great (as is Breaking Bad) but it can’t really be called a kids show anymore, the writing is very well thought out and grown up and appeals across the generational divide. It’s also like marmite, those who call it a kids show normally don’t get it and those who don’t absolutely love it and identify with it on different levels. I shall always love Who.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      See? And that’s wonderful. I think it can just as fairly be called a kid’s show as an adult’s show–it depends on what level you’re watching it. Adults can read it as a thoughtful look at grief and loss, on immortality and death, on war and peace and how far we’re willing to go; kids can read it as a fun story about a silly man in a magical box with lots of cool creatures. works for everyone.

  37. I’ve been watching the Doctor since the late 70s and it has been one of my favorite all time series. I was so glad when they brought it back. My son is hooked on the show and my grandson also loves to watch.

  38. I became a proper Whovian myself in 2010. I’m not familiar enough with Buffy to validate your comparison, but I liked your explanation of the values in Doctor Who. Both shows feature lots of running, I do know that. The comparison I used in my Jan.’11 article was to Children’s Theater and Lit – especially Peter Pan:
    http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/all-things-new-and-doctor-who/

  39. Joe says:

    I love Doctor Who as well, and blog about it as often as I can (which is quite a lot, actually). I started back in the PBS days, and have been a constant ever since. Congratulations for being Freshly Pressed and carrying the banner for Who to the wider world. As Craig Ferguson put it: It’s about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism!

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Yes! A friend sent me the link to Ferguson’s song about Doctor Who, and that’s a beautiful line. Sums it all up right there.

  40. I am a proud “American Whovian” and love the concept. I cried when Rose was separated from the Doctor and cried again when they were reunited. I have my favorites when it comes to the companions. This new regeneration of the Doctor has grown on me and I am thrilled that it is finally back. Thank you for this post…you explained it very well. BTW…I was also a huge Buffy Fan! Figures right?
    Peach State

    • allisonlcarter says:

      I think the times I was teariest was when Donna met her fate, when she’d never know she was the most important woman in all creation, and then when Ten died, so scared and alone. Sniffle. Let’s not even talk about all the times Buffy made me tear up.

  41. moveeatcreate says:

    In my world, Buffy and Doctor Who stand above all other things pop culture as the finest examples of great television. Welcome to beig a Whovian!

  42. Gigi says:

    Loved this review/writeup and completely agree on all your points. Tennant has been my favorite of the Doctors in the modern era, and I absolutely loved Donna. She’s had the most compelling story for me. She was self-assured, funny and willing to call out the doctor when she felt he was wrong, yet totally vulnerable and unable to recognize her own positive attributes. When the Doctor admonishes her mother after he brings her back, it was heartbreaking. And she and Wilf were fantastic together — definitely the best use of the family back home in the modern era, too.

    I also agree with you on Matt Smith’s Doctor. It’s not bad, per se, but I just don’t have the same affection for him. I’ve grown tired of Amy, too (though I love Rory). I’m ready for some new chemistry. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Entirely agree with you on Donna. While I’ll always have a soft spot for Rose, I so appreciated Donna’s honesty and kindness. She was one of the few people who managed to love the Doctor without being in awe of him or idealizing him, which is why she made the perfect best friend. And I hadn’t thought of the role her family played, but you’re right, her mother wasn’t an evil shrieking harpy caricature like either Rose’s or Martha’s mother–she was a fallible, weak woman who couldn’t see how amazing her daughter was, while Wilf was the kooky grandfather we all had. When Donna had to go back to being “just” a temp, no memory of the people she’d saved…yeah. That was hard.

      Smith’s a fine actor; my fault lies entirely with the writing of the character. With Amy, however, she’s just way too precious. But you’re right, Rory can stay. Think he would have made an interesting counterpoint to Nine, actually.

      Thanks for your great comment!

  43. catsworld1 says:

    Hi Alison: If you enjoyed the character of Martha, last night I had the pleasure of finding a show in which she is a regular. I don’t know if you would have access to the channel however – caught this on BBC Canada. The show is “Law and Order – UK” and Agye Freeman (Martha) plays one of the crown prosecutors and in a delightful twist, Peter Davison plays another prosecutor.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Oh, thanks for the heads up! I’m actually not a huge fan of Martha (due in large part to Freeman’s performance), but glad to know she’s doing well. Thanks.

  44. maireemily says:

    Wonderful summary of the joy that is the Whovian universe… The Doctor is a one of a kind creation, it is so rare to see a character driven by the pure joy of learning & curiosity. I agree with you in that it’s not really a kids show, but it is a great lesson for kids, even after 909 years, there is always something new, and that is amazing!

  45. amyoung0606 says:

    Reblogged this on Storyteller in the Digital Age and commented:
    Beautiful discovery of Doctor Who by a new fan. Love this post!

  46. Brilliant review and I agree with all of your points (particularly about David Tennant). Doctor Who is, and always has been, a huge part of my life and practically defines my childhood along with Harry Potter. It’s such an original idea and has developed into a world-wide phenomenon. The Whovian universe is truly one-of-a-kind.

    • allisonlcarter says:

      Thanks so much! I’m glad I fell into this crazy world. I’m all caught up with the series now, and though I still miss the Tenth Doctor terribly, I’m still enjoying the ride.

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