Well, it isn't dead, for one thing. Despite the overall mediocre and depressing season 8 turning off a lot of fans, the season turned around with some good stuff in season 9, and an amazing, back-to-the-2005-vibe season 10.
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I've been explaining the show to a few people recently and I realized that my introductory blog post on the subject is not only seven years old, it is also one of the most hopeless fangirly things I have ever written. Read it for a laugh, if you dare!
Plus, at the time, I hated River Song. Boy have we come a long ways since then.
Since my husband and I have currently been doing a huge rewatch of the show (we're on season 9 now), I thought it a good time to write a new post about the series from a more balance and mature perspective. *Ahem.*
What is Doctor Who?
A mad-man in a box who travels who space and time, saving civilizations while always remembering that no person is ever unimportant. From Pompeii to the Moon Landing, from creepy statues to intelligent trees and every kind of alien in-between, with appearances by Agatha Christie, Vincent Van Gogh, and Queen Victoria, the show seriously has an episode for everyone. Witty dialogue, clever endings, and a constant dialogue of morality and ethics add further appeal and depth to a show that at times can be downright campy (but in the best way).
The British show began in 1963 as a way to interest children in history and science. When the original actor playing the Doctor (his name is "The Doctor", the joke being that everyone follows this up with "Doctor Who?") developed health issues that prevented his continuation of the role, the show drew on the fact that the character was an alien Time Lord, and stated that when a Time Lord was killed, he actually regenerated into a new body. This means that, at the time of this writing, thirteen men have played the Doctor (with the first woman soon to take on the role). It also means that, apart from a hiatus filled with just one tv movie, the show has been running for over 50 years.
It also means that, when you get into the show, you might be confused by the fact that two different seasons bear the title of "#1". And you probably shouldn't start with the first ever episode. While many episodes of the earlier doctors are well worth watching, the first eight doctors existed during a time when sci-fi on TV was much, much slower. (If you are a fan of old school Star Trek, you probably will be more likely to enjoy watching Old Who.)
There is a ton of fan debate over where one ought to start watching the show. Generally, fans today suggest starting with what we call New Who (picking up with the show revival in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor). However, New Who now contains 10 seasons, with an eleventh to begin! Since the show ever evolves and changes, there are multiple jumping in points, each with their own benefits.
I started with season 3 of New Who, starring David Tennant (Broadchurch, Jessica Jones) as the Tenth Doctor. This season has what I consider the best opening episode ever. Fresh companion, fresh introduction of all the rules, no aliens too creepy or complex to understand. It's got a bit of old school camp, but is polished and takes itself just seriously enough to serve as a solid entry to the show. This season features some seriously strong episodes, including the marvelous pre-WWI two-parter "Human Nature/Family of Blood" and the now iconic introduction of the Weeping Angels in "Blink."
(I hooked my husband on Doctor Who with "Blink" during our second date. It is a Doctor Lite episode, with the marvelous Carey Mulligan (Pride and Prejudice, An Education) as the delightful one-off character Sally Sparrow. However, it is one of the creepiest Doctor Who episodes, so if you don't like being scared, save this one for daytime viewings with some good friends!)
The fans who began with the first season of the revival are understandably attached to starting with that season, which features Christopher Eccleston (Thor: The Dark World) as the Ninth Doctor, along with fan-favorite companion, Rose. The reason I don't personally recommend starting with this season is that the first episode, "Rose" is the most common reason I hear for people giving up on the series. It features mannequins of living plastic taking over London and just doesn't give a good idea for the scope, imagination and beauty of the show. While the season is absolutely worth watching, I do suggest getting hooked on the show with later seasons/episodes and then going back to watch seasons 1 & 2.
By the way, I do have an episode guide that I am currently in the process of updating. If you want a quick synopsis of each episode that gives you an idea of what might tickle your fancy, check it out!
The season that hooked many Americans was season 5, which starred Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, and Karen Gillian (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow) as the companions. The only reason why I don't typically use this as my recommended entry point is that I do find the alien in this one to be fairly creepy and I fear it will turn off many of my friends. However, it is a very complete introduction to the show and it does feature the very very brilliant Matt Smith. Nobody plays old soul in young body like Matt Smith.
What is the intended audience of Doctor Who?
Doctor Who is intended to be a show for children. That said, Nathan and I would never just let our future kids sit down and binge watch Doctor Who on their own. It's a great show for starting conversations on difficult topics, but plenty of those topics we likely would not consider suitable for younger children--not to mention the scary factor that varies from episode to episode. Remember "Blink"? Although one of our favorite episodes, we know it would probably be too much for a lot of kids (certainly any that are in the least like me!). I highly recommend that parents plan to watch episodes with their kids, if they cannot preview them first. The 50-year show covers a wide range of sometimes controversial topics and you cannot just watch a few episodes here and there and rate the whole show based on that. I look forward to using the show to introduce and provide jump off points for many future discussions with my kids!
And that, perhaps, is the core of the show. It is for those who retain the childlike sense of curiosity and wonder, to encourage questions and investigation, to examine beliefs and yet stand up for what is good and true and brave.
Doctor Who is currently available on Amazon Prime.
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