1/12/2006

Doctor Who to air on Sci-Fi

This is absolutely fantastic!

The 27th series of Doctor Who, and the first of the 21st century, will be on Sci-Fi starting in March! Of course, this is almost exactly one year after it aired all over the rest of the English speaking world. Sci-Fi initially balked, saying the show was too British. Indeed, the show is a celebration of just how cool Britain is in this new century.

Yes, the old show is really hard to watch if you have low tolerances for awful costumes and bad acting. Yet, the series began in 1963, and lasted for 26 seasons before it finally got the axe in 1987. There were also a couple of movies in the 1960's starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, and another on Fox in the 1990's which aired to few households on a summer Friday. The failure of that installment led many to believe the show was dead forever, but an unlikely division of the BBC decided to save it.

Yes, BBC Wales announced a few years ago that it would produce a new version, to be directed and shepherded by Russell T. Davies, the creator of the British version of Queer as Folk. Esteemed actor Christopher Eccleston was selected as the ninth person to play the Doctor, a time-traveling misfit who often pops in to save planet Earth from alien species. His companion would be Billie Piper, a minor UK pop star.

When I heard the news, I was ecstatic. I was ten or eleven when Blue Ridge Public Television decided to pick the show up. I didn't know it, but this was at a time when PBS stations across the nation were airing the program. The son of English parents, I was hungry for anything British. And, this certainly delivered. Tom Baker was the fourth actor to play the Time Lord, an odd tall man with a messy coat and a long scarf. To me, the stuff was amazing, silly plots about space creatures and time travel, put together with a British sensibility. It was like a visual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, though not nearly as funny. Sadly, it didn't last, and was dropped from the schedule a couple of years later.

Since then, of course, I've learned that the two shared a common thread. The sound effects for both were created at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Even since then, I've learned that one Delia Darbyshire was one of the people behind the amazing electronic sounds in that place. She was the one who came up with the major elements of the Doctor Who theme, the modern one with the haunting cry that ended every episode, making each cliffhanger that much scarier.

Another common thread was that Douglas Adams actually wrote a pair of stories for the show. John Cleese was in The Pirate Planet, and this was just before Adams was about to launch the first radio series of Hitchhiker.

Anyway, back to the point. Should a 32-year-old man get so excited about all of this nostalgia? Obviously, this means something to me, otherwise I wouldn't be writing about it. Yet, for me, it's a way to connect with Britain of today. And, now, I'm posting because I'm excited it will be on the air where I live, in the U.S.! And, it will be airing in exactly the right place, on Sci-Fi, offering up an alternative take on a fundamental question.

What's out there, in the universe?

Thanks to the slightly seedy nature of the Internet, I've seen the entire series, as well as the recently aired Christmas special. The show was a huge success in Britain, as my generation in England watched with their children, watching a franchise with fresh ideas coming screaming back to life.

I encourage everyone to watch this show, even though the first episode is a bit of a corker. But from the second episode on until the tragic conclusion, the return of Doctor Who is great family entertainment, and a slice of Britain. Charles Dickens makes an appearance, as well as the return of the Doctor's most terrifying foe, the Dalek. This is where the special effects really came in handy. The show also plays with gender quite a bit, as you might expect given Davies' previous creation. And, observant viewers will notice there's a big conspiracy brewing throughout the entire series.

So, anyone else have any Doctor Who memories or recollections? I hope that this may excite more than a few people. I'd love nothing more than to see this show be a big hit for Sci-Fi.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How are these new episodes? I've seen plenty of the old stuff with Tom Baker -- do these measure up?

Sean Tubbs said...

Very much so, I think. Tom Baker was also my favorite Doctor, but that was another era ago. These new shows make more sense for the 21st century, with better special effects, a sharper writing style, but they manage to capture the same whimsy. The film work is better, and so far, I don't think they've filmed anything in a quarry!

Also, Billie Piper has almost equal billing with Christopher Eccleston, which adds a different dynamic.

The first episode back is not as good as the second one. Sci-Fi is showing both of them back to back tomorrow night.