Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Time to Time

Sonya has us time traveling -- not that she isn't the cause of most of our other traveling: across the ocean for visits; down to Florida for vacation -- by introducing us to hand-picked episodes of "Doctor Who." A classic British TV sci-fi -- thriller? mind-twister? -- from 70s and the 80s, it was revived about seven years ago as a completely new show with the same old twists and thrills and the central character of the Time Lord, the last of his kind, who whistles through time and space in his London police callbox, a squat obscure cube on the outside and an enormous space ship on the inside.
(Time out for brief aside: The reason I have been watching all this TV is I have been sick, sick, sick and truly sick of it. I think's a cold, but I've never had a cold last this long, over a week, and the worst symptom is when I sit down at the computer or pick up a pen, my brain turns to mush. My eyes swim. I would go lie on my face, but I've doing too much of that, as is... A final insult to injury, just as the weather has warmed up, I've barely been able to do any gardening. OK, enough complaining, and give thanks for some good TV.)
Sonya and I used to watch the old "Doctor Who" show on our tiny black-and white TV when she came home from elementary school. They had cool characters, scary alien monsters, and fun ideas. But those shows are jalopies compared to the speed of light production techniques the film makers can bring to the new shows, along with a 21st century sense of humor, and some very smart writing.
The rapid-fire explanations shouted by the doctor while he wrestles control of some malfunctioning technology are a little geeky, but the episodes are very much character-driven, fun and funny. The cleverness of the plots are matched by the interactions of the characters.
Basically, events too complicated to explain send the doctor, and his companion, off to save the universe here or there, sometimes (when all else fails) by rolling the scene back in time a few hours or years (or centuries) for a re-do -- a neat trick which tests the audience's metaphysical speculation aptitude. Even if some of this stuff goes by too fast, suggesting the writers don't want you to pick it apart too closely, the show's fun, the characters likable, and the plot payoffs and the fast turn-arounds are worth it.
Endorsement by Wikipedia: "The show is a significant part of British popular culture." It's won all sorts of awards.
I have an advisory, though. Since Sonya brought some episodes cherry-picked by a friend, that were several seasons on, we saw some of the best-written shows in the series. When I asked Netflix for the beginning of the first season (2005) of the revived show, it was really disappointing.
The best actors are the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and the one he took over from, David Tennant. Tennant took over the role in the second series of 2005 season, the first year of the new show. So I would watch any episode that stars either Tennant or Smith in the role the Doctor.