Here in America, most of us grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman and Superman. In England, they have a character that is all of those things rolled into one that here in America only has a strong, yet cult following. It is time that America is introduced to The Doctor and his almost 50 year-old epic story. There is a reason for a show lasting that long, Doctor Who is the greatest idea for a television show ever conceived and let me tell you why.
Meet The DoctorIn 1963, the BBC wanted to make an educational show for children to teach history and science. They created the concept of an alien named The Doctor, who adventures through time and space with his granddaughter and other human companions, showing them historic and scientific events. As the series continued to gain popularity, it lost its educational focus, adding more story. Try to imagine if Bill Nye The Science Guy ended up having his own adventure show, that's Doctor Who. Soon a whole backstory grew into the show. It was revealed The Doctor was a renegade member of an ancient race called The Time Lords. The Time Lords were tasked with fixing the holes and threats in time and travel using shapeshifting ships called TARDIS's (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). The Doctor ran from the Time Lords at a young age, stealing a TARDIS, which became stuck in the shape of a police phone booth (a time traveling phone booth... that sounds familiar doesn't it, Bill and Ted?). [caption id="attachment_718" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The Doctor piloting The Tardis"][/caption] When the man who initially played The Doctor could no longer continue, instead of ending the show or just recasting a new actor without explaining, the BBC decided to explain it, inventing the idea that when a Time Lord dies, their body regenerates every cell into new ones. The new Time Lord has the same memories, but a completely different personality and appearance. Unlike how each time Batman or James Bond is portrayed, he looks completely different and characters seem to be oblivious, the characters in Doctor Who remember that the last time they had seen him, he looked completely different. This was a genius move, as the show could now continue literally forever with each new actor playing the Doctor, adding their own ideas to the character without worrying what the previous actors did.
Something For EveryoneThe real genius of Doctor Who is in how the main character travels wherever and whenever he pleases, so each story can be radically different. One episode may be a character driven western drama, the next a comedy set in the early 2000's. The Doctor has helped Shakespeare write a play and battle witches, visited the first Mars Colony, and been to the Titanic multiple times. Since (for the most part) every episode is a self-contained story, you can really pick up anywhere you want and not have to worry about watching from episode one like newer shows like LOST. [caption id="attachment_723" align="alignleft" width="245" caption="Tom Baker, The Doctor in the 1970's"][/caption] Now I realize, some of this show will seem incredibly silly to some if not watched with the right view. Unlike most science fiction, Doctor Who does not take itself too seriously and in fact most of it is meant to be outright hilarious. If you have ever considered yourself a fan of british comedies like Monty Python, Mr. Bean, or The Office (both UK and US versions, the US version is basically british comedy without the accent), then Doctor Who is for you. In fact, Douglas Adams, who was head writer of Doctor Who in the 1970's was a close friend and collaborator of the members of Monty Python. He would go on to write a little book called The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which is often acclaimed as one of the funniest books ever written. Adams wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide from pieces of unmade Doctor Who episodes he had written and throughout Doctor Who there are references to it being in the same universe as Hitchhiker's Guide. If you watch Doctor Who as Monty Python in space, it makes a lot more sense. I would even argue that because Doctor Who doesn't get too wrapped up in the science or practicality of everything like shows like Star Trek or Battlestar, it is easier for non-scifi fans to wrap their heads around.
How to WatchDoctor Who is produced in Wales and aired on the BBC 1 as one of their flagship shows. Imagine that American nerds, the longest running and most popular show in England is a science fiction show! Like I mentioned before, Doctor Who has been running on and off since 1963, but thankfully you really do not need to know much to watch an episode. Even better, every few years, the show is taken over by a new head writer and usually Doctor who take it in a totally different direction. [caption id="attachment_751" align="alignright" width="265" caption="The New Doctor, Matt Smith and his companion"][/caption] Starting in 2010, Stephen Moffat will be taking over the direction of the show. Moffat is so perfect for the role, that Steven Spielberg demanded he stop work for him writing the Tin Tin movie because he was such a fan of his writing and Doctor Who and wanted to see them together. Moffat gets a brand new Doctor too in Matt Smith. Smith is the youngest Doctor yet and will hopefully add even more action to the show. These two are taking the show from show-runner and Queer As Folk creator Russell T Davies and arguably one of the most beloved Doctors of all-time, David Tennant. Where these two took over in 2005 is a perfect place for a newbie to start watching and the seasons are easily found on DVD, Netflix Watch Instantly, BBC America, and YouTube on the cheap. Look for Season 1 (2005). What a beginner to the show needs to know before hopping in is the basic backstory of The Doctor as I related above. His companions change basically every season, but they are usually an attractive younger woman to help females relate to the show and give the men something to pine over. Each companion brings their own spice to the adventures, with some being more memorable than others. Their real purpose is to give the viewer a human-eye view of the incredible things going on around them. In the lines of enemies, the show takes a "monster of the week" formula like X-Files, Supernatural, or any CSI show. The bad guys that always seem to return are The Daleks, a race of squid-like aliens that are completely void of all other feelings but hatred and lock themselves up in robot bodies. The Daleks are to The Doctor as The Joker is to Batman.
So imagine a show that can literally be anything, has limitless potential for storytelling with humor and drama rolled into it. That is Doctor Who. Want to get started?
Here are some great episodes to start with:
"The Shakespeare Code" - Season 3 (2007) Episode 2 - The Doctor helps a young Shakespeare fight a group of witches who attack the Globe Theater, the whole time quoting lines the playwright has yet to write, telling him to "write that down".
"The Girl in The Fireplace" - Season 2 (2006) Episode 4 - The Doctor finds portals into the life of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV. Every time he goes through a portal, he ends up a little further down her timeline. The two eventually fall in love and The Doctor accidentally introduces the banana daiquiri to 1700's france while drunk.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="130" caption="Fat aliens"][/caption]
"End of the World" - Season 1 (2005) Episode 2- The Doctor and his companion travel to a space station hovering around the earth in the year 5 Billion to join an exclusive party to watch the Earth get swallowed by the sun. Among the guests are the intelligent species that evolved from The Earth's trees.
"Blink" - Season 3 (2007) Episode 8 - A movie-caliber chilling story involving a woman solving a mystery and the Doctor appearing as a DVD extra. Just have to watch it to understand it.
"Partners In Crime" - Season 4 (2008) Episode 2 - The Doctor investigates a new diet pill that is causing people's fat to get up and walk away at night. Remember, this show is meant to be Monty Python in space.