Excerpt from my full article for Geekscape.net’s Fall TV 2015: Top 10 New & Returning Shows!
(Sept. 19th, 9pm, BBC America)
The idea that Doctor Who isn’t the number one show on everyone’s must-see TV list (or “rather ought to” telly queue?) is a concept I find wholly befuddling. Doctor Who is, quite simply, the culmination of all human storytelling up to now—it is the ongoing saga that has successfully digested all other existing story structures. It’s sci-fi, fantasy, drama, horror, comedy, thriller, western, classical, procedural, ghost, love, family, monster. . . The storytelling lens of Doctor Who is so broadly fine tuned that the lucky and talented writers are able to weave any tale they wish through it. Every episode is a display of magic unfolding. It’s safe to say, if there is any kind of storytelling you like, Doctor Who has episodes for you—and if there are story types you don’t like, Doctor Who may just put them in a new light for you.
To say that Doctor Who is like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Alien, Indiana Jones, and even The Labyrinth and Harry Potter all rolled into one isn’t inaccurate—but it just doesn’t do the show full justice because it’s even more than that.
There are two caveats for American viewers: the first is that it’s a British show—and it becomes far more British the further back in the canon you go. British, meaning that, the pace and construction of characters, themes and interactions can take a moment to adjust to for Yankee brains. It’s just a slightly different perspective on the world that Hollywood rarely shines a light on. The second thing to keep in mind, particularly if you plan to dig into the back catalog, regards the production: producers of the show have always done their best to show all of time and space with whatever limited budget they were allotted. Since the fabric of spacetime is apparently infinite and their budgets weren’t, you can see where they might often fall short—but, if you could forgive some papier-mâché costumes and old cardboard sets you were richly rewarded by the stories. To quote the Doctor himself, “it’s more like a big ball of wibbly–wobbly. . . timey-wimey. . . stuff.” That said, the further decades you go back, the more you can see how it has grown from something akin to filmed children’s theatre into the juggernaut it is today. Additionally—and this is coming from two decades working in digital format conversions—although recent advancements are making it unnecessary, the British have always broadcast television in the PAL format at 25 frames per second, while American eyeballs have been tuned to NTSC at almost 30 frames per second for decades and decades. Even after conversion, what you’re watching can feel “wrong” on a subconscious level to the Yankee brain just because the flicker is different. It took me about six of those earlier episodes to adjust. These days, most entertainment is being shot at standard film speed which is 24 frames per second, a frequency the entire world is accustomed to.
Now that the show has garnered ever stronger international audiences, the “Britishness” has become a bit more universal and the production values have gone way up. You can pinpoint the change to the episode of the first season that Matt Smith took over the reins of the Doctor. The only requirement now is a tolerance for the initially perceived silliness and frequent leaps of faith (fat that comes to life, alien assassins that consume your life’s potential and then leave you to live to death, a police “phone booth” that is a whole world larger on the inside and travels through time and space)—for which you are fully rewarded. After some time as a viewer, the concepts begin to feel much less far fetched—the show succeeds in taking nearly any “wacky” setup and presenting it as honestly valid and valuable.
Last season introduced Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and, while every “regeneration” is traumatic for viewers, this one somehow felt more so. The writers weren’t exactly sure how to write for him yet? It became the Clara Oswald season, which was perfectly fine by me. Jenna Coleman as the Doctor’s current companion is really electric and has delivered some of the most powerful scenes on the show recently. Now the breaking news of this being her last season on Doctor Who is extremely disappointing after she carried the last season. What the future holds after this season is uncertain but I’m sure it will be great—I’m just devastated that this will be the last of Clara Oswald as the companion. So catch her while you can!
I’ve often been moved to tears, fallen from the couch in peels of laughter, cringed with fright and been held breathless in astonishment—frequently in the same episode (“Blink”, “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Vincent and the Doctor” just to name a few). I expect all of this (and more!) with the new season of Doctor Who.
Read the whole article at Geekscape.net.