(scroll all the way down for links to discussion of other episodes)
see my brief overview of the DVD set at FlickFilosopher.com
I gotta tell ya, Doctor Who is deeply and completely intrinsic to my geekishness: it was the object of my first real fannish fixation. I videotaped episodes obsessively as a teenager (and, perhaps needless to say, watched them over and over), when they ran on my local PBS stations; I wrote fan fiction and published fanzines; I went to Doctor Who conventions. I was a huge Doctor Who dork.
Russell T. Davies, the guy heading up the BBC's revival of Doctor Who, is a fan (and an Xer), too... which may help explain why the show, in his hands, is so deliciously fannish. So much of what we fans saw in the subtext of the old series is now part of the, well, text of the new series, if the first two episodes, which finally aired in the U.S. on the SciFi Channel on Friday night are anything to judge by.
Like the genuine affection between the Doctor and his new traveling companion, Rose:
Which is just a symptom of the bigger idea that serious fans of the old series understood, even if it was sorta sublimated in what had been basically a kiddie show:
It's all about the Doctor being a kind of burning, firework personality that is incredibly attractive, but also slightly dangerous to be around.
That's Davies quoted in The New York Times a couple weeks ago. The whole article is an interesting read for fans curious about where Davies is coming from and how that will inform this new incarnation of the show: he talks, for instance, about how, as a gay man, it was and is easy for him to identify with the Doctor, a loner and an alien and an outsider. (Straight, albeit weird, girl geeks sympathize.)
Miraculously, Davies's Doctor Who is fresh and new and geeky and very 21st century, but it's also very much Doctor Who. Rose's first instinct upon meeting this strange and strangely attractive man who insists he is called only "the Doctor" is to Google him, of course (smartly, the BBC is maintaining the "conspiracy Web site" she discovers, Who Is Doctor Who?) -- Rose (the delicious Billie Piper) is definitely a modern gal. She even gets to save the Doctor, right off the bat in her introductory episode, conveniently titled "Rose":
(If she manages to get her hands all over him in the process, more power to her.)
The Doctor, too, is somehow both more down-to-earth and more alien than he used to be -- there's a definite sense of weary loneliness about him, like maybe he's actually getting tired of his life on the run. I hope I'm right in guessing that we're going to be learning more about the hints, as the series unfolds, of the Something Big that seems to have changed him.
I've had a special place in my fannish heart for Christopher Eccleston (another Xer) since his character on the brilliant British police series Cracker [SPOILER ALERT!], DCI David Bilborough, was, totally out of the blue, brutally stabbed and then proceded to die one of the most horrifying and drawn-out TV deaths I've ever seen. I spent the whole next day walking around in a fog, like someone I actually knew had been killed. That is some mad actorly power, and he brings it to the Doctor, too, as well as a keen fashion sense:
Black jeans, black boots, black leather jacket: this is definitely one hot geek of a Time Lord. (Has any other Doctor worn a wristwatch? What does a Time Lord do with a wristwatch, anyway?) The tree chick in "The End of the World" was definitely into him:
Not to mention Rose's mother making a pass at him! Neither of which is something the old show would have done. The Doctor used to be detached, asexual, and it was up to fanfic writers to fill in all the details of the Doctor's more visceral side -- this new Doctor is a lot more... connected to all the life around him.
The gonzo zaniness that the show always had remains, though where it once came from the incredible cheesiness of low-budget monsters that everyone pretended to be afraid even though they were made of green plastic trash bags, now it's coming from a post-Douglas Adams, post-Terry Gilliam sense of absurdity. The bad-guy aliens in "Rose," the Autons...
...return from 35 years ago, but now these animated store mannequins suddenly seem much more a commentary on consumerism than they did before. And this chick, from "The End of the World":
who's been plastic-surgeried beyond all sanity, is like Katherine Helmond in Brazil gone extra mad.
But not all that was has been forgotten. The sonic screwdriver is back!
And so is that police call box that has absolutely no meaning for anyone born in the last 40 years (or for anyone born outside England) except as a representation of a half-busted time-travelling machine from the planet Gallifrey:
The new console room is cool:
Though it looks like the Doctor's been buying components for the new console from Best Buy:
Damn, are those Post-It notes stuck around the monitor? I thought only humans did that...
Best line in "Rose":
"Well, that'll never work -- he's gay and she's an alien." -- the Doctor, as he flips through a celeb magazine
Best line in "The End of the World":
"Wait till you see the bill." -- the Doctor, after he fiddles with Rose's cell phone and she calls her Mum from five billion years in the future
(images snagged from The Gallery@Chaotic Creative)
blogging Christopher Eccleston's 'Doctor Who':
• episodes 3 & 4: The Unquiet Dead/Aliens of London
• episodes 5 & 6: World War Three/Dalek
• episodes 7 & 8: The Long Game/Father's Day
• episodes 9 & 10: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances [coming soon]
• episodes 11, 12 & 13: Boom Town/Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways [coming soon]
• DVD extras: Doctor Who Confidential [coming soon]
Catching up on 40-plus years of Doctor Who? Check out these sites:
• Planet of the Doctor, a documentary from Canadian network CBC
• fan site: Outpost Gallifrey
• fan site: Doctor Who Information Network (man, these guys have been around since I first got into fandom; that's some dedication)