This past Christmas, we gave two of our great friends an unexpected gift. Along with this gift, I wrote up a giant description as to why we were giving it to them. It's something I've rarely done before, but I liked the idea so much that I might be doing it a lot more often in the future. Below is a bastardization of the write-up (as to not take anything away from our gift):
Growing up, my family wasn't treated to many luxuries. We lived out "in the country" and the local cable company didn't reach that far out. That relegated my TV channels to a total of four stations – CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS. Staying home sick wasn't a vacation, to say the least.
With the fairly limited channel selection, you quickly learned what was on every channel at any particular time. I was first introduced to Doctor Who in the early 80s and was easily the first real science fiction show I can recall outside of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.
Doctor Who was from the BBC and was super campy. I was probably around 5 years old when I first started to watch and not a critic by any means, but the dialogue was decent at best. And the special effects ... well, let’s just say they weren’t that special. That doesn't mean that I didn't watch. Oh, I did and with bated breath every week.
Then, one day, the Doctor (that’s who the main character is – just, The Doctor) died and my world nearly crumbled. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that my show was over and I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of my parents talking about it. I was equally stunned when the show was back on at it’s normal time on it’s normal day. Even crazier, the Doctor had become a new person. Much like James Bond, the Doctor has been played by many different actors through out the years. When the actor’s contract is up, they get a new actor and the Doctor "regenerates" – the old body (actor) is replaced by a new one (actor). It’s this little trick that has helped Doctor Who be on the air since 1963.
[This is where most science fiction shows are funny, in the description. Really, try it with any Sci-fi show.] You see, the Doctor is a Time Lord (actually, the LAST Time Lord) that travels through space and time in the TARDIS (his time machine that looks like an old British Police box). Much like Dr. Samuel Beckett from Quantum Leap (c'mon, stay with me), the Doctor goes around and ensures that events in time either happen as they should, or don’t at all. But unlike Dr. Beckett, he also goes into the future and to other alien worlds. In his travels, the Doctor usually has a companion, or two, because ultimately, he’s a very, very lonely being.
I stopped watching the show in the mid 80s. But it kept going strong until 1989. At which point the show went off the air for a long time. In 2005, the BBC relaunched the series and I was on the edge of my seat ready for it to air.
The great thing about the present version of the show is that it takes all of the corniness of the original series and now mixes it with spectacular writing. The Doctor has great compassion and awe for the human race. In the realm of Doctor Who, Earth and its inhabitants are extremely young when compared to the rest of the galaxy. The Doctor spends most of his time on Earth (due to realistic budget limitations) and is both astounded and confounded by the actions of Earth’s people. Metaphors aside, the current set of producers, directors and writers are using the show to celebrate humanity and how special we are as a race. There's an episode about Van Gogh that is seriously tear-inducing.
The show is currently in its sixth season of the revitalized series. And while I would urge you to watch the show because it is SO AWESOME, I wouldn't just hop on-board right now. I would highly suggest watching it from season one (2005, not 1963) because of how it starts and builds from there. It’s like how the actions you make today will affect what happens tomorrow. Starting you off in a season other than the first one would be irresponsible and a waste of your time.
Doctor Who still employs cheesy effects and, yes, some of the villains are giant rolling trash cans (I kid you not), but that’s the charm of the show. I can’t say enough about how amazing this new series is. To borrow a word from our friends across the pond, it’s quite literally brilliant. It consistently wins BAFTAs and some episodes could easily be turned into movies. And, not to discount the first season, but it’s definitely not the best one (its not even in Blu-Ray, for heaven’s sake). I view it as I do with any first season of good shows – the writers and staff have to find their footing before they can jump. But when they jump, it’s a hell of a ride.
The show has become popular enough in America that now episodes air on the same day here as they do in the UK (they used to air months apart). Even the Simpson's tribute site Springfield Punx has done many, many, many Doctor Who illustrations. The show is that awesome.