Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Doctor Is In!

Well, I was waiting on tapes from Canada, but I recently received an offer of the first six episodes of the new Doctor Who on disc from someone who had gotten them from, erm, an Unnamed Source. Needless to say, I could not possibly refuse. They came in the mail on Saturday, and so this weekend, which was supposed to be spent doing useful and productive things, was instead passed in a veritable orgy of Who-watching.

Some spoiler-free comments, cribbed from babblings I've expressed elsewhere:

I have now finished watching the first six episodes, and am enjoying it immensely. I hadn't realized how much I'd been craving this particular sort of SF TV since Farscape ended: this feeling of being thrown headlong into a strange and wonderful universe where absolutely anything can happen and probably will. Battlestar Galactica, good as it is, just doesn't scratch the same itch. (And, of course, there hasn't even been that on my TV for weeks.)

I gather there are fans who dislike the directions things have taken, and others who have mixed feelings. Which I think I can kind of understand... I have the distinct feeling that if I were capable of dissociating myself from my fangirlish delight, taking several dozen steps back and looking at it with a critical eye, I could find lots of things to question or to nitpick. Plot elements that don't make a whole lot of sense, continuity that isn't, creative decisions that might be a little too creative in that they change the face of the Who universe in unexpected ways... But, honestly, when has Doctor Who not done all of those things? To watch it in a critical mode that gets hung up on that sort of stuff, in my opinion, is to watch it wrong. Or at least, to miss the point. No, if you ask me, the only thing to do with Who is to relax and enjoy the ride, to just let yourself get swept up in the fun, the adventure, the flashes of humor and moments of emotional resonance. In fact, I think perhaps the primary charm of the show is that it so easily leads me into that mindset, that very pleasantly childlike state of pure appreciation that momentarily turns off the jaded, cynical side of me that's seen it all and always thinks it could be done better. And this new series does that every bit as well as Who ever did, which delights me utterly. Yes, it is very much Doctor Who with a 21st-century sensibility, but that's fine. Who has always been extremely fluid; that's one of the great things about it, and, I'm quite sure, one of the reasons why it's lasted this long.

As for the characters... I've very quickly come to like Eccleston's Doctor a lot. He's marvelously complex: amusingly snarky one moment, full of exaggerated but infectious enthusiasm the next, and rather disturbingly dark the next. There are layers to him, and he's clearly been affected by the things that have happened to him since we last saw him on our TV screens in ways that invite exploration. Oh, man, I'm now feeling really bummed out by the thought that we're only getting one season of him.

I also like Rose much, much better than I expected to. Contrary to all expectation, she's not just a pretty face; she's actually one of the most useful, sensible, and level-headed companions he's ever had. The dynamic between them is great, too, very different from the kind of relationship he usually has with his companions. I think the difference is that, with perhaps the single exception of Romana, the Doctor's companions have always treated him with a certain kind of deference. He may occasionally be exasperating, and is certainly someone who can be argued with, but there's always the feeling that he is, in some sense, the superior being. He's like Yoda to everyone else's Luke. But Rose treats him very much as if she thinks of him as an equal, and it makes for a refreshingly unusual Doctor-companion dynamic.

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