Remember Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister in Love, Actually? He gives an updated pop-culture version of the John of Gaunt “This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle . . . This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” speech:
“We may be a small country but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that.”
How is it possible that Doctor Who didn’t make the short list? Now there's a national treasure.
The debut of Doctor Who joins the notable anniversaries this week: Gettysburg Address 150 years on November 19; Kennedy assassination 50 years ago on November 22; and the next day, Doctor Who premiered on the BBC, on November 23. It was a hit in Britain for decades, then ended in 1989, and when it came back in 2005, it found a large American audience.
I only started watching Doctor Who on BBC America in the 2005 reboot led by Russell T. Davies. I caught the tail end of Eccleston, driven there by the incredible recap writing about the show from Alan Sepinwall and Ross Ruediger. It was a little hard to follow the idea of a Time Lord at first, but Eccleston drew me in and sold it, in spite of Billie Piper. I am not a Rose fan. But no matter.
What I love about the series is how deeply imaginative it is. The stories go back in time to the days of Shakespeare or Pompeii and ahead in time to the end of the world in this and other galaxies-—following a Time Lord means all things are possible.
One Martha Jones episode with the Tenth Doctor, “The Lazarus Experiment," is set in today’s London. The villain of the week is a 72-year old doctor looking for the a fountain of youth, which turns him into a raging, really scary-looking CGI monster. In his lucid moments, he remembers back to the London Blitz as a child, when his home was destroyed. The last scene is in St. Paul’s, where he was brought as a child for safety, and where he ultimately goes from monster back to man. I found the story very moving, and important that a show basically targeted for children would create a plot around the last of the generations who saw WWII.
The monsters in general are the creepiest, most elaborate, scariest things on tv. And yes, there was a really gross spider monster, the Empress of Racnoss, which, as I discussed, my arachnophobia, was hard for me to watch.
And then there are the Daleks, the evil nemeses of the Doctor with the really cool voices. You could write about them forever, but it wouldn’t do them justice. They are one of the great fictional destructive forces of all time. (See photo below, but don't be fooled by their party hats.)
Quick Doctor Recap & The Original Fans
1. First Doctor, played by William Hartnell (1963–1966)2. Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton (1966–1969)
3. Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee (1970–1974)
4. Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker (1974–1981)
5. Fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison (1981–1984)
6. Sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker (1984–1986)
7. Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy (1987–1989 and 1996)
8. Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann (1996)
The Time of the Time Lords War
9. Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston (2005)
10.Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant (2005–2010)
11. Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith (2010 - 2013)
12. Twelfth Doctor, will be Peter Capaldi
Russell’s new incarnation of the show had a deep, rich history to build on, now with great CGI effects and the modern Doctors of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant.
I envied the original fans who first started watching as kids and have seen the Doctor through all his regenerations and all his companions. However, when it returned in 2005, they were not all happy.
Some impassioned hatred from one blogger: "Why do I hate it...? Where do I start? Bad dialogue, bad plotting, bad acting, bad jokes and bad science. Sentimental, patronising, inconsistent and too eager to please. Some of it is so cringeworthy I actually blush while I'm watching it."
From blog comments on The Telegraph: "The earlier Doctor. Who, of the Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton eras, were paced much more slowly allowing for the drama to develop, whereas this series is all flash bang wallop, and strangely seems stuck in the 1980s, in its sensibility. Just not very good at all.”
David Tennant: THE Doctor
The BBC has been running documentaries for each doctor. It's a wonderful history of the creative life of a series, and of each actor, as they progress, talking about "their" Doctor, the one they grew up with.
For me, and many, David Tennant is the Doctor, the way William Shatner is James T. Kirk. There may be other actors who play the role for various reasons, but they don't count.
Tennant showed a deep and unique understanding of the potential essence of this character, over 900 years old, sad and happy traveling along, knowing he needs a Companion to temper the darker side of his nature. Tennant expressed the sheer power of the Doctor in a way that Matt Smith cannot. (Eccleston had flashes of that good/evil power too.) David Tennant is also a true fan of the series, in a way Matt Smith is not. I count the Tennant episodes as some of the most enjoyable TV watching of my life. And what are the odds that the tenth Doctor would be named TEN-Nant? Mystical, right?
Doctor Who: A True "We Are the World" Experience
Big Kudos to the BBC for celebrating 50 years of this creativity with a worldwide simulcast of their anniversary special. Literally. Uniting fans across the globe to experience the story at the same time. I am very luck to be heading down to see it in a theater. See you on Twitter.
[Updated from a 2008 post]