Friday, January 08, 2010

Doctor Who

We had some interesting TV on New Year's Day: a Doctor Who marathon. Marathons are very popular over the holidays: I saw a Mayday marathon on the Discovery Channel, and there were marathons of Parking Wars, Police Women of Broward County and several other such shows. But I was surprised to see Doctor Who, because it doesn't seem to be THAT popular here, despite the old British connection to Canada. Nothing to compare with Star Trek, that's for sure.

Anyway, just out of curiosity, I decided to watch it, and realized that it was the final episodes of the last season. My, it's changed a lot. The Doctor has changed, of course - he's changed several times since the last time I paid attention to the show, which was when Peter Davidson was the Doctor. Actually, I left off watching the show after he became the Doctor; he was just too "Tristan Farnon" for me, and I could never adjust to him in the new role. The last Doctor I really connected with was this guy:

The best Doctor, without a doubt.

The last fellow, David Tennant, was alright, though I got a bit sick of his glaring and bellowing, but then, the stories were vastly more melodramatic than the old classic series, so there was much more scope for scenery chewing. (I'd love to see Rifftrax take on Doctor Who, come to think of it!) The special effects of this reworked Doctor Who are a LOT better than they used to be, but the season finale had to go and throw in a gay pickup in a bar, which spoiled it for me. "Oh, we've got THAT now. I see." I guess this sort of thing plays well in England these days, but it'll probably date modern TV and film faster than anything else.

But one thing I can't fault the show for is its theme. The best sci-fi show theme ever; maybe even up among the best TV show themes of all time. It's been rattling around in my head since New Years: oooOOOOOooooooo! OOOOOO-oooooo! I don't even mind the modern reworking of it, with an orchestral setting; the original was pure synthesizer, but this is good too. To contrast the two, here's the theme I remember from the Olden Days when I watched the show, and the new one. The logo is different, but you can't beat that tune.

And this is the new version. A bit more hectic, but still good:


Blogger Tregonsee said...

Pretty much 100% agreement on the themes, and the best Doctors. Both of the modern revisions were fine, but I never could get completely comfortable with Davies' revisions to the canon. He had a tendency to rip up 40 years of established lore about the Time Lords for no discernible reason except lazy writing. Even the personality of the Tennant version would change in a jarring fashion, and then switch back in the next scene, or episode. Star Trek would at least provide some soothing technobabble when they decided to undo something long established.

11:06 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

The breaking of already established rules is a problem with seemingly no explanation except that "It would be cool if the Doctor could do this" and then away they go. I saw it in action and I only watched a few episodes from the most recent season; in 'The Waters of Mars', the Doctor rescues several people from death, even though he knows that by doing so, he is disrupting future events, something he is forbidden to do. What the hell, he does it anyway, because he can and he's decided that he doesn't have to be bound by these rules. But then, in "The End of Time", when he's asked why, since he's a Time Lord, he can't just go back in time and defeat The Master before he becomes dangerous, he answers, "I'm not allowed to cross back over my own timeline." I thought, "Yeah, that's TODAY's story, but I'm sure when it's convenient, the writers will arrange for him to break that rule like they have the others.

There seems to be a misunderstanding of why these rules exist, as if they're just arbitrary details. They exist because there's no story without them. Chesterton writes about this somewhere: Cinderella HAS to leave the ball by midnight. Why? Because if she doesn't, there's no story. Is midnight an arbitrary choice? Yes, but any hour would be just as arbitrary; the point is, if there isn't some imposed limit, some "frame", there can be no meaning. Art needs rules.

I find the same perplexingly cavalier attitude in these new 'Twilight' stories: vampires that can go about in the daylight. A vampire has to follow certain rules, or else you're not really describing a vampire. But instead of taking the trouble to create a brand-new creature that isn't limited the way vampires are (yet must, to succeed, have its own different set of limitations), the writers just cherry-pick parts of the myth they like and pretend the rest doesn't apply.

6:45 pm  
Anonymous Robbo said...

LOL - I thought I was the only person watching the Doctor back in the 80's who couldn't get Peter Davidson's Tris out of my head!

Agree about Tom Baker being the best of the lot, although I believe there are is a sizeable crowd of slightly older folks who would go with John Pertwie instead.

1:42 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I've only seen Pertwee and the 2 other earlier Doctors in clips; I should hunt down some dvds of the early episodes and see how they hold up (though the special effects were so cheap, I dont know if I could watch them without laughing now!)

I was thinking about those first 3 Doctors, though, and realized something: it's probably impossible for men of their age to be cast as the Doctor now. They were in the traditional mad doctor mold, like Rotwang in 'Metropolis'. Tom Baker was younger than they, but he didn't SEEM an especially young man; maybe that's why the role fit him so well - he had a sort of timelessness that seemed appropriate for a hundreds'-years old Time Lord.

Since then, except for Sylvester McCoy, they've cast fresh-faced young men as the Doctor, and I don't think they can ever go back. It's partly because they've been moving closer and closer to romantic involvements for the Doctor, so now we no longer get a surprise from each new regeneration. And to me, they're all starting to look the same. I'd LIKE to see some weird old bastard come back as the Doctor, but I know it's just going to be another blond pretty-boy. This new one looks exactly the same as the last one.

11:59 am  
Anonymous Janjan said...

And not only was Tom Baker the best Doc, but he was fun to have a beer with too!

9:29 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

And still is, I trust! Wikipedia has him down as living in Sussex. He and the late Dave Allen both sound like guys it would be great fun to meet in a pub.

3:00 pm  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

Yes, the first four I felt comfortable calling 'Doctor', and Baker was by far the best. After that, the charisma seemed to drop to 0 and I gradually lost interest. John Nathan Turner's dismal, ponderous synth and directing didn't help matters either. It almost ruined Baker's final few shows as well.

but the season finale had to go and throw in a gay pickup in a bar, which spoiled it for me.

I knew when Davies had taken over it would be nothing but disaster. Thanks for confirming that I've nothing to regret for not keeping track since. Of course everything must be sacrificed to The Cause.

7:44 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rilstone said...

I still think the original 60s version of the theme is best: it has a sort of ghostly wierdness to it that the others lost. /watch?v=bKg9tuSbXmk


2:52 pm  

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