Monday, September 22, 2014

Doctor Who: Season One

I am extremely late to the Who party.  I know a lot of people who can rattle off every character who appears, every alien race, every time period, every wacky gadget the Doctor has ever used, and considering the show has started its eighth season, I'm fully willing to admit that my starting now puts me really, really far behind.

But hey, I think we've established before that on a lot of things, I'm usually the last one to the party.

So, without further self-flagellation, let's discuss my opinion of the first season of Doctor Who.

Now keep in mind, these are all opinions from someone who can easily appreciate a series having a long-standing history but has remained almost completely unexposed to it.  If my opinions upset, infuriate, or bother anybody because they're just flat out wrong, try to keep this in mind.  I'm presenting this as I saw it without any knowledge of the lore, the future events, and with limited explanation of just how this stuff works.

That being said, I swear the sound effect of the TARDIS sounds like something being used to mechanically plunge a very stubborn toilet.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Starring Christopher Eccleston as "the Doctor," (not, surprisingly, a guy named "Doctor Who") and Billie Piper as his 19 year old "companion," the two travel through space and time getting mixed up in mysteries, monsters, and aliens.  The Doctor is said to be the last of his kind, a strange alien being who's different from humans in that he's extremely old, has extra organs, and, well, isn't from Earth.

As to why he feels the need to travel around space and time, I have no real clue.  I also don't really know why he feels the need to drag a teenager around with him (I mean, as opposed to anybody else, it is kind of creepy), but the show works hard to maintain that they're just "Doctor" and "companion."
Christopher Eccleston, I feel, does a great job in his role.  There's a youthful excitement that dances in his eyes any time something strange happens, but it can also turn extremely serious when he realizes what's going on and what's at stake.  There's a lot of contradictory facts about him, such as that he seems determined not to kill anything at one moment, but will "directly indirectly" be responsible for the deaths of other creatures without batting an eye.  All in all, it makes for what is either a "less than completely thought out" character, or one that just has a lot of depth.  I'm still on the fence about which.

Billie Piper as Rose, on the other hand, is actually really enjoyable to watch.  From what starts out as a wide-eyed bystander there to play the role of me, the viewer (except I'm not a nineteen year old teenage girl with visible dark roots in my hair), she quickly becomes confident in herself on this trip with a sense that I expect only someone young could have.  She's more willing to accept that things don't work how we always imagined them, and grabs hold of new ideas easily.

There's a bit of snark that I can find a bit off-putting, somehow, since there are multiple moments when she's throwing a quip or witty barb out at someone and I'm left thinking "Um, does she not understand the severity of the situation she's in, or does she just have that much faith in the Doctor?"

The acting isn't...well, it isn't Broadchurch or Orphan Black in terms of complexity and depth, but that could have something to do with the fact that it's a new cast tackling a show that's been off the air for some time.  Most science fiction series I like usually have a rough first season (Stargate: SG-1, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Farscape), so I'm curious to see how it goes.  I realize that at there's going to be a regularly rotating cast of "Doctors," so I might not get to necessarily see an actor grow in the role, which actually feels rather disappointing.  If the Doctor has lived for such a long time, you have to wonder just how many times he's had to take on a new... identity?  Form?  I'm not sure what the term is.

I will say, the special effects are a bit hokey, but enjoyable.  There's a significant difference between when a particular alien species is shown running in full CG and when they lumber across a room and swing silly costume arms.  It might all be a nod to the old series, but every now and again I feel like I'm watching a SyFy original film in how the computer-generated images are done.

Overall, I'll say that I enjoyed the first season, but it doesn't have me as excited as a lot of other shows from the BBC have made me in the past.  To be fair, the other series I've watched had tight concise stories for the most part (Orphan Black being a notable exception), but considering I get the feeling this series is designed to be ongoing as opposed to telling one concise story, I can understand why it feels more loose.

My general opinion's all right.  That's about it, really.  I hope they realize that it's fine to recognize the past for a while, but introducing some new sound effects and ideas wouldn't hurt the series at all.  After all, we don't need funny rubber suits any more in Star Trek, we could probably do without a weird pumping, vooshing sound every time the TARDIS shows up somewhere.

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