I’m an old fan of Doctor Who. When we were small, my brother and I used to race to the TV to switch it off after The Polka-Dot Door before that scary music and the spooky image of the Doctor’s face (the title sequence was always the best part). Years later, PBS showed the series from the first episode made way back in 1963. We were hooked. By the time I finished highschool, we had videotaped all but a couple of the 600-odd episodes in existence. The show’s aesthetic – amiable science fiction horror for kids – is still with me.
Today, my imagination doesn’t take me as far. Although I can still sense flashes of brilliance, and BBC acting and scripting are still above par, I’m more critical of slow plotting and foolish dialog. I didn’t expect much from the new series.
I’m still uncertain. The incidental music is weak, the titles are missing the Doctor’s spooky face, and the 45-minute episodes lack the cliff-hangers that made those long stories so addictive. The Doctor’s wardrobe is positively ordinary. Worse, the show has product placements and on CBC there are advertisements: a jarring and unnatural occurrence in a BBC show. I am inclined to cancel cable and buy the DVDs instead, except there are rumors those will be long coming given the DVD cartel’s outrageous zoning system and the lack of a U.S. broadcaster.
And yet… for now, at least, I’m hooked again. The first 15 minutes of the “The End of the World” were brilliant, with the alien plumber who needed permission to talk, the two-dimensional fashion victim, even the laugh-out-loud iPod product placement. In Britain itself, as Adam Tinworth says, the series seems to be hitting its mark. If I can just imagine that my ten year old self would be scared, it will be enough.