I read a lot, but recently I had trouble concentrating on reading. I was being distracted by a good deal of the technology around me. One of the many reasons that I feel the 60’s were such an intensely creative time is that people had enough technology to create new things, but not enough to be too distracted. That could be a bullshit pub theory, but I think there is some truth to it.
Anyway, to get my reading concentration back I decided to dive into a book that was fun. I figured if I could get the rhythm of reading back I could then jump back into more serious works. I am an absolutely huge Doctor Who fan and I decided to read Doctor Who: A History. This approach seems to be working. If you are struggling to get some books going, start with something you know you will enjoy.
I really can’t begin to express how much I enjoy Doctor Who. I have watched all of the new episodes and am now making my way slowly through the Classic Doctor Who shows on Netflix. There is really nothing else like it. The show began in 1963 and is still going strong today, despite it being off the air from ’89 to 2005 other than one TV movie. Even during those years there were countless radio programs, novels, spin-offs, etc. At this point, despite however nerdy it sounds, I am a full blown Whovian. If I said otherwise I would be in denial!
It’s hard to explain why I love this show so much, but I am going to try to get across some of the reasons. I love that the show has endless boundaries. Because the Doctor is a time traveling alien the stories can be anything from funny to scary and take place anywhere in time and space. One week you could be in Victorian England and the next you could be on some imaginative fictional planet. The show is filled with both goofy humor and serious moral questions. That limitless potential makes it consistently fresh and exciting. It also reflects the power of the human imagination to go anywhere and do anything.
The character of the Doctor is one of the best fictional characters ever written. He is highly intelligent but also often a complete madman. This slightly mad quality and his inquisitiveness even in the face of danger, make him a highly entertaining character to watch no matter whom is playing him. The best thing about him is that he often represents brain over brawn. Although he is constantly surrounded by violence he only uses it as a last resort. Even on those occasions when he does have to resort to violence there are almost always unintended consequences.
A key to understanding the mythology of Doctor Who is the idea of regeneration. The Doctor is a Time Lord and instead of dying he regenerates. What this means is that he takes on a new form with slightly new personality traits, allowing the different actors that have played him to bring something new to the table, but he is always the same character.
One of the things that is interesting in the book is how many things that have now become iconic parts of the show were done for practical reasons or because of mistakes. The idea of the regeneration was created, much as I assumed it was, to allow for there to be a reason for different actors to play the part. The Doctor also flies a time machine called the TARDIS. It looks like a British blue police box and it is much bigger on the inside. Originally the Doctor’s time machine was meant to blend in with its surroundings. However, the show was notoriously low budget during the classic run and they realized they didn’t want to build a new TARDIS for every show so they left it as the police box. One couldn’t imagine the show without it now.
In music people constantly talk about happy accidents. That is something you do by mistake but ends up being a keeper. Angus Young’s riff in Thunderstruck was a “happy accident”. He was messing about in the studio, but now as soon as that riff starts people know what it is instantly as the song is played in countless sporting arenas. How many things over the years that have become mainstays in our culture have been created without intent?
Who is my favorite Doctor? In the classic years it is Tom Baker as he brought just the right amount of insanity to the role. In the new series I started with the 9th Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. I didn’t think anyone could top him, but then I became of fan of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor and after that Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. I know I’m not really answering the question, which some of you will deem important, but I really liked all of the actors that played the Doctor on the new series. If someone would come new to the show I would personally recommend starting with Matt Smith’s Doctor because he has the best beginning episode and the production values are the closest to what modern audiences are used to from a TV show. But I loved the dark quality that Eccleston brought to the role, and while watching Tennant’s episodes I didn’t think anyone could take over the role from him. Tennant had some of the best episodes, played the Doctor exceptionally, and had possibly the best companions, but some of the Russell T Davies scripts that took place on present day Earth were a bit silly.
There is so much more I could write about this subject. If I am coming across like a silly fan, that is because I am. But I make no apologies, as this series has brought me countless hours of enjoyment. If you are looking for something that is fun, intelligent, and imaginative, give it a go. You just mind find yourself spending countless hours aboard the TARDIS. Dear Lord where does the time go? At least this time I know.