Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Why yes, I had a checkup this morning, but that’s not what I want to talk about (I’m healthy as the proverbial horse).

The new Doctor Who shows up in North America tonight, and I have to admit I’m a bit pumped about it, being a fan from my college days. In those days of yore, the good Doctor only showed up late Sunday on WTTW, the public station out of Chicago. This was the height of the Tom Baker era, and a lot of American fans date from that time.

OK, let me back up for the saner members of the readership. Doctor Who is a children’s show from Britain, starting in the 60s, about a time-traveling doctor and his young companions who move through time and space in a machine that looks like a big blue police callbox (beating Bill & Ted’s excellent phone booth by a couple decades). The episodes were serial, about four or six in a row, and featured a mix of history, SF, adventure, and really cheesy-looking monsters. I mean hokey rubber-suited stuff that would never pass the muster of today’s world. But that was part of the charm, because to compensate, you only got a glimpse of the bad guy over the course of the adventure, creating a feeling or dread that left many young brits cowering behind the couch (Lost In Space did the same for me, which is laughable now, but true).

Part of the charm of Doctor Who over the years was its rotating cast. The Doctor is always getting new companions, and, since the Doctor was an alien, was capable of regenerating into a new form. This allowed a new actor to step into the shoes and take the Doctor in different directions. So far we have had the grandfather, the clown, the secret agent, the happy hitchiker, the upper-class batsman, the sad one, the second clown, the FOX version, and now the new guy.

Also part of the charm was that the original show’s release was limited, spread by tapes and word of mouth, and so too it’s the case today – the Doctor is not being broadcast in the States, but rather on the Canadian Broadcasting Company, which we get on the nethermost registers of our cable. So once again there’s a time lapse for the time lord, and while we know that the new episodes have gotten good play in Britain (and the ninth Doctor will not be back for another season, leading to a tenth doctor), we don’t know quite what he’s like.

So like I said, I’m a bit pumped. I have treated Enterprise and the Star Wars movies with a long pole because I so enjoyed the originals, but this one, I feel good about. Even if I get rubber-suited monsters.

And yes, there is room behind the couch to hide.

More later