Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dr. Who: the next generation



Have I mentioned how very good the new Dr. Who series is?

I am a long-time Dr. Who fan who started watching with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and stayed faithful through the Fifth (Peter Davison) before losing interest with the Sixth (Colin Baker). I also went back and watched all of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and some of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton).

The first two years of the revived series has been a feast for fans. The new series keeps what we loved about the original and adds on a depth of emotion that was deliberately absent from the earlier incarnations.

The Ninth and Tenth Doctors, portrayed respectively by Christopher Eccleston (who contracted for one year only out of fear of being typecast) and David Tennant (who first announced as a child that he wanted to be an actor when he grew up after getting hooked on Dr. Who), is still cheerfully daffy but with a steely, darker edge that can surface without warning. He has seen so much war and death that he's a bit more ruthless than before. He is keenly aware of all the blood on his own hands, and his enemies are not loath to bring this up to him from time to time. He is the last surviving Time Lord -- a great Time War took place at some point in the years between the old series and the new -- and he is lonely. He is still the champion of all that is good but the cost of battling evil has made him hard beneath the devil-may-care exterior.

He still doesn't mess around with his companions in the Tardis but the taboo against touching and kissing is gone. In The Girl in the Fireplace he has a poignant romance with Madame de Pompadour. In School Reunion he runs into his companion from the Fourth and Fifth Doctor days, Sarah Jane Smith, and she not only takes him to task for abandoning her but also relates to his current companion Rose as to a rival. Rose too sees the possibility of her own future when she looks at Sarah Jane -- will she be the left behind companion who grows older while the ever-regenerating Doctor stays young and flies off to adventures without her?

In last night's episode, the last surviving Slitheen from an earlier episode is caught by the Doctor who intends to rid the earth of its murdering presence and take it back to its home planet, where it faces the death penalty. The Slitheen has become comfortable in her "skin suit" as a middle-aged, professional Englishwoman who by this time has become mayor of a city. The Slitheen argues for her life and accuses the Doctor of being her executioner. She asks the Doctor for a last request -- that he take her to a restaurant she had become fond of during her time on earth.

"Can you sit at table with someone you are delivering up for execution?" she asks the Doctor.

If you haven't checked out the new Dr. Who series and are a fan of the old, I highly recommend you do so. You won't be sorry.

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