Doctor who is a british science fiction show that follows the adventures of a time lord in his time travelling space ship that is stuck in the disguise of a blue british police box. Throughout the show the time lord known as the doctor can change his whole body which means the show can basically swap out their main actor every few years and carry on the show. Now obviously the premise is ridiculous and the show can often be awful, but yet I have become a big fan, and in this post I’m asking why can the show be so appealing but yet so terrible.
The show has many different writers which means there is a lack of consistency in the quality of writing. Sometimes a Neil Gaiman may come in and write a brilliant episode then the next week the shows being written by some guy on work experience at the bbc. Now I exaggerate a bit of course but there are definitely episodes that are so much better than others, maybe the good episodes out weigh the bad, but when the episode is bad, it’s REALLY bad. It’s then maybe the fact that you know the show is capable of pulling off a brilliant episode like Blink that keeps the audience watching. I’m not sure.
Even the best of episodes all seem to follow the same structure. The doctor and companion fly the tardis, land somewhere, the place they’ve landed in is established, a monster or person is seen doing something evil but undetected, the doctor and companion explore said place, they meet some miscellaneous characters who are then established more, the monster or person does something else bad, the doctor realises the monster or person is doing said bad thing, starts to either chase the monster or run away from it, this reaches a climax, the doctor then regroups with miscellaneous characters and companion, then the doctor or companion performs a non lethal solution to the situation which stops the monster or person and then they all say good bye and the doctor and companion fly away in the box. That description is basically every episode, or at least since the show was rebooted as I cannot be bothered to watch all the old episodes.
The show is also such a blank canvas. Because the doctors ship can go literally anywhere in time and space, the writers for the show can do anything they can think of. Rather un originally this tends to result in a story set on earth and in the past. It is this sandbox nature of the show however which is it’s main appeal. The show can go from a western one week to a sci fi epic the next and a tense thriller the week after. This means the show in theory can never quite get boring as if you don’t like one episode you might like the next as it is never quite the same the next week. The show could literally go anywhere which means eventually it will make good television, it’s almost like if a chef was to just randomly throw all his ingredients into a pan, eventually the chef would make an edible meal.
Also despite the often stupid plots and stories that don’t always take advantage of the sandbox, the characters are some of the most charismatic on television. Maybe not in the case of Rory Williams who was like watching a live broadcast of a gibbering old man, but the Doctor, in any of his 11 (or 12 now John Hurt has popped up) faces, is so fun to watch. The actors always bring such charisma and enthusiasm which means the doctor can be hilarious and often crazy but then can switch to being wise and intense within a second. One of my favourite episodes recently was Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, despite a lot of people calling it terrible, because of this reason, the doctor played by Matt Smith in this episode portrays himself as a kid who’s just been given the best christmas present, and it is hilarious throughout.
One of my main problems with the show though is that every episode is very rushed. A standard episode is around 45 minutes long. Now a standard drama show tends to be an hour long. The short running time is what I think constraints the show and may be the stem of the problem of inconsistent writing. There is a large pressure to rush through the story and wrap things up within the running time. If the show was maybe an hour long, even an hour and a half, with maybe less episodes each season but with better quality writers (cough Neil Gaiman, although his cyberman episode wasn’t as good) and I think the show could be a lot more interesting to watch. This would also allow writers to add more detail to the worlds in the stories and make the planets the doctor visits more realistic and rich.
Anyway though the show reaches its 50th anniversary this year on the 23rd of November. It marks this occasion with a special feature length episode that will star the current doctor Matt Smith, returning doctor David Tennant and acting royalty John Hurt. Despite my doubts about the quality of the show overall I am actually looking forward to this episode just because David Tennant is back, since leaving doctor who he has proved himself as a brilliant actor in shows like Broadchurch, Spies of Warsaw and just in the last couple of weeks I saw him in The Escape Artist which was brilliant and may just be my next blog. Also the idea of John Hurt joining the cast is interesting as the show rarely has an actor of his callibre and experience on the show. Then after the anniversary special the show is back at christmas where the new doctor played by Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) will be introduced, this is also exciting as Peter Capaldi is a great actor and I really enjoyed The Thick of It so I think he will do a good job.
Also the trailer has just been released for the 50th anniversary episode and it looks amazing.