You can’t spend much time in the SciFi community without hearing about the cult classic – Doctor Who. This British television series originally ran from 1963 to 1989 and is listed in the Guinness World Records as being the longest-running science fiction television show in the world. While there’s much to say about the first 8 doctors, this review is only going to focus on the 2005 relaunch of the series, affectionally known as the New Who. While it’s nice to see the original Doctor Who, it’s not necessary if you want to start with the more current series.
Doctor Who revolves around the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveler known only as “the Doctor”. The Doctor travels in a blue 1950s police box which is, in reality, a space and time ship called the TARDIS. The Doctor can travel alone, but a majority of the series he has “a companion”. A usually human traveling with the Doctor through time and space aiding the Doctor in saving the universe, solving problems, fighting aliens and righting wrongs.
The New Who series starts on Earth, with an alien attack and immediately viewers are thrown into the action without a lot of explanation. We meet our first companion – Rose, played by Billie Piper. Rose is spunky, spirited and matches wills with the Doctor on more than one occasion. We also meet Rose’s boyfriend Micky, and her equally spunky mother – Jackie.
Throughout the first season (and later seasons) we’re treated to a string of stories set in various time periods. One episode might take you to Ancient Rome and the next episode to the far flung future and the end of the planet Earth.
Now, I must warn you that Doctor Who can be incredibly silly at points. One of the first series’ aliens are large green creatures who fart a lot. But, as time goes on, you learn that Doctor Who has a lot of dark themes and explores some hard concepts. So while there is some cheese-factor, these are overshadowed by great characters and a real sense of epic story telling.
Doctor Who is a show known for it’s humor. And it’s a show that never takes itself incredibly seriously, so there’s often internal as well as meta references. The writers are not afraid to make jokes at their own expense or at the expense of their actors.
Because of their constant time traveling there’s often pop culture references made that aren’t caught by the locals. The Doctor also seems to be a pop culture junkie who is familiar with Harry Potter and Agatha Christie.
Doctor Who also has intricate story lines that often refer back on previous series. What might seem insignificant in a stand-alone episode may be extremely important later down the road.
Also, Buffy fans will love seeing Anthony Stewart Head in the Series Two episode “School Reunion”. ASH also lends his voice to the animated Doctor Who special, “The Infinite Quest”, the audio version of the Doctor Who Novel, “The Nightmare of Black Island”, the third and forth series of Doctor Who Confidential, and to two Doctor Who audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions.
There are currently four series in the New Doctor Who, including a handful of specials. Most of which are available on DVD, Nextflix or iTunes. If you’re in the US you can watch repeats on the SciFi Channel or PBS. In the UK you can try looking for repeats on BBC 3 or watch online with the BBCi player.