I guess I was thinking of that pretty campy Tom Baker version I watched right before Monty Python on my local PBS station so many years ago. Perhaps I simply didn’t understand it back then, but I certain can appreciate it now. This series is fantastic. It is easily the best Sci-Fi TV I’ve seen in a long time.
I loaded Doctor Who Season 1 DVDs up on my NetFlix ‘Instant Watch’ queue and it sat there for over a month. Every time I sat down to watch TV I would see it there and instantly think of that old show and skip it. But then one day I happened to be on Netflix.com and saw a little note next to the entry for Season 1 saying that It was going to be removed on April 13th. I decided I better get to it watching it or lose my chance.
This isn’t anything like what my mind remembers the old show being. Sure, it still has some humor in it, but it is a smart kind of humor. I don’t find it rediculously campy at all. The special effects aren’t up to Battlestar Galactica maybe, but then they don’t really need to be. The science fiction is excellent, better than anything I can think of being on TV since Babylon 5. Some of the episodes, such as The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, are downright scary and pretty far away from humor.
It has proved to be an excellent opportunity for my son (9 years old) and I to discuss time travel and the implications of it. As an aside, I hum the children’s song, “I’m My Own Grandpa” at these times but I’m not sure he gets that (the Muppet version, of course.)
The season starts off a little slow with “Rose”. The pilot/starter episodes are always filled with exposition and this is no exception. “The End of the World” allows the show to flex some sci-fi muscles and frankly had me a little fooled as to how the show was going to progress. “The Unquiet Dead” is a big change from the previous episode and a flashback to earlier Doctor Who shows that used travel to the past as a way to educate children on history. I’m not sure what children will get out of this season’s historic episodes, but there are some historical figures here. Again I thought I had the formula figured out, when suddenly we get the 2-part “Aliens of London / World War Three”. Very nice, but perhaps also the campiest of the season (with the alien’s gas balancing problems the main culprit.) Another 2-parter in “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances” comes later in the season and are the episodes I think were outstanding. My son and I are still talking about those two. The season ends with “The Parting of the Ways”, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t fantastic either. I was glad I could start season 2 right away thanks to Netflix, but more on that in another post.
In terms of the formula, I like how the show keeps things mixed up between story arcs and individual episodes. It keeps it feeling unique. I have especially liked how the arcs end up linking together sometimes. The show is a little disjoint because of the different places they end up, but bringing the plot together helped the show feel part of a larger universe to me.
In any event, if you’ve held out from watching the show and have Netflix, you owe it to yourself to add the season to your queue and give it a go. I can’t imagine you being disapointed.