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Home > Doctor Who > Sixty Things I Like About Who: #1 – 5

Sixty Things I Like About Who: #1 – 5

December 9th, 2009

David Tennant’s career as Doctor Who will be ending in a few weeks with a two-part holiday special, “The End of Time.” In many ways, I’ll be sorry to see him go. A childhood fan of the show himself, his affection and enthusiasm for the role shone through. He took the Doctor in new and often exciting directions, aided in great part by the character-focused scripts of modern Who.

On the other hand, I’m hoping that we’ve seen the end of the “dark Doctor” for awhile. Executive Producer Russell Davies views the Doctor as a potentially vengeful and occasionally all-powerful figure, traits that came into play during the recent “Waters of Mars” episode and reached their nadir in the two-part storyline “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood.” Lots of fans love that latter story for the precise reason I dislike it: the Doctor is shown devising cruel and highly unusual, eternal punishments against his enemies because they shattered his fantasy of living a human life with his racist girlfriend. That’s not my Doctor.

Part two of “The End of Time” will be the 60th episode of the triumphant revival of Doctor Who, and in celebration I’d like to offer sixty things that made me smile, that thrilled me, that made me so very glad that the show is back and better than ever.

Here are the first five, in no particular order:

#1:  “Rose”

No, not Rose the character. (There was a time when she would’ve been on the list, but she eventually wore out her welcome.) I’m talking about “Rose,” the premiere episode. It was a pitch-perfect reintroduction to the series. Unlike the failed ’90s revival, it didn’t overextend itself by recapping Gallifrey, the Time Lords, the Master and the concept of regeneration. It simply dropped its viewpoint character Rose into the middle of one of the Doctor’s adventures, introducing both her and a new generation of viewers to the mystery a step at a time.

The script threw a sop to old-school fans by including the Autons–plastic robots who menaced the Doctor back in the ’70s–even as it added a new level of domestic reality that would’ve never flown in the dear old days of Tom Baker.

In one of its cleverest conceits, it posited that the Doctor’s many interventions throughout history had not gone unnoticed, but instead inspired conspiracy-minded bloggers to concoct their own explanations for his mysterious appearances and ever-changing guise.

#2:  The Judoon

My favorite recurring monsters of the new series are the Judoon, jackbooted rhinoceroses that serve as galactic police-for-hire. They’re not malign, rather dead-set on justice. They’ll get their man/woman/alien, but they don’t care one whit about the damage they cause in their single-minded pursuit. They comprise an intriguing change of pace for Who: creatures that simultaneously serve as both aid and opposition to the Doctor.

Space Rhinos on the Mooooooon!

#3:  Sex

In the very first episode of the original series, viewers were introduced to the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan. Even though this familial relationship was never once refuted or even questioned within the context of the show, fans and production personnel alike have twisted themselves into knots over the years trying to explain how it could not possibly be so. The implication that the Doctor had bumped uglies even once was too much for them to bear.

Thankfully, the new series overthrew that notion in its first season. The two-parter “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances,” written by Steven Moffat (whose name will come up several times in this list), was all about sex. The Doctor’s not-entirely-platonic relationship with Rose was threatened by the dashing Captain Jack Harkness, a younger, dishier, fun-loving time traveler with a more potent gun. Given that “dancing” was used as a metaphor for sex throughout the storyline, the title of the second part seemed a direct challenge to tender fans. And, if the Doctor’s admission that at some point in his life he had “danced” wasn’t enough, Moffat’s next script “The Girl in the Fireplace” strongly implied that the Doctor did it with Madame du Pompadour during the episode.

The new Doctor Who has treated sex in a much more mature manner than its supposedly “adult” spin-off, Torchwood.

#4:  Tess Booberson

Okay, that wasn’t really her name. Yvonne Hartman, played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, ran the London branch of Torchwood, the super-secret organization tasked by Queen Victoria to salvage otherwordly technology and protect England from aliens–including the Doctor. With cheeky arrogance she claimed, “If it’s alien, it’s ours.” My friend Dave Lartigue dubbed her “Tess Booberson” for obvious reasons.

Tess seemed to be asking for a spanking. Or maybe that was just me.

Unfortunately, the saucy Tess was snuffed too soon. Converted into a Cyberman, she rebelled against her programming and was last seen attempting to defend Torchwood Tower from the Cyber-horde.

#5:  The Freeway Chase

Russell Davies has both strengths and weaknesses as a writer. He’s great with character, and has a keen sense of balancing the needs of fanboys against those of a mass audience. He’s shit with endings, relying on deus ex machinas (at times, literal ones) to get himself out of a jam. Too many of his episodes involve someone glowing with omnipotence. And he’s fond of truly groan-inducing moments. Sometimes they work (Queen Elizabeth II waving her thanks to the Doctor) and sometimes not so much (the TARDIS towing the Earth across the galaxy).

Then there’s this: the truly mad TARDIS/car chase from “The Runaway Bride.” My favorite part is the pair of adorable children (stand-ins for the audience) watching the whole thing play out, shouting “Jump!” and punching the air when the Doctor and Donna make their getaway.

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