Tuesday, March 8, 2016
#WeirdEd Week 98- Doctor Who
Right up front let's get this out of the way- Doctor Who can seem impenetrable to the uninitiated. There's 50 years of canon to sift through, though you really only need to have started watching in the last ten, and it's built for you to jump on every few years with a new Doctor (I'll get to that in a second). If you're not a Who fan then the whole thing probably seems quiet silly.
And it kind of is. Which is kind of the point.
I want to be clear that, much like every other chat on some specific fandom or thing I love but I acknowledge much of my audience might not, I'm going to do my best to a) explain the basics of what you need to know here and b) write questions that are accessible even if you don't know what a Dalek, Cyberman, TARDIS, or Adipos is. You have to trust me, tonight I'm the Doctor.
A brief overview- The Doctor is a Timelord, an ancient race of aliens who live what might as well be forever through regeneration. When the body of a Timelord dies she or he regenerates into a new body. To put it in TV terms, when an actor wants to leave the show the writers can kill him and replace him without killing the character. No matter what face The Doctor wears, he's always The Doctor. Different actors put different spins on him, but he is the same character the whole time. We are on our 13th Doctor (nerds will note that I'm counting the War Doctor because of course I am).
The Doctor travels through space and time in a ship that looks like a blue police call box called the TARDIS. It looks like a blue police call box in the show because the chameleon circuits are broken and in practical terms because the BBC gave the show zero budget and a blue box is an easy prop. The TARDIS is "bigger on the inside" because science and otherwise our heroes are trapped in a tiny box and that's no fun at all.
The Doctor is almost always accompanied by a Companion. The companion is a human (or humans) who he travels with and shows off for and rescues and cares for. In practical terms, the companion begins as the audience surrogate, our window into this insane world, and eventually, when written right, we care for and love the companion like he does. The companion will make you cry.
The Doctor travels time and space saving people, solving mysteries, defeating aliens, and bringing peace. He doesn't use weapons aside from his mind and a sonic screwdriver, which is a magic wand that does whatever science the show needs (except it doesn't work on wood). He's manic and joyful and brooding and the loneliest person in the galaxy because he's the last of his kind (sort of). He talks fast, runs down corridors, and scares the bejesus out of most other aliens. The Doctor fights with only his mind and his will, this is important. He faces down metaphors for communism and Nazis regularly, but he doesn't shoot them. He will outwit, outrun, out-think them, and sometimes just straight up bluff.
The Doctor isn't always the best teacher because he's the smartest person in any room he's in and he knows it and in fact he relishes it. The Doctor often finds himself in a bind with no possible way to get out of it but he does, and why? Because he knows he will. He is endlessly curious. He has to be, he can see all of space and time. Puzzles with no answer are the most interesting (yes, he's got a Sherlock thing a little- written by the same guy at the moment- but there's one major different between the to. The Doctor loves people. Sherlock couldn't care less about them.). The Doctor is not cool and most of the time he doesn't try to be. Depending on which Doctor you're talking about he is handsome or craggely, young or old, excited or dour. But he's always wise and always trying to be better. He has things in his past he can't forget and forever regrets and instead of dwelling on this he uses that fire to make the universe a better place.
There's a lot in Doctor Who for us to learn.
Everyone has a favorite Doctor and a favorite companion. I'm stealing my answer for my favorite from someone else, I can't remember who- My favorite Doctor is the one I'm with at the moment. Right now my favorite is Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor. He's old and grumpy and fantastic. But I loved the previous Doctor, Matt Smith, who was a young, excited puppy. Before him David Tenant, the handsome and charming, was the best. And before him, where I jumped on to the show when they brought it back, was Chris Eccelston, angry and wounded. I love The Doctor.
As for my favorite companion, it's easy- I love Amy Pond. She was the best. Then Rose Tyler.
Doctor Who's most recent seasons were, unfortunately, just pulled from Netflix but if you're a science fiction person or like fast-paced, joyful storytelling, I can't tell you how much you'll love the show. It's not always great, sometimes it's pretty bad (looking at you Sleep No More), but when it's on it's the best hour of TV you'll see. Don't be afraid to jump in wherever, it's accessible if you're patient. I'd go back to the restart with Chris, but that's where I started so I'm biased.
Tonight we talk Doctor Who and education. It's time to be madmen in a blue box.
**Note- there will be no #WeirdEd next week (3/16) as I will be flying to Palm Springs for the CUE 2016 National Conference. Normally I'd let someone else run it but it's week 99 and I want to do it so it's postponed. No #WeirdEd on 3/16.