Sunday, June 1, 2008
Doctor Who - Silence in the Library
Geekery abounds in this post. You have been warned. Note that since most of the people who regularly read my blog are Who beginners, I'm writing this post with that in mind...
From as far back as I can recall, I loved Doctor Who, the longest running science fiction television show in history (its original run lasting from 1963 to 1989). Doctor Who, for those not in the know, is the story of a sort of Samaritan hobo (known only as the Doctor) who travels around time and space in a broken time machine, occasionally picking up some bewildered earthlings (often -- okay, usually -- nubile young women [1,2,3(NSFW),4] as he, you know, saves the earth from destruction and occassionally gets killed. (Don't worry! When they die, his species can "regenerate" into a new form, meaning that the BBC can hire a new actor to play the same character! Brilliant!)
I remember watching the half-hour reruns on the local PBS channel every weekday evening at 5:00. Later, they they moved it to Saturday night, with two hours of nonstop Who goodness each week. As a kid, there was nothing better than watching Tom Baker take on the Master, or Jon Pertwee's fey Doctor reversing the polarity of things. My favorite doctor was Sylvester McCoy. (Though it might be a little more accurate to say I liked Ace, his punk-rock companion... She knew how to kick some Dalek ass (or eye-stalk) like none other! Oh yeah!) The original run was knows for its clever plots and brilliant characters right along with its cheap sets and cheesy special effects. Very much part of the popular culture of the UK, Doctor Who has been the inspiration for at least one burlesque show [mildly NSFW] and at least one porno [extraordinarily NSFW].
The show ended in 1989 and I missed Doctor Who as I grew up. The lame-ass Fox TV movie in 1996 did nothing to make the situation better (what a waste of two hours!), but when news of the new BBC series came around in 2005, I was jumping for joy (not literally... as far as I recall),
The new series, picking up right where the last run left off, has proved to be generally exceptional. There have been a few moments of lameness and cheesiness [exhibit A, exhibit B], but overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The new Doctor Who is sexier, more fun, more clever and edgier than ever before. (I imagine Captain Jack Harkness*, the Doctor's omnisexual companion that will "dance" (i.e., have sex with) with just about anyone, would have gone over like a ton of bricks in an earlier era. The revived series' creator, Russell T. Davies, was previously best known for creating Queer as Folk, and he's not been afraid to push the boundaries on Who. Also, Davies, openly an atheist, inserts a skeptical slant into many of the storylines... Plus, Richard Dawkins, whose wife starred on the show in the 70s and 80s, will be appearing as himself in an upcoming episode!!! Nifty!
* Aside: Captain Jack Harkness became the star of a spin-off series, Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who, and the subject of one of my recent posts). Torchwood is a sort mix between Who and the X-Files, only with swearing, lots and lots of sex, and the occasional naked bum. Overall, I've found Torchwood to be just shy of a great show, but I think it's wonderful that treats sexual diversity as just part of the human experience, with every one of the main characters of Torchwood at least experimenting with bisexuality (though sometimes under alien influence), and it's cool to see a weekly sci-fi series with a queer lead...
Anyway, there have been a few moments of sheer brilliance in the new series. One of those, was last season's Blink. Blink, for my money, is one of the best hours of television ever produced, period. It was creepy, scary, mind-bending, and used time-travel in a unique way as part of the plot, rather than just the way the characters got to the plot. Blink featured the main characters for probably less than 5 minutes of screen time, which allowed us to see this story from the perspective of some random person who just happened to be caught up in the story. Truly a brilliant piece of storytelling.
This week's episode, Silence in the Library, was also one of those brilliant episodes. It begins with a young girl in what appears to be a 21st century living room. She's being interviewed by her psychiatrist and father about her imaginary life, the life she sees when she's not drawing or watching cartoons. After the opening credits, we see The Doctor and Donna (who I find much less annoying that I thought I would) are headed to the beach in the TARDIS, but end up in a 51st century library containing every book ever written, many reprinted in special editions just to be put on the shelves. But the library is vacant. There is no one anywhere to be found. Seeing how these two seemingly unrelated storylines begin to connect is fascinating, and I can't wait to learn more in part two! This episode does a perfect job of drip-feeding you enough information to keep you intrigued, but not blasting you with a firehose of so many details that there is no suspense, which has occasionally been an issue with the new series.
Both Blink and Silence in the Library were penned by Steven Moffat, who was recently announced as Russell. T. Davies' replacement as showrunner when he leaves the series next season. I'm excited to see how Moffat takes the series to even greater heights.
FINAL NOTE: In a search for the fabled Jo-Grant-naked-with-a-Dalek picture linked to in the second paragraph, somehow the Google image results gave me this decidedly NSFW link. Transformers Porn. The world is doomed.