September 12, 2011

A Premier on "Doctor Who".

Hello, everyone. Here's hoping you had a great September 11th. I pray we all that we all can continue to move forward in the world after that terrible tragedy 10 years ago.

Now that's out of the way, I decided that I'd bite the bullet today and write a blog entry on Doctor Who, that British sci-fi TV show I mentioned in my first entry. If I have piqued your interest, join me after the jump. If not, I still think you should check it out. But if you don't, that's perfectly fine.

Doctor Who is a long-running British TV show that began in November of 1963. It tells the story of a human-like alien who calls himself "The Doctor". He travels through time and space in the TARDIS, which is a spaceship/time machine that has the external appearance of a blue colored British police telephone box from the 1960s. That's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how crazy this show can be.

When it first started, the Doctor was much more of an antihero compared to how he is now. Plus, a lot of the stories were more historically based. The latter situation was because the show was originally conceived as a televised way to educate children about history. However, as time went on, the Doctor mellowed out and became a more compassionate individual, and the show became a bit more sci-fi oriented.

As of this writing, 11 actors have played the role of the Doctor on TV. Well, actually 12 if you count Richard Humdall, who played the First Doctor in the episode "The Five Doctors" due to original actor William Hartnell being long dead at the time that story was filmed. But I'm referring to the amount of people being officially hired to play the Doctor, not replacing a pre-existing one.

Now, you may be thinking: "How can 11 people play the same character for nearly 50 years?". Well, this leads us to one of the most clever story devices used in Doctor Who: regeneration. When a Time Lord -the Doctor's species- is near death, they can circumvent that by undergoing regeneration, which basically changes their entire appearance and personality, essentially becoming a new man -or woman, in some cases- in every sense of the word. They still retain the memories of their previous incarnations, but basically is the same person, but with a different face and attitude.

The concept of regeneration came about because William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor was becoming too ill to continue playing the role. They didn't want to end the show, so they came with a great idea: the Doctor would change his appearance into a different person in order to survive being "killed". Hartnell liked the idea, and even suggested a respected character actor named Patrick Troughton as the one to succeed him as the Second Doctor, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, on to the Doctor's ship, the TARDIS. "TARDIS" is an acronym that stands for "Time And Relative Dimensions In Space". Ordinarily, a TARDIS is supposed to take on a physical appearance of something innocuous for the time period in which it lands because of a device called a "chameleon circuit". Which is why the Doctor's TARDIS had the appearance of a police box in her -yes, the TARDIS is a "she". Just go with it- first appearance back in the 1960s.

However, the creative team at the time realized pretty quickly that creating a new TARDIS prop for every episode would be prohibitively expensive. Bear in mind, the show was made on quite a shoestring budget back then. Therefore, they came up with another clever idea: breaking the chameleon circuit, forcing it to remain in the shape of a police box. To this day, the Doctor's TARDIS has remained in the shape a blue police box, making an iconic part of British pop culture.

There have been times throughout the series where the Doctor has been asked by his companions why he doesn't just fix the chameleon circuit. He always says that he doesn't wish to, as he's grown to like it looking like a police box. Plus, it makes it easier for him to remember where he's parked it.

However, it's been implied since the beginning that the Doctor's TARDIS is sentient on some level. Esteemed writer Neil Gaiman took that concept and ran with for the recent episode "The Doctor's Wife" by making it more than just mere implication but outright fact. In the episode, a malevolent entity known only as "House" removed the Matrix -something akin to a "soul" for a TARDIS- from her and placed it into the body of a dead young woman named Idris in an attempt to take control of the machine and escape to wreak havok on the universe at large. Needless to say, he failed.

Over the years, the Doctor has had a slew of deadly enemies. The most iconic ones being the Daleks, which were essentially created to be the intergalactic equivalent to Nazis. Given the show made it's debut a couple of decades after the Second World War, this probably isn't much of a coincidence.

That's basically all I can say. In a nutshell, the Doctor is man who travels though time and space in a blue police box saving planets, fighting monsters, and righting wrongs. If you want to learn more, check out a website called The TARDIS Index File. It's essentially an online encyclopedia on the whole "Whoniverse". Keep your eyes peeled for entries on each of the Doctors. Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm pretty sure great doesn't describe september 11th.

  2. I know, but to be fair, I didn't know what else to say at the time...