Arguably the most popular time traveller at time of writing is the Doctor. And, with over 50 years under its belt, Doctor Who is a topic we can’t ignore in a month that’s all about time travel. And I wouldn’t want to ignore it.
You might recall from March that the Doctor is one of my alien role models. So it won’t surprise you too much to know that, with much glee, I took some time just a couple years ago to re-watch all of Doctor Who and its spinoff series. But before I get to talking a little about each, I’ve just written this month’s intro and the topic of why this appeals to us is on my mind. You will get a little of that through this (and through what I said about the Doctor in my role models post), but one thing they’ve really got going for them is that they can do just about anything with this programme. They can go anywhere in time and space. Anywhere. The tone they’ve established lets them play it fun or play it serious. There’s a lot of freedom there.
Now, in spite of what you’ll read…some of my feelings are better labelled as “concerns” or “reasons I want to punch a writer.” But, overall, I love this show. And I’m likely to stick with it. Even if they don’t share my fantasy of Tilda Swinton as the Doctor with a companion who’s not sure if she’s a boy or a girl…or a definitely physically female Doctor who is still very much the Doctor…or one who is as sexually ambiguous as Jack Harkness or who isn’t white or maybe isn’t quite so obviously human or or or….one of those options that takes advantage of the fact that a Time Lord can, when they regenerate, choose to be something that is physically completely different from what they’ve been before. (But, seriously, make Tilda the Doctor and I’ll give up music for long enough to play her Companion…Did I mention I can act?)
Right. On to a little about each programme.
Oh, Doctor…Listen, with 50+ years of programmes, it’s hard to sum it all up. But I think I can repeat myself a little and we’ll call it good. The Doctor and his curiosity…and his optimism…and his determination to do right…The Doctor and his inability to not get involved in historical events (even when he knows he ought not) if he thinks he can save someone…Plus, with so many regenerations, there’s a Doctor whose personality fits whatever mood I have. And it sure doesn’t hurt that the one I find most physically attractive also struggles with some big sadness that speaks to me. By creating a character that isn’t likely to die, they could have set themselves up for too much repetition and stagnation. Instead, they can change the Doctor or his Companions before that happens. (Not that they always do…but they could. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about Clara…Ugh. Clara.) And they can always show me a new wonder, a new world, a new species, a new problem to solve. Oh, how I love this programme.
Whilst not devoid of humour, Torchwood seems to really flourish in the anguish and the darkness of the Whoniverse. And they did this with unabashedly marginalised or flawed characters. (Note: marginalised does not mean flawed.) There were plenty of capable (whilst realistically flawed) women. There were characters—including men—who weren’t straight. (Not just Jack Harkness either.) They made us ache over man’s inhumanity to man, over our greed, over the stupid things we do because we are just humans trying to find happiness. And, as long as they don’t do another that involves Hollywood, I’ll always be on board to let them kick my heart.
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Like many viewers who were already familiar with older Doctor Who, I was thrilled to see his previous Companion, Sarah Jane, show up to work with the Doctor again. And I suspect that’s why Sarah Jane got her own programme. Whilst it was aimed at people younger than me (early adolescents?), I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It never went as deep or dark as Doctor Who or Torchwood, but it was pretty solid for a young adult programme. Remember, if you choose to watch this, that it is a young adult programme. But if, like me, you were delighted to see Sarah Jane again, this will be a treat. Should you find yourself mourning the early death of Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane, perhaps enjoy this as a way to get some last moments with her and her beautiful light. If nothing else, this programme made me enjoy Sarah Jane’s appearances in Doctor Who, whether in the classic or the newer series, a little more.
You might think that, by the time I got to this, I’d be worn out on Doctor Who. Or maybe you think I’m doing that thing where you save the best for last. And you’d be wrong on both counts. However, my love does not run so deep as to make me enjoy this lame spinoff. This one…this I watched all of just for the sake of completion. I kept trying to find reasons to like it, but, wow, I was so pleased when I was finally done with it. If you are considering being a completionist, consider this paragraph your permission slip not to watch this one. Of course, I was never charmed (aside from some brief nostalgia) by the little robot dog. Sorry, K-9. You’re a good dog, but I’m a bad person. (Don’t worry, internet, I’m not generally immune to cute animals. I am, as far as you know, human.)
Now, I’m going to go dream of a TARDIS showing up to take me into wonders and dangers I’ve never seen and hope the Doctor gets me home in time to publish this little love letter to him.