Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Charm of Doctor Who

Our wedding cake was the TARDIS, of course!

The Charm of Doctor Who 

 Before the new series of Doctor Who starts up again, I wanted to reflect back on the classic series for a moment. The world’s longest running science fiction/fantasy television show began in November 1963, the same day Kennedy was assassinated. These events live on in our imaginations, albeit for very different reasons. The young president’s death demonstrated the harsh realities of the human condition, while the wandering Doctor and his companions emphasized our capacity to overcome adversity through the use of science, with a splash of courage and derring-do added in for fun. Admit it—sometimes we long for a brief respite from the horrors of the world, a chance to catch our breaths and see the “good guys” win. This much desired escapism the classic series of Doctor Who delivered, and it’s why it continues to strike a chord within its fans. 

The First Doctor’s charmed us with his outwardly crusty mannerisms that hid his inwardly caring nature. London school teachers Barbara and Ian were the perfect foils to reveal how the Doctor wanted to make a difference without being seen as a superhero rushing in at the last moment to save the day. The First Doctor’s true charm was his sense of humility, his sense that he could advise and help others, but, in the end, they needed to solve their own problems and live life on their own terms. After all, he lived his life on his own terms when he took off in the TARDIS, leaving his home world and people behind. Why would he act disrespectfully by telling others what to do? 

The Three Doctors
The Second Doctor charmed us with his sense of endless curiosity. The universe—and its dimensions beyond—was this recorder-playing piper’s playground. He and his companions often found themselves involved in convoluted scenarios on planets they weren’t always welcome on. Ever the stranger, he soon became a trusted confidant to those he helped. In the end, his punishment was to be exiled and his closest friends’ memories of their adventures together—all except their first encounter—were taken away. What could be worse for a “cosmic hobo” than to lose his traveling buddies and their shared escapades? 

The Third Doctor charmed us with his James Bond-like skills of Venusian Aikido and his love of fast cars and boats. Both his crustiness and his caring heart were evident as he scolded the Brigadier and his friends at U.N.I.T. for their tendencies to shoot first and ask questions later. The Third Doctor felt trapped in his exile on Earth, yet didn’t take his frustrations out on his adopted people and planet, doing his best to help humans and aliens to live in peace and harmony. Was it really any surprise to him when they ignored his sage advice? 

The Fourth Doctor
The Fourth Doctor charmed us with his whimsical foresight. You could say he’d be around the block now in his four regenerations, and human beings and their self-defeatist antics didn’t faze him much, even though he often voiced his disappointment in our apparent lack of wisdom. The Fourth Doctor is sometimes seen as a clown in his long scarf, floppy hat with the ever-present bag of jelly babies (sweets) in his pocket, but his strength came in allowing his adversaries to underestimate him. His deep, caring nature and humility, along with the cosmic hobo’s sense of curiosity, drove him to do better, to help out, to become more involved—sometimes as the cost of his own safety. How would it feel to be seen as being something less than you really are, yet all the while you intuit others have come to depend upon you for so much? 

The Fifth Doctor charmed us with his athleticism and his uprightness. His crustiness and world-weariness revealed themselves in his reserved manners and tendency to preach to his young group of companions. But there was never any doubt the Fifth Doctor still cared for the human race—the sacrifice of his own life by giving all of the spider’s poison antidote to his last companion demonstrated his humility and caring. Would anyone expect less of the Doctor? Would the Doctor expect any less of himself? 

The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors
The Sixth Doctor charmed us with his unexpected energy and driven disposition. Time was catching up with the Time Lord, and sometimes his rudeness showed his impatience with the fact that although he had changed, the occupants of the universe hadn’t. They gladly accepted his assistance, but they didn’t give credence to the good he did and often tried to undermine him. The Sixth Doctor continued to care and to serve in spite of his own people’s cruel betrayal by putting him on trial. Misunderstood and ridiculed, was the Doctor growing tired of helping ingrates who couldn’t see the compassionate individual behind his coat of many colors? 

The Seventh Doctor charmed us with his need to put things right. A long life wanderer throughout time and space, his travels had taught the Doctor that he had an obligation to clean up some of the messes left behind by him and others. Evoking his whimsical side with his question mark umbrella, he was seen as a clown, a role he used to great advantage. Underestimated and reviled, he continued to lend a hand wherever and whenever necessary, expecting and receiving neither honors nor acknowledgment. A hero to the end, was it his simple love of humanity that drove him onward in spite of insurmountable obstacles? 

The past year we’ve enjoyed watching (and re-watching) the remaining episodes from the classic series of Doctor Who. When you consider the great actors, writers and producers who created the series, is it any wonder its genuine charm hasn’t faded over the years? The new series of Doctor Who hasn’t quite lived up to this great wealth of good-feelings generated by the classic series character of the Doctor, alas. We wait to see if “Nu Who” can yet be redeemed, hoping it's not completely devolved into a teenage-oriented soap opera focused on photogenic young companions that doesn’t quite demonstrate the charm of the humble, caring, heroic original Doctor. 

What's your take on classic Doctor Who. Do you think the new series has come close to the charm of the original? Leave your comments in the comment section below. Thank you.
Some of my other essays on Doctor Who include:

Doctor Who: The Last Christmas Special Ever?

Doctor Who vs. Agents of SHIELD: Creating Strong Female Characters

The Death of Doctor Who

I Got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues


A J said...

You're as beautiful now as then, Sweetie! That was a great cake. =)

Cynthianna said...

Aw, shucks! *blush* It really was a tasty cake, wasn't it? (We'll have to make another one someday.)

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