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Dr Who And Me

When I was a kid and a young adult in the UK, I watched Dr Who pretty religiously; it was a unique show at the time, and seemed to check a lot of the boxes that made engrossing TV for yours truly.

The fantasy/scifi/adventure show began in 1963 and ran for 26 seasons on the BBC, and I remember my younger brother hiding behind the couch whenever the Cybermen showed up - a victim of that delicious fear/thrill response that we sometimes get as kids.

He was actually scared, but would not fail to watch the show each time it came on. Like so many UK kids, we were hooked. The show eventually fizzled, but left behind a truly beloved legacy of quirky characters, hate-worthy (and sometimes sympathetic) villains, and some mend-bending storylines and concepts.

The Doctor through the ages
Fast forward to 2005, when BBC Wales brought back the Doctor in a more sophisticated show aimed towards an older audience, while remaining accessible to younger viewers. The new Doctor was played by Chris Eccleston, and was suitably mysterious, and rather dashing.

It also was apparent the BBC had taken advantage of digital special effects rather than cardboard and silver paint, and had certainly upgraded the "look" of the show, which had previously been delightfully low-budget.

Doctor Who had long employed the smart plot device of allowing the Doctor to "die" every few years and return played by another actor - usually showing a different facet of the Doctor's character; still the Doctor, but different. This often gave the writers some new things to explore, and different ways to tell the stories.

Another great tradition of Doctor Who was the "companions" - usually humans from Earth who tagged along with the time travelling Doctor, and who gave the viewers a point of reference.

Companions would come and go over the years, often introducing different character dynamics, which also helped to keep the shows fresh and interesting. UK actress/singer Billie Piper played companion "Rose" to Eccleston's Doctor, and they were a great together.

When Chris Eccleston left after one season, David Tennant assumed the role, and I admit I did not take to him right away. I had really liked Eccleston and was just getting into the show, when I felt the rug was pulled from under me. Of course, Tennant was a great Doctor and the show went from strength to strength, even spinning off the much more adult-themed "Torchwood" show.

Matt Smith, Tennant's successor never really did it for me - and it's just "me" I think; he is fine in the role, but for some reason I have not been following the show much the last few years. If I am brutally honest, it's not that I have outgrown the show - quite the reverse; I think maybe the stories were getting a bit complicated for my poor old brain.

While the show has always had recurring villains and some over-arching stories and themes, the impression I have lately is of a lot of mind-bending, time-hopping story lines involving lots of characters, many of which I am not familiar with. Like I said, it's just me, I think.

Dr Who underwent a veritable media blitz as Matt Smith's time came to an end and another Doctor is now with us, played by an older actor, Peter Capaldi. The Doctor has never had to appear as a certain "age" either, even though it has been established the character of Dr Who is over 1,000 years old. This time, the popularity of the show coupled with the rise of social media had brought about a real onslaught (overload?) of media attention.

Having watched the first season with the new Doctor, it looks like Peter Capaldi will do just fine, thank you very much. The episode focused on the relationship between the regenerated and quite different Doctor and his plucky companion Clara - and by extension, us, the viewers.

I'm almost jealous that "my" quirky UK kid's show has become such a darling to so many.


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