TV Review: “Dr. Who”

By Tatiana Cooke

This week’s heat wave has left almost everyone looking for an excuse to spend the afternoon lounging on a couch in an air-conditioned room, watching an attention-diverting movie or TV show. The summer’s on-air choices are a little limited (season six of the Bachelorette anyone?) and the World Cup is almost over. Thankfully you can replace the stagnant TV fare with a fresh breath of the classic “Doctor Who,” an incredibly absorbing and cool (not literally, unfortunately) British television program.

Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction series in history, weighing in at 769 individual episodes. The show has received critical acclaim for everything from its inspired low-budget special effects to creative plot lines. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989 and was revived in 2005 and is still ongoing. Since then, it has seen five consecutive wins at the British National Television Awards in the drama category.

In the show, the Doctor has the power to regenerate his body — a convenient plot device that has allowed the role of Doctor Who to be filled by 11 different actors, the most recent of whom is Matt Smith. The Doctor — who may appear to be human but is actually the last surviving specimen of a powerful race called the Time Lords — generally has at least one mortal companion who travels with him for several episodes at a time, giving the Doctor someone to talk to and providing comic relief.

Using the TARDIS — his “dimensionally transcendental” space ship that is disguised as an ordinary-looking blue police box — the Doctor can travel through space and time to strange worlds and alternate universes. He has a tendency to attract disaster and often runs into old friends and enemies along the way — most infamously his archenemies, the entire Dalek race. There are also an awful lot of conspiracies and run-ins with Torchwood, the secret international agency that keeps extraterrestrial contact a secret while developing alien technology.

The show is unmistakably British and almost all of the Doctor’s earthly adventures are based around the United Kingdom. The writers often combine historical and extraterrestrial elements (Queen Victoria as a space werewolf, for example); giving us a chance to ogle period costumes and discover the age-old secrets of civilization. Who knew Dickens was really inspired by aliens?

Old episodes from the 1970s and 1980s are just as entertaining as newer shows and provide a fun slice of retro style. The variety of actors who play Doctor Who all bring their own spin to the character and it’s interesting to see how the role is constantly being reinterpreted and redefined.

Doctor Who can come off as a little kitschy at times, and the series never really inspires fright in its viewers. This, however, makes the Doctor’s adventures all the more fun — the tongue-in-cheek acting lets us know that we’re all in on the joke.

Bottom line: Doctor Who is good old-fashioned television fun that will hopefully stick around for a while longer.

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