Today is Thanksgiving in the US, and we’ve been enjoying the first day of our long weekend with lots of good food and a mini-marathon of Doctor Who.
I’ve always been a huge Doctor Who fan, dating back to when I was a kid. My room looked like a Doctor Who museum gift shop exploded in it. I watched every episode, read every book, and bought every poster and collectable I could get my hands on. Doctor Who fandom in the 1980s was a pretty small group in the US, but we were die-hard.
When the show relaunched in 2005, I was elated, and it once again became appointment television. Up until the middle of season six or so, at least. But something about the tenor of the developing storyline with Amy, Rory, and River was bothering me. It just didn’t feel right;1 I still can’t really articulate it, the whole story that was developing over the beginning of season 6 just didn’t sit well with me.
There wasn’t a breaking point; there wasn’t a moment where I threw down the remote and said “That’s it, I’m done!”2 But something was corrupted in my download of the subsequent episode, and I needed to go and re-download it3 and then we got distracted with this thing and that thing and….the next thing I knew, time had passed and we still hadn’t gone back to pick it up. The things I was hearing about the developing storylines didn’t actually make me feel like I wanted to come back to it, either. I did watch “Asylum of the Daleks” with runnerwolf, and the Christmas special “The Snowmen”, because those were setting up the new companion. The first just refreshed my annoyance with the Rory/Amy storyline, and the second I liked well enough to say I wanted to watch the series again, but not so much that I immediately made room in my schedule for it.
Then, this last week, they aired the 50th Anniversary episode.
I had been keeping an eye on the lead up to the festivities, but I figured I’d wait and see what they actually did with it before committing to watching it. Multi-Doctor stories are tricky at the best of times, and I was a bit wary of what they might do with it. But after it aired I heard nothing but good things4, so I pulled it down and we settled in to watch it on Monday night.
To say I loved it would be an understatement. I’d been intending all week to write a more detailed reaction to it, but this was an episode that felt so perfectly right to me, with the right balance in tone between funny and serious, paid the right nods of respect to the classic series, and managed to hit a big reset button on some of the recent continuity in such a way that preserved the effect while lifting the staggering burden from the Doctor’s shoulders so that he can move on without being blithe and simply deciding to ignore the monumental consequences of his actions.5
The net result of this has been a revitalisation of my interest in the adventures of the good Doctor, so today we settled down over our Thanksgiving dinner to start watching again. We’re not going back to where we left off — I’m still not entirely ready to watch the rest of the Ponds’s saga — but we did pick up with “The Bells of Saint John”, which was the first proper episode featuring Clara as a companion. We got through four of them today, which is rather a lot in one stretch for us any more, and I’m finding myself quite engaged. Some of this is due to Clara herself. She really reminds me more of an old-school companion in her relationship to the Doctor, and she’s smart and very capable. The details of her unfolding mystery are interesting enough, but mostly I just like her personality.
We expect to watch the remaining four episodes we’re behind on over the weekend. I hope everyone had a wonderful day, and that, regardless of whether you are in the US or not, that you spent it enjoying life with people you love.
I expressed this to my friend Jeff, who has been my best friend since we were twelve and is also a devoted fan of the show. He said, “I’m sorry you don’t like them.” and I explained that it wasn’t that I disliked them. I loved Amy and Rory to death, and what I didn’t like was what was being DONE to them. ↩
In fact, the last episode we watched was “The Doctor’s Wife” by Neil Gaiman, which I loved to bits. ↩
I still download the episodes off the underwebs. I don’t trust BBCA not to make a dog’s breakfast out of the episodes cutting them down for time, after the travesty of their edits on “The Eleventh Hour”. ↩
Doctor Who has never been the world’s most continuity-conscious shows in the best of times, but there are some elements you really do have to resolve on screen. ↩