By: Kent B. - MSTv contributor
I have seen many a strange thing, throughout my 30+ years watching the British sci-fi juggernaut, Doctor Who. But, never has it been so "different," yet so delightful! However before I go on, I'm going to surmise that you know who and what Doctor Who is about. And if you don't, here's a brief history describer of this 55 year old British/global sci-fi institution.
Doctor Who is a British science fiction show that began in 1963. Its about a centuries-old alien, from a planet called Gallifrey, who is of a subset class called "timelord." The character travels - most often with others - throughout time and space in a machine called a TARDIS. He's relatively immortal, but when threatened with dire injury, or death, he can literally "transform" into another form - complete with a new body and personality. And since 1963, he's done this 13 times. (If you'd like to know more, click the link above) Also, this is a perspective article, so I'm assuming you've seen the episode. If you haven't, here's the Wikipedia episode link.
Now, back to our regular scheduled article.
Like millions of others, I tuned in for the global BBC simulcast of the new 13th Doctor's premiere episode, "The woman who fell from the sky." And like assuredly everyone else, I prepared myself in seeing the newest incarnation of my favourite alien timelord turned "hero to heroine." Yes, that's right -- the 55 year old hero of the show had changed his sex to become a woman...
No biggie.. Its 2018 and the Doctor is an alien.. So, who cares, right?!
Besides that expected difference, Doctor Who is a show that changes its general tone and feel almost as much as it does its lead character. So initially, the changing from male to female for the Doctor seemed like a needless plot device to likely draw in new viewers; despite it being suggested decades earlier and explored first with the Doctor's arch enemy, The Master.
However, sex change aside, this new "Doctor" appeared just as insane, hyperactive, curious and heroic as her predecessors. At despite the overall story being typically "Whoish," (IE: bad aliens menacing Earth - or somewhere- and the Doctor fixing it to make the baddies run away, die or whatever.) I took away only one very intense feeling watching this 1st episode: it had an almost palatable sense of darkness to it. In a sense, it reminded me of a more cinematic episode of Stranger Things.
From the show beginning, where future companion, Ryan Sinclair somberly speaks online about the most wonderful woman he's ever known, to the very last scene of the Doctor and her three companions floating in space, the entire episode drips with senses of despair, dread and dire. In a sense, I don't think the show has ever been this "alien."
On first look, the 14th Doctor Jodie Whittaker appears completely unassuming, without menace and almost whimsical. But, as the show progresses it becomes apparent she is just as formidable and dangerous as her pesky Y chromosome past. This Doctor, like several before her was willing to kill the bad guy in order to save the day. But, unlike her previous selves, she did it with a frighteningly calm demeanor and a bravado her previous selves might actually envy - even David Tennant's 10th!
More-so, than in perhaps a long time, this Doctor seems just as alien as Tom Baker's 4th and ruthless as Peter Capaldi's 13th. Even from the traditional choosing of the Doctor's costume to the almost Cyberpunk creation of her home-brew, industrial "sonic screwdriver" was just so proudly outside and fringe. So as a fan and watcher of this program for over 30 years, I say with little doubt that the 14th Doctor will most likely be the most "inhuman" of all those gone before.
And Whittaker's choice of costume only served to reinforce this: it appears to be a mishmash look taken from some of her predecessors. It too looks completely non-conformist and odd, yet it works on an individualistic level. And much like Colin Baker's 6th, this new Doctor's costume proudly proclaims she really is, or will be "different."
All in all, the new Who works brilliantly, so far. It's now being shot in anamorphic framing, so visually the show is strikingly beautiful. Additionally, new series composer Segun Akinola intensifies the feelings of atmosphere within the show with his moody compositions.
Since the show's return in 2005, composer Murry Gold kept the show's flow running musically with his more heroic pieces. Gold's optimistic and wonderful scores made you never doubt that the Doctor would win the day - mainly because though they were heroic, they were relatively light and made the menaces seem likewise.
With Akinola's compositions, those days are seemingly gone. The menace and threats painted from the sounds of the new Akinola "Who" universe seem well hidden, of a significant threat and likely highly dangerous. And this is even from menaces that looked like a giant Hersey's kiss, a moving rubberband ball and a stupid looking humanoid alien with teeth on its face..
Yeah, the first episode was typical, cheesy Doctor Who gold, guys!! And I loved every second of it!!
With the first new episode, in this ongoing saga of Doctor Who now over, I have to say my concerns about new show runner, Chris Chibnall are over. Its clear that Chibnall knows what makes this character work. In a way, Chibnall's "new Who" has a very "classic Who" feel with a contemporary look.
And the episode returns to form the old series feel of the kids watching from behind the sofa. So its clear, Chris Chibnall wasn't afraid to take risks by bringing the familiar back and keeping the changes coming.
But, despite a nearly universal acceptance and love for this episode, it was just the first one. Will the public come to completely accept the new lady "Doctor?" Will the frights and feelings of mystery, adventure and actual menace continue for the Doctor, her companions and us?
Screw it.. I'll be watching and more than likely, so will you guys.
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