Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Doctor Has Lovely Comedic Timing

Okay, before I get into specifics, I offer a quick description of “Doctor Who,” because I feel like there’s always someone who has no idea what I’m talking about ("Wasn't he a curly-haired dude with a long scarf?") when I mention the very, veeeerrry long-running BBC series:

“Doctor Who” is about a bright, eccentric, long-lived alien traveling space and time looking for adventure, while holding a deep, if sometimes frustrated, admiration for humanity and its potential. He travels with companions, people he encounters who want to see the universe along with him. After a lengthy hiatus, The Doctor returned a few years back, first as the gruff Christopher Eccleston, and the in his current incarnation ( the 10th so far - with each mortal wound, The Doctor "regenerates" as a new actor, which started mostly as a means of recasting the part without a lot of complaints) as David Tennant, whose chatty enthusiasm belies a lonely heart.

Now then, everyone caught up? Good, because “Doctor Who” returns to the Sci-Fi Channel tonight at 9 PM. Yes, yes, last week it belatedly aired the 2007 Christmas special, but, y’know. That was Christmas. What has “Doctor Who” done for us lately?

It brought Catherine Tate back is what.

Tate was the titular character in the 2006 special “The Runaway Bride,” where she had two settings: loud/angry, and loud/sad. This is not a complaint, mind you, just an observation – Tate’s Donna Noble character was designed as something of a palate-cleanser to get audiences used to the loss of Rose Tyler, before introducing new companion Martha Jones.

Well now they’re both gone, so it’s time to introduce a new companion for The Doctor. Rather than go the previous route – young women attracted to The Doctor (and let’s face it, who could blame them, Tennant’s adorable!) – the producers decided to introduce a character who could not possibly be less interested in him In That Way. When he fumblingly admits that he doesn’t want any romantic awkwardness for a change, blurting, “I just…I just want a mate,” she mishears his genuinely vulnerable plea for, well, a buddy, and disgustedly assumes that this twiggy alien “wants to mate.”

This is after an opening half-hour that doles out a lot of just-missed-each-other physical comedy.
So this season looks to be a little heavier on the comedic aspects available to both the actors and the show, while giving the lead a good foil, a friend who's willing to occasionally kick him in the ass for a change. If what I’ve read is true, this might just be to soften us up before bringing back all the current run's ersatz companions (Rose, Martha, and Captain Jack Harkness).
With this many former cast members in place, fans can assume we’re heading into a seriously apocalyptic season-ender. Well, okay, another seriously apocalyptic season-ender.

“Doctor Who” does some heartbreakingly great finales. Because they all signify some kind of loss for the series (first Eccleston, then Rose, then Martha). If the rumors are true, this one might just culminate with the loss of David Tennant, as he regenerates into his 11th incarnation (possibly Robert Carlyle, an interesting choice).

Coping with change is a pet theme of "Doctor Who," but still, I’d really miss David Tennant. The old saw goes that everyone has “their” Doctor – the one they get attached to, because he’s the one they meet first. Eccleston was my Doctor, but Tennant by the beginning of season 3 had really made the role his own, and so now when I think of the character, his is the version that springs to mind. So if this season is going to be his swan song, I hope to hell they can avoid too many crap middle episodes (every season starts and ends spectacularly, but inbetween, hoo-boy, does quality vary).

But that's all for later. But not much later, which is nice. For once, Sci-Fi is airing the episodes only a month after their BBC premieres, so I won’t feel four months behind for a change.

1 comment:

thechicgeek said...

And here I was thinking that David Tennant was going to last into the next several years, at least until the movie specials.

I'm not sure if Tate is going to stay on for more than one season, but I really hope Rose comes back for good. Fat chance of that happening, I suppose.