As someone who tries to go through as much different content as possible, Doctor Who was one of those shows I was always meaning to get to. In the case of episodic content, however, I can be terrible at actually keeping up, especially in an on-demand age where so much is just at my fingertips. Something about availability has often made going through shows so easy to procrastinate.
Doctor Who is a unique case as well due to its longevity. This presented a significantly higher amount of episodes I would have to go through if starting from the very beginning and made the idea of getting into it more daunting.
As luck would have it, however, I keep up exceedingly better if I am watching with someone else and on a whim this past week a friend and I started watching Doctor Who from the first season relaunch in 2005, starring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor. This worked as a good jump-on point with the series for me, allowing me to get to know the universe through the eyes of the outsider Rose Tyer, while knowing that there is a lot of lore that exists before what I am watching.
Through osmosis there were a lot of things here and there that I knew about the show, but it really was something I needed to see before I could fully appreciate what Doctor Who is.
From the first episode there were a number of things that surprised me. Firstly, I was taken aback by how bad the visual effects were during this particular season. I understand that it is a television show from 2005, so the computer graphics wouldn’t be very good at that time, and I didn’t hold the effects against it. I was more surprised at how cheesy the effects looked. They reminded me of movies like Sharknado, really, where they are laughably bad.
It was quickly apparent that the show’s cheesy effects were not at all a reflection of the show’s quality, however, as the writing and acting quickly demonstrated for me. I only found the first episode jarring because of how new it felt, but I was into it completely by the second episode.
What clicked for me at that point was the potential that the TARDIS presented for storytelling, being able to take them to any time and place, and that made me very excited to see where they would be taken next.
Secondly — I did say “Firstly” after all — I was surprised by how progressive the show was, and so casually as well. The most noticeable instance for this was that Rose’s boyfriend Mickey is black. This particularly stood out to me because a friend of mine once recently brought up that television and movies rarely show a black man in a relationship with a white woman unless it is the focus of the plot. It was a pleasant surprise to see from the onset that the series was more open minded and progressive than others, which has been maintained in later episodes as well.
Getting back to the cheesy aspects, I feel they are well utilized because they help to keep the tone fun, but especially because of how well it contrasts the more dramatic moments of the show. To paraphrase Jim Sterling, if your characters spend all of their time being miserable the audience will be more tired with tragic incidents in the story than affected by it. There has to be happy to contrast with the sad, and Doctor Who has done this very well, particularly with Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor as very jovial and silly, while also compassionate, somber, and even methodical. He’s willing to do what needs to be done, but struggles with the guilt of the consequences.
I’ve since started the second season as well and I am eager to continue powering through.