Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Doctor looks for a new sidekick

"Doctor Who" returns to American TV tomorrow night (though I'm sure some of you have already watched the new season through, um, alternative means), and I was darned pleased with both the Christmas epic "Runaway Bride" and the first regular episode with Martha Jones. Here's the start of my column on it:

"I'd rather be on my own," The Doctor insists to a would-be traveling companion.

He's lying, of course, which we know from our history with The Doctor, whether on the decades- spanning original version of the British sci-fi classic "Doctor Who," or the marvelous modern reinvention, which begins airing its third season tomorrow night on Sci Fi.

In every one of his incarnations, The Doctor (a time-traveling anarchist nearly as old as the universe itself) has made room in the TARDIS (his spaceship, cleverly hidden inside a '50s-style blue police call box) for a sidekick or three. After all, who wants to go on a road trip solo, whether to the outer reaches of the galaxy or to Shakespeare's London?

Over the years, those companions have taken all shapes and sizes: brilliant scientists, fellow aliens, even a robotic dog named K-9 (we don't like to talk about him that much). For the first two years of the new series, The Doctor (played initially by Christopher Eccleston, and now by David Tennant) chose Rose Tyler (former teen Britpop star Billie Piper), a London shop girl who turned out to be smarter and braver than even she imagined.

Piper left the series at the end of last year, with Rose stranded in a parallel Earth, forever kept apart from her beloved Doctor, and he from her. So it comes as little surprise that season three opens with The Doctor feeling lonely and defensive, even as he gives two different women a shot at being his new partner.

To read the full thing, click here. Those of you who've seen these episodes (or the full season) already, please keep your comments spoiler-free, okay? We'll talk more about both episodes tomorrow night.


dark tyler said...

From what I've heard, episode 3x10 ("Blink") is supposed to be the best thing since bread came sliced. So many people are hyping this up, that I'm considering checking out this show myself, although I've never watched a single frame of any of its incarnations.

Question: is it accessible? Will I be able to get if I just watch the just-concluded Series 3, or should I at least go back and catch the Christopher Eccleston season?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, you'll probably enjoy the earlier Eccleston and Tennant stuff a lot, but the two episodes tomorrow are extremely newbie-friendly. Since The Doctor is meeting up with new humans, he has to explain a lot about who he is, what he does, what the TARDIS is, etc. There are some scenes that trade off of his feelings about Rose's departure, but you don't need to have watched any Rose episodes to keep up.

Eric said...

And "Blink" itself is one of the most self-contained episodes ever.

I think the production schedule, with the Christmas episode each year means that they need to do an episode during the season where the Doctor and the Tardis crew don't appear much. Blink was this year's story.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess nobody dies in this episode because there isn't an omnious photograph and intro to the post like last week's Rescue Me.

Anonymous said...

Wiedly enough, Catherine Tate is actually being brought back as Donna Noble for the full fourth season run. So hopefully she won't be as bad for a long period as you suggest in the column.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wiedly enough, Catherine Tate is actually being brought back as Donna Noble for the full fourth season run. So hopefully she won't be as bad for a long period as you suggest in the column.

Huh. Well, it's not that Tennant and Tate didn't have chemistry; Donna's just written as lacking the courage and (especially) intellectual curiosity that have made Rose and now Martha such obvious companion choices.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch Dr. Who but I absolutely LOVE Catherine Tate. If you have some free time try looking her up on Youtube. The skits from her show are hysterical.

Taleena said...

Dark tyler - I suggest you try and watch the earlier Eccleson/Tennant episodes because they build up some plot points that will impact some of the episodes of this season. You also gain the background not only with the Doctor's angst over Rose but the relationships with Jack Harkness, and the Face of Boe. Even if you don't though you won't be lost - the emotional impact just will not be the same.

Yes, Blink is great in a creeping horror way.

Kensington said...

At the risk of alienating any potential new viewers who haven't yet seen Series 1 or 2, I do think that Series 3 is best appreciated with some familiarity of what came before.

Still, having watched all three seasons so far, I'm not really in a position to comment on how newbie friendly it is. I'm sure there's enough to keep anyone from being confused, but there are definitely treats for the fully initiated.

Overall, I think Series 3 is consistent with the quality of Series 2, but Series 1 remains my overall favorite so far.

That said, nothing in Series 3 is as bad as the Cybermen two-parter from Series 2, and episodes 8 and 9 of Series 3 ("Human Nature" and "The House of Blood") comprise, I believe, the finest Dr Who story every produced, period.

It's positively mesmerizing storytelling, and one of the pleasures of Series 3 is watching the writers expanding the boundaries of what Dr Who stories are normally expected to be. Some of it is really quite daring.

dark tyler said...

I'm convinced! I hate catching shows mid-series, except if they are self-contained, and I didn't know if "Doctor Who" was like that or not.

I've already started "obtaining" the previous two seasons, and I'll try to catch up with you. Alan, are there going to be write-ups for most of the episodes, a la Series 2?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'll do my best, allowing for press tour (which begins for me on July 12) and other summer obligations. I hope to be more consistent with my reviews this season than I was last time. Unlike a lot of other shows that drift on and off my blogging radar, I really do love it.

Unknown said...

i'm glad you're recapping them again alan. Even though i watched all of season 3 as it aired i just don't feel finished with an episode until i've read you're review

Anonymous said...

"Human Factor"/"Family of Blood" is actually based on a well-regarded existing licensed Doctor Who novel, so it's not just randomly and unexpectedly good.

And "Blink", it should be noted, is this year's contribution from Steven Moffat, who wrote all of Coupling and has done a DW story each season since the restart. (He's also doing an updating of Jekyll&Hyde, running right now on the BBC and on your finer file-sharing sources.)

dark tyler said...

Wow. Not that I expected anything less from him, but Christopher Eccleston was amazing in this thing.

(Hello, I greet you from the year 2005. It's better here: "Arrested Development" is still on.)