Curse you, Doctor Who!

More on the title of this entry in a moment.  First things first.

I had one more entry I’d planned to write on my trip to NYC.  But that series of posts has already gone on longer than I’d planned, and anyway, the final day was mostly comprised of waiting in lines and passing through multiple security checkpoints to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (with an evacuation of the Statue due to the smell of burning rubber thrown in).  Rather than go into that whole ordeal, I figured I would just post a few cool pictures we took and move on.

Statue of Liberty Face

A life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty’s face.  Note: in this photo I am either contemplating the meaning of Freedom and what it means to be an American, or I’m staring at that spot on the ceiling.  Can’t remember which.

The Statue of Liberty

She truly is impressive.  Another note: prior to visiting the Statue of Liberty, I had no idea she was green.  I am color blind, as you may recall from my stint as the Green Spy.  I’ve always thought that Lady Liberty was kind of an off-white marble color.  Mind you, knowing she’s green doesn’t mean I can see it, but it’s nice to feel in the loop.  (Other things that are green, which I only learned about in the last few years: pistachios.)

The Registry Room

Ellis Island.  I wish we would have had more time there.  It is a place steeped in significance, and I’m not sure whether that feeling came from the meaning I imposed on it, or whether it came from something external to me, a residual imprint left behind by those whose lives were changed by their passage through its halls.  Either way, it was a memorable experience.

Ellis Island

From the balcony I saw this child walking alone in the light across the Registry Room and had to take a picture.

And that’s it for NYC, I think.

______________________________

And now, Doctor Who (with a warning that this will be pretty geeky).  Oh, where to start…

The Doctor (Tom Baker)I used to watch Doctor Who as a kid, the Tom Baker incarnation, with his trademark too-long scarf and unnatural affinity for Jelly Babies candy.  I loved that show, I think because it was so random, and weird and so different from most American TV programs.  I mean, what other show would take a slow-moving tank of a robot shaped like a salt-shaker, with a toilet plunger for a hand, and turn it into the most menacing being in the universe?  And yet, that’s exactly what they did with the perennial Daleks.

DalekAnd they totally pulled it off.  I bought it completely, mostly because the characters were so engaging.  I loved the Doctor.  The Tom Baker Doctor.  And that’s the problem with the show, and why I’m so frustrated and puzzled by it.  You see, when the Doctor dies, he regenerates with a brand-new body, to be played by a new actor.  Since the show holds the record for the longest running science fiction show in the world (and here is where I thank Wikipedia, to simultaneously cite a source and give myself an out if it’s wrong, because hey, it’s Wikipedia) there have been, at present counting, eleven Doctors.  And I can’t figure out how the show has lasted so long.  Not because it isn’t good, but because as a kid, after Tom Baker’s Doctor regenerated into a new actor, I lost all interest.  Who was this new guy calling himself the Doctor?  Where was his scarf?  Where were his Jelly Babies?  He was all wrong.

The Doctor and RoseThe show went off the air in ’89, and was then brought back in ’05, refreshed and rebooted (while remaining charmingly and bravely true to the original).  I still had little interest, but a couple of weeks ago I decided to watch an episode out of mild curiosity.  And then I watched another.  And another.  And I got hooked again.  And then they went and killed off that Doctor just as I was getting invested in him and replaced him with yet another Doctor.  Then I started the whole process again, trying to get reinvested in a character that keeps changing on me.  And did I mention the Doctor’s traveling companions?  They get swapped out every season or two.

And this is, essentially what’s bothering me, as a storyteller, and why I curse the show while still loving it.  How on earth do you have a series as successful and long-lived as Doctor Who when you regularly and systematically purge the cast of characters?  It defies what I know about storytelling, about how you sustain a reader/viewer/listener’s interest – you get them to care about your characters – and leaves me feeling that I’m missing something.  The popularity of the show is undeniable, so they’re doing something right.  I just don’t know what it is.  But I want to figure it out, because in spite of the frustration, and the effort it takes to follow a show that has seen three different doctors in the last five seasons, I’m still watching it.

What about you guys?  Do you watch Doctor Who?  And if so, how do you think they pull it off?

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7 Responses

  1. Sorry totally missed the Dr. in both or all incarations. Just wanted to say that you had a kickin’ photographer with you on your trip.

    Reply
  2. First off, I have to say that I am really excited to read your upcoming book and sell it in our bookstore. I love the cover and the premise!
    On to the Doctor, whom I love in all forms. I love the in-depth history of the show, the reoccurring themes, the quirky way the doctor is the same and simultaneously always changing. It never stagnates, never gets old, and never feels like it should have ended a season ago because of the Doctor regenerations. Sorry, I could go on forever. But next time you watch, Matthew J. Kirby, look for Tom Baker in David Tennant, the last Doctor and the one who is photographed in your entry. Then, as you learn to adapt to the new Doctor, played by Matt Smith, in Season 5 of the revamped Doctor Who, try to see little parts of David Tennant that have been infused into Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor. They build on one another and yet, if you try to buy into the suspended reality of the show, I really think you can believe that they are all the same character, just with different physical bodies and different quirks. Much like Tom Baker had his scarf, David Tennant had a trench coat and converses, and Matt Smith has a bow tie that he is forever defending. I am going to stop now because there is a scroll bar in this comment box, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on my opinions and I hope I articulated my thoughts clearly enough. Basically, there is a reason Doctor who is still on: because it’s freakin good!

    Emily

    Reply
    • Matthew

       /  July 29, 2010

      Oh, it’s good all right. It’s brilliant! And I totally see what you’re saying about the Doctor basically being the same character, even if played differently by each individual actor. I’m adjusting, adapting as you say, to the rhythms of the show. I do hear a lot of fans arguing over which Doctor is the best Doctor, but in the end, they’re all the Doctor, so how can we not love them all? And that’s where, I think, the writers are succeeding. Each actor may bring their own quirks, charms, and flaws to the character, but in the end, the writers make sure we all know they’re playing that same lonely, enigmatic Time Lord.

      Thanks for the insightful comment, Emily. And your bookstore looks cool!

      Reply
  3. Emily

     /  January 2, 2011

    So. I think that Doctor Who is the best thing. Ever. It’s simply excellent- I do too have a problem with the exchanging of the companions. I loved Rose Tyler and Donna Noble, but to my dismay they didn’t last very long. OH well. I am looking forward to season 2 of series 5!

    Reply
    • Matthew

       /  January 2, 2011

      Oh, I loved Rose, and I was completely depressed about the way she and the Doctor parted ways. But fortunately, having come late to the show, I was able to skip ahead to watch the episodes where she and the Doctor were reunited!

      Reply
  4. Ann

     /  February 13, 2011

    Loved the book! Was excited when you chose to post William Shatner’s footprints. Am totally with you about Lady Liberty and the Smithsonian. But when you mention Dr. Who, I just had to post! So, I’m new around here. Just finished reading your book today. I have a big pile of books to read and I’m not happy with myself that it took me this long to get to yours. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year. I’m also reading your blog backwards. (glad I only have two years to catch up on) looking forward to meeting you at the GSD librarian’s meeting in a few weeks. In the meantime, I sure better have a lot of Clockwork at my Bookfair! Thanks for writing and glad to see your perseverance paid off.

    Reply
    • Matthew

       /  February 17, 2011

      Thanks, Ann! So glad you enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to meeting you and your fellow librarians!

      Reply

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