Monday, August 05, 2013

Movie Monday: The "Doctor Who, Introduction of the Twelfth Doctor" Edition

And, lo, the Twelfth Doctor was made manifest by Auntie Beeb on the fourth day of the eighth month of the two-thousand and thirteenth year of the Common Era, through all the realms of the Earth at the same moment(ish). And much ado was made, and the media went "ooh" and "aah" while the debate began among the fans as to weather the Grand Moffat had made a good choice or a bad.

And some wondered at the exceeding great attention from the mainstream media, which had until recently treated the succession of Doctors with hilarity and comments about geeks and nerds, if they paid any attention at all.

And then the wait began, for it would not be until Christmas Day (or so) until the fullness of The Doctor's new persona would be revealed for all the world to see; and only then would the fullness of the greatness of (or disappointment in) the new Doctor would begin to be revealed.


If you follow along around here, you probably have tripped to the reality that I am a huge "Doctor Who" fan.

I became aware of The Doctor, in his Fourth incarnation, sometime in the mid to late 1970s, when his episodes were aired on my local PBS station here in the States. I also saw a few of the Fifth Doctor's episodes around the time they were originally aired. But I did not become a big fan of the show, however, until the series was revived in 2005, with the Ninth Doctor. Even though I saw the Fourth Doctor first, the Ninth Doctor is MY Doctor.

(For those who are not familiar with the show, it's fans, and it's traditions, most Doctor Who fans have a favorite Doctor, who becomes "their" Doctor. Many times, a person's first Doctor is their favorite; sometimes, as with me, another doctor ends up becoming their favorite. There is much discussion between fans over "their Doctors. There are different Doctors because when an actor in the role decides, for whatever reason, to leave, he - so far, the Doctors have all been male, which is upsetting to some fans - regenerates into a new form. It's a great way to explain why The Doctor looks different, all of a sudden.)

Fans of the show, which has been around on an on and off basis for nearly 50 years (no, really; the first episode of the show aired for its first showing on the BBC on November 23,1963, the day after US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated). It ran from 1963 until it was cancelled in 1989. It was not seen on television again until 1996, when an American-produced made-for-television movie aired on Fox Network and then a couple of weeks later on the BBC. Some sources say that it was aired on Canadian television a couple of days before it turned up on Fox. At any rate, it had been missing from the airwaves for seven years, although it had been kept alive in the minds of the fans of the show through a series of original books.

The 1996 movie did not make the splash that had been hoped, and plans for a new series fell through. Then, in 2005, the BBC revived the series, and it has been running ever since. Despite this long, if interrupted run, while the show is an important part of culture in the UK, it has, until recently, gotten very little attention aside from that of fans.

Something his changed in the past few years, however - largely, I think because of the airing of the show on BBC America here in the States, the show's visibility at the past few San Diego ComicCon extravaganzas, and the mainstreaming of geek culture. And so, the announcement yesterday of who is going to replace Matt Smith and portray the Twelfth Doctor, got quite a bit more attention in the American press.

Some fans are kind of wary of that attention. I'm ambivalent about it. It's a good thing in that more people will have the chance, because of the expanded exposure, to discover the show. On the other hand, it seems like all too often, once a nice, small, cozy cultural phenomenon becomes a Big Media Deal, it seems to go awry somehow. And those of us who are long- or medium-time fans really, really, really don't want that to happen. From my own point of view, it seems kind of weird for so many people to even know about the show. Up until recently, the most common response to a mention of "Doctor Who" is, "Who? What? What the hell are you talking about?"

Now, there are shout-outs to the show in popular American series: "Criminal Minds" has had mentions or plot points related to "Doctor Who" on an ongoing basis; "The Big Bang Theory" has, as well, and so has "Leverage"; an argument between two people over buying "Doctor Who" memorabilia formed a whole subplot of one episode of "Gray's Anatomy". I won't go on; the point is that the visibility of "Doctor Who" in the United States has gone up exponentially in the past few years.

And so, the announcement that Peter Capaldi will replace Matt Smith as The Doctor made a certain amount of a stir yesterday. Capaldi is much better known in the UK than he is in the States, but fans of "Doctor Who" have seen him before. He played a Roman of some social standing whose family is saved from Volcano Day in Pompeii by the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), and he portrayed British government official in the very dark "Torchwood: Children of Earth" mini-series ("Torchwood" is a spin-off of "Doctor Who".) Capaldi is also an Academy Award winner; "Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life", which he wrote and directed, tied with another film in the category of Best Live Action Short Film.

I'm provisionally happy about the choice. First of all, it's nice to have an older Doctor again. Based on the few other things I've seen him in (the two previously mentioned shows in the "Doctor Who" universe and a role in the second series of the British drama "The Hour"), he's a good actor. Some people are disappointed that a woman or a person of color was not chosen for the role. While I think such a choice would have been a positive and interesting thing, I don't think that it's much of a surprise that the showrunners went in the direction they did. At least they didn't keep up the trend toward younger and younger Doctors. If they had followed that strategy, pretty soon we would have been subject to "Doctor Who - The High School Years". Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but that would be a dismal turn of affairs.

We will see, I suppose, where this choice leads. As always with The Doctor, this is likely to be a grand adventure.


CinnamonOpus said...

All of what you have said here is trufax. I also kind of feel wary at all they hype because in my experience increasing hype of the Entertainment variety can lead to compromise and Very Bad No Good Decisions. But on the plus side, because Capaldi is a) older and 2) not teen-idol OMG HAWT, perhaps some of the fluffier fandom and attention will wander off again. Once an hope, anyway.

And also? Ninth Doctor fistbump.

CinnamonOpus said...

Also? Just pretend the typos and autocorrects in my previous comment never happened.

littlemissattitude said...

Fistbump right back at you.

Yeah. I also worry about the effect of the extra attention on decisions made by the showrunners. Which, actually, is one of the reasons why I think they might have gone the way they did on this choice - and that makes me feel better because they might actually be aware of the effects that the hype could have on the show.

Also, although I hate to make the "real" fan/"fluffy" fan dichotomy, I think you're probably right on that count, too. Because, if someone is only watching the show because the lead is hot, they really aren't a fan of the show, but just of the actor playing the part. This goes for any visual entertainment, not just for "Doctor Who".

So, if that's being judgmental, then here I am, being judgmental. If someone says they aren't going to continue watching the show before they ever see Capaldi in the role, they don't strike me as being much of a fan of the show.


littlemissattitude said...

I have to add that I feel qualified to make that judgment about people who will desert the show because of a regeneration, because I've been there and done that.

I was very disappointed when Nine turned into Ten, so much so that I didn't watch the first half of Ten's first season. Nine was my Doctor and I didn't want any part of Ten. And then I realized that I missed the show, went back and discovered the wonderful world of Ten. This did not mean that Nine wasn't my Doctor any more, but just that the show is bigger than any one Doctor and I was being an idiot by flouncing because my doctor had moved on.


Kirstin Gallagher said...

I'm nervous but hopeful about the change. I started with the reboot and have liked each new doctor (a lot) more than the last, so I hope the trend continues. I've just really appreciated the lightness that Matt Smith brings, so I'm hoping we aren't headed back to 10's angst. That got old for me. A lot of it has depended on the companion for me, too, so we'll have to see how that goes.

littlemissattitude said...

I'm a little nervous about the companion issue, as I understand that Clara is to continue as The Doctor's companion into the next season. I'm not sure how that will work out.