The new Doctor Who

Anybody else been watching the new Doctor Who?

I was always a bit lukewarm towards the show when I was a kid – it seemed slow moving and awfully cheesy by 80’s standards – but I’m really starting to like the new version. So far, it’s lampooned the rush to war in Iraq only a couple weeks before the election – “massive weapons of destruction” indeed – and now has gone on to attack 24-hour cable news in last night’s episode. I don’t remember the old Doctor having such political content.

The Dalek episode, though, was pure fan service.

Doctor Who was always something of a working class science fiction program. The Doctor didn’t circulate among the rich and powerful – he always moved in working class circles, travelling in that now extinct but once ubiquitous landmark of the British urban landscape, the police box. But this new Doctor seems more explicitly designed to reach a middle class audience. I loved the line about how he sounds like he’s from the North, to which Rose (the new assistant) responds, “Well, lots of planets have a North.”

This new incarnation appears to be the work of Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for the original British version of Queer as Folk. I imagine he must be responsible for the sharper edge in the new Doctor.

Anyway, I’m hoping this will lead to more sharply written BBC science fiction. I want them to bring back a more grown-up version of the Tomorrow People, which offers even more prospect for being snarkily political.

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About Scott Martens

Scott is a US-raised Canadian living in Brussels with his American wife. His political background is well to the left of centre, even for Europe, and is very interested in immigration, cultural integration and language policy issues. He is presently working against a deadline on his doctorate in computational linguistics and is on hiatus. Wrote Pedantry, also on hiatus.

8 thoughts on “The new Doctor Who

  1. I love the new Doctor Who, and write about it extensively on my blog (category Tardis-Jockey). I enjoy the political references but found the latest episode weak overall.
    I’m not sure if your description of the new series as “aimed more at the middle class” rings true – in any case it’s exactly what Christopher Eccleston wasn’t aiming for. In his memory, the old series was middle-class and he’s been trying to get away from that (hence also the scuffed leather jacket instead of foppish accessorizing).
    As someone new to the series, I think “Dalek” was the best episode so far, because of the tight direction and sustained suspense. The original intent may have been to throw fans of the homicidal dustbins a bone, but the result was enjoyable for everyone.

  2. I’ve been enjoying the new Who too, though I never watched the old series, so I don’t have much of a frame of reference.

    And though the “Dalek” episode might have been “fan service,” it wasn’t hard to discern political content there too… it was about an implacable foe with a single-minded devotion to destruction, and seemingly impervious to negotiation, against which the full might of the U.S. military was deployed, and then —

    but I don’t want to spoil anything.

  3. As a fan of the old Dr. Who, I found the Dalek episode (the only new one I have seen) just pathetic. It was a weak, totally Hollywood plot line, the characters were entirely cardboard cut-outs, and the cheap production values consequently had no redeeming context at all.

    It doesn’t seem to take much to persuade Brits they have another world-class success on their hands!

  4. Why is it that when I think about the future, about Kurzweil, about bio-technology, I can’t help thinking about Daleks :).

    Incidentally I have the impression that the whole ‘philosophy’ AI debate overlooks the possibility of a fusion between biology and inorganic chemistry (the micro chip).

  5. The Doctor didn?t circulate among the rich and powerful – he always moved in working class circles


    Well, I suppose the TARDIS did spin a bit.

  6. What Ria said.

    The BBC have a splendid Doctor Who archive, which includes summaries of all stories. If the Doctor shunned the rich and powerful, I suspect it was for budgetary reasons rather than political ones.

    I simply don’t understand your comment about the new series being middle class, I’m afraid.

    Both Rose and the Doctor seem to be “working class.” So far they’ve stood up for enslaved corporate hacks against unnamed bankers, overthrown a despotic billionaire who considered his staff “disposable,” supported an honest (and Labour seeming) MP against a corrupt system, visited a Victorian funeral parlour (where the most likeable characters were a maid and Charles Dickens). In the second episode, the sympathetic character was some kind of maintenance worker, and in episode 1, Rose worked in a department store. Where is the middle classness?

    Incidentally, in Episode 1, Rose asked the Doctor why, if he were an alien, he had a Northern accent, and *he* said “Lots of planets have a north.” She recycled the line in a later episode, which is one of the ways the new series holds together better than the predecessor.

  7. If the Dalek episode was “Hollywood”, the Dalek would have been redeemed by Rose’s compassion. It would have embraced its newfound humanity and set off for the stars to seed a new, peaceful Dalek civilisation, inspired by the shining example set by the cute human and by the benign ways of its distant ancestors. It would have been able to embrace its humanity because the human DNA was so damned speshul that it, and only it, would make that change possible in the first place. And the Doctor would have bowed to that speshulness and said that that’s why he liked humans so much. They are the species that has the future, and they have shared that future with the Daleks now, unlike the Timelords who have nothing but a past (Gallifrey would become a metaphor for Old Europe instead of, as e described it (in an excellent, excellent piece), Cambridge in Space). Then the Doctor and Rose would kiss, not for the first time.

    Instead, thankfully, we get British pessimism, in which humans are just stupid apes that the Doctor happens to be inordinately fond of, the Daleks would rather die than change into something other than a Dalek and the Doctor himself has grown to resemble his worst, deadliest enemy. Exterminate!

    I used to watch Star Trek and now I don’t. You can tell, can’t you?

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