Dr. Who - The Fall - Caleb Jones

Billions of eons ago when I was a kid back in the 1980s, my all-time favorite TV show was a fringe, weird, low budget, foreign TV show that I could only watch on PBS, since it was unavailable anywhere else. It was called Dr. Who.

Maybe lots of people watched it in England back then, I don’t know. But I do know that very few Americans watched it. It was a cult show. It was considered too low budget and “stupid looking” for most Americans to enjoy. You could actually see strings holding up the planets, and see the seams on the costumes. Americans, when they saw it, which was rare, puked and said it was stupid.

I loved it. It was extremely intellectual, very complex, thoroughly entertaining, and unlike anything on American television at the time. Each episode was usually two and a half hours long(!) or more(!), and that’s without commercials. This made for extremely complex storylines that other shows, locked into a 30 or 60 minute model, couldn’t match.

Moreover, it actually had a story arc that covered years and years of episodes, going all the way back to the 1960s(!). Yes, the props and special effects were terrible, and you had to get past that if you wanted to enjoy the show, which sometimes was hard. Nevertheless, it was awesome.

The main character, The Doctor, was different than other heroes I had watched on American TV or movies. Regardless of which actor portrayed him, instead of cool and heroic, he was an unassuming, usually ugly guy, and actually sort of a jerk. He was definitely a good guy, but he wasn’t a nice guy, or even a cool guy.

Instead of wooing and getting the girl every episode, he was completely asexual. He didn’t give a shit about women. Even when there were cute or sexy female co-stars, he was too smart for any that. He was a being “beyond” girls. At the time, this was hugely interesting and I really liked that aspect of the character.

Don’t get me wrong. Captain Kirk is awesome beyond belief, but not every sci fi hero needs to be a clone of him, nor should be.

You had to be a smart person to enjoy Dr. Who. Seriously. If you were dumb or didn’t like to work hard to understand things, the show would come off as stupid or boring. That’s what Dr. Who was. A show for smart people.

Eventually it went off the air in 1989. I was really bummed. No more Doctor. No more Tardis. No more Daleks. A unique and complex show was gone.

To my surprise, 16 years later in 2005, they brought Dr Who back! A new show! A new doctor! I was excited, but cautious. Usually new versions of things like this are never as good as the original. But I wanted to give the show a chance.

The first season of the show was…okay. It wasn’t bad and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the original. That’s okay, I thought, since often shows need a season or two to get going and get good. So I kept watching.

Over time, I could see the show steering in a very clear direction…a feminine one. The character of The Doctor went from an older, ugly, intellectual, nonsexual, interesting jerk, to slowly morphing into a young, good looking, spastic guy who feel in love with his female co-stars, even kissing them on occasion. Just look at the picture of the various Doctors above, and notice how they start out as old and/or ugly (interesting) and slowly get younger and better-looking (typical TV shit).

This was not Dr. Who.

In various episodes, most female characters were featured as super tough and independent, while most male characters (who were not villains) were portrayed as extreme beta males.

This was not Dr. Who.

In the old Doctor Who, his companions were men, women, and often, aliens. In the new Dr. Who, his companion (usually only one) was always a girl. Always. Of course she had to be cute, strong, and spunky, with lots of sexual tension with The Doctor.

This was not Dr. Who.

Storylines in the new show spent a hell of a lot of time (out of the now 60-minute format) on girl-boy relationships, arguments, breakups, and marriages. What? In one episode, the Emperor of the Universe proposes to Dr. Who’s female co-star after only knowing her for less than 60 minutes of screen time. What?

This was not Dr. Who.

Eventually I stopped watching. Dr. Who, once a deep show for intellectual nerds, had become one of the favorite shows of female teenagers. Seriously. It now has as strong teenage following. Teenage girls have pictures of Dr. Who on their walls now.

Um, yeah. That’s not Dr. Who.

At some point, when I get some time, I’m going to go back and go on a Dr. Who marathon of all the old episodes I watched as a kid. That will be fun.

Too bad that show is long gone.

Category: Fun

9 Comments on “Dr. Who – The Fall

  1. Interesting article, I am from the UK, but was never into Dr Who growing up, to be fair I never gave it a chance, and dismissed it as being a bit too nerdy, I do agree with all your points though. have you heard of Torchwood? it is a spin off of Dr Who, it is not as intellectual, and was aimed at a more adult audience, I enjoyed that show, you might want to check it out, although it suffers from the same issues you describe here.

  2. How do you feel about Peter Capaldi as the newest Doctor? He’s older, crankier, and darker than the 10th and 11th installments. I agree that just having a female companion all the time is annoying because it feels like the show is recycling the same material; I want to see more male and alien companions, something different. In the end, BBC is doing what it needs to attract a broader target market and keep the show running. It’s definitely not the same show you fell in love with.

  3. have you heard of Torchwood?

    Oh yes. I’ve seen several episodes. It’s okay but nothing amazing. .

    I agree that just having a female companion all the time is annoying because it feels like the show is recycling the same material; I want to see more male and alien companions, something different.

    Exactly. It’s the same old stuff over and over again.

    But because the show now targets young women, they “have to” have a female companion every time.

    Sucks.

    How do you feel about Peter Capaldi as the newest Doctor?

    I stopped watching the show, like I said. I’ve seen about half an episode of Capaldi’s Doctor but that’s about it; not enough for me to comment.

    I really doubt he’s close to the old Doctors, regardless of his age.

  4. Interesting. I had heard about Doctor Who as a cult classic and when I finally saw what it was, I was puzzled. How could that generic crap be so appreciated? Now I get why. Different show. It sounds interesting, but those effects must seem even crappier now.

    On a related note, I remember when I was little, Star Treck the Next Generation was something I really enjoyed. Tried it out a few years ago, the first season got crappier with each episode. I heard it blooms in later seasons, what do you think?

  5. I remember when I was little, Star Treck the Next Generation was something I really enjoyed. Tried it out a few years ago, the first season got crappier with each episode. I heard it blooms in later seasons, what do you think?

    Eh, STNG is okay. It has no story arc and the characters are boring, but the show isn’t bad.

    When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along, after the 2nd season it absolutely kicked STNG’s ass. FAR better show, and one of my favorite all-time shows. If you want badass Star Trek, watch DS9 starting with the last episode of the 2nd season. It’s amazing.

  6. Wow, thanks! I had no idea DS9 is that good, seeing that guy running the teleporter in STNG in charge made me not give it a fair chance. O’Brian or something. I’ll check it out.

  7. Thanks much for this review of the Dr Who reboot. I’ve wondered since it came back if it was worth watching, but no more. He may not have been sexual, but his farewell to Romana sure seemed to me to indicate a great deal of affection. That scene has stuck with me since I saw it as a teen when it first aired.

  8. Wow, good memory! Romana was the one *slight* exception to that rule in 25 years of that show. Even then, the exception was very slight. That relationship was still 10% what the typical sexual-tension relationship today’s doctor always has with just about everybody.

    See? The reason you remember that (I do too) is because it never happened at any other time in that show. That’s my point.

  9. I definitely think you should give a few of the Capaldi episodes a shot. In fact, the one he’s most recently done (Heaven Sent) is a great episode. He’s definitely a callback to some of the older doctors – elements of Pertwee in his manner and his speech is a bit more like Tom Baker’s.

    They’ve done a lot more two-parters for this season 9 so the stories are given a bit more time to develop which has helped as well.

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