Thursday, August 28, 2008

True Companion

I blame Dave.

Well, that's not entirely fair. I had seen about 10 minutes of "Doctor Who" (the current series, starting in 2005) at some distant point in the past, but couldn't make heads or tails of it. Weird British Sci-Fi, it just didn't seem for me. Not to mention how convoluted the backstory must've been. So, I changed the channel.

Cut to the then-present, when Then-Roommate Dave was describing to me the wonders and joys of watching "Doctor Who". He told me how much fun the show was, going back to his watching the original series on one of the local (or nearly-local) PBS channels when he was just a kid. He described for me some of the backstory- The Doctor (real name unknown) was a member of an alien race called the Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey. You knew they were alien because they had two hearts (easy on the special effects budget), and if they were near death, they could 'regenerate' into a new body (easy on the acting budget). The Doctor traveled through time and space, righting wrongs and getting into mischief, often with a traveling companion (most often a young human woman, I think). Dave described some of the aliens they encountered, such as the Daleks (rolling tanks who wanted to destroy everything) and the Cybermen (walking tanks who wanted to destroy everything). Sounded kinda fun, certainly appealing to a geek like me, who thrives on complex (some say convoluted) backstory. Of course, Dave also described the "special" effects and the scenery... how many times could they use the same corridor? And was this filmed in an airport? I thought about it a bit more and decided, mmmmnot so much. Glad he liked it, but I had no interest in watching something THAT convoluted based on something that old.

A little bit in the future from that point, I found myself home in front of the telly (how very British, no?) and happened to see that the Doctor was on. Being magnificently bored, I flipped to the channel, Dave's enthusiastic praise in the back of my mind. I'd see just how bad it was to get into. The episode was called "School Reunion", and the first thing I noticed was the production values. As in, they had them. It looked as good as any show I'd ever seen, and better than most. The effects were about as good as you'd hope for on TV. One point the Doctor. Next I saw it guest-starred Anthony Stewart Head, an actor from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", an old favorite of mine. Point Two. Almost reluctantly, the remote slipped from my fingers.

But wait, what's this? The big guest star is some woman who was on the ORIGINAL show, 20 some odd years ago. Jeez, how the hell will I follow that? That's going to annoy me... But you know, it's kinda fun to watch. The Doctor is friggin' insane, but crazy cool. I quickly realized one of the most unique things about him: there's tons of action, but he almost never resorts to violence. His "weapon" is a sonic screwdriver- a fancy ex machina to get him into and out of all kinds of trouble (unless it's deadlock sealed!). There's still action and violence in the series, but I always felt like, if you did see violence, you and the Doctor both knew it was because he'd failed otherwise. His "companion", Rose, is something- she's pretty, but in a 'real' way, not so much made up to look unrealistically beautiful like American TV stars, but just 'there' on screen (in the future, I'll revise my opinion upwards). And the banter between the Doctor and Rose is pretty funny. The verbal jousts between Rose and Sarah Jane, the guest star/previous companion, are just plain funny. The show's a touch predictable, but everyone is just having so much fun with it, I can't help but get wrapped up in it. Ideas come fast and furious, but I realize as I'm watching it, it gives out enough information to let you know what's gone before, without beating you over the head. And the actors give such turns to their characters, it's so easy to grasp the emotions of the backstory I don't know. So much so that by the end of the episode, when the Doctor says Goodbye to Sarah Jane, I'm finding myself incredibly moved by the whole story, and I want to know more.

Not too long after that, I've started reading up on the show, questioning Dave as much as I can (he patiently explains (and re-explains) some of the finer points), and hitting the internet for Who-related goodies. Of course this is where I discover that Doctor Who is about the biggest thing in the UK. EVERYONE knows the Doctor. So, Dave and I watch each episode zealously, talking about the show afterwards, picking out highlights, wondering what's coming up next. All the while, we talk about one of the best things about the series: the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. It's certainly not the typical romantic tension: think of 'Moonlighting', turn it sideways, dial it to shake and bake, and enjoy. What was so different about this dynamic, I would learn, is that in the past, they never really had any kind of romantic tension between the Doctor and a companion. It was usually buddies, or teacher/student, or something tame like that. Rose and the Doctor were different. But, they play it so close to the vest, and so subtly, if you were to only watch one episode, you'd never realize the whole show is a love story. I couldn't wait to see what would happen- would Rose tell the Doctor how she felt? Would the Doctor ever say those three words? For God's sake, would they ever kiss?

And then Rose left.

That sucked. The next two years were spent with new companions, one of whom pined for the doctor, the other behaved by turns as the doctor's big sister or little sister. The shows were still very good (some of my favorite episodes were from these seasons), but they just weren't the same. There was no Rose.

And then Rose came back.

I won't spoil what happens, in case you missed the show in the past, or hope to catch it again in the future. All I'll say is "And Lo, There Shall Be an Ending!".

"Doctor Who" went from a "yuck get away" to a "must watch" series for me, entirely on the strength of the stories and the actors. It's a great show that I really can't get enough of. I think it has so many good things going for it, and it could appeal to so many people, it's one of those shows that everyone could enjoy, if given the chance. I'm really glad I turned on Sci Fi that day, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for "Doctor Who".

But mostly, I blame Dave.


The art originally started out as a head sketch of Rose. Then, at a drawing session, I ended up drawing the above picture of the Doctor. I was going to just post that, when the idea hit me to make a picture not unlike what's above. So, I set about drawing another picture of Rose... only to flub the face badly. I was going to just go with what I'd drawn (I was not feeling particularly artsy at the time), when I realized I had already drawn a decent picture of Rose. So, via the miracle of Photoshop, I did a head transplant. Thanks to some cutting, pasting, and resizing, I put them both together. The Tardis (the Doctor's means of transportation, also known as a police box) was rendered completely in PS, probably in the most roundabout fashion as possible. Then the whole thing was colored and tweaked. It was a lot of fun to put this together, though a fair bit of work. This is one of the few postings I've done that I've spent more than one night working on ('AND IT SHOWS!' I heard you in the back, very funny). I'm pretty pleased with it, though as always I wish I could do a better job with likenesses. And poses. And everything else ;)


Okay, that's it for now. I'll hopefully have something again next Wednesday.


Music: "Time After Time" - Eva Cassidy

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