Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doctor Who Can Make the World a Better Place

Monday night I went to see the Doctor Who anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” in 3-D and on the big screen via Fathom Events, and it was glorious. Not only did they show the 75-minute special, but they kicked things off with a specially-made policy trailer intro featuring Strax (Dan Starkey) that had the auditorium in stitches. There’s a priceless bit with popcorn that has to be seen to be appreciated. That was followed by David Tennant and Matt Smith (in costume and character) against a stark white background, “turning on” the 3-D, which led to the special proper. Once that was over, there was a ten-minute making of special narrated by Colin Baker, so the entire program ended up probably going just over the 90-minute mark, and thus making it all feel like a true theatrical experience. As if watching the anniversary special on Saturday wasn’t enough, this kicked the whole thing up to a new level, and the folks who viewed this same presentation theatrically on Saturday truly experienced the Mona Lisa of Doctor Who anniversaries (and it was not a fake!).

Seeing the same program two days later was nearly as special, as was evidenced by the enthusiasm of the crowd. The B.O. take for this massive experiment is pretty impressive, and the BBC bean counters are surely over the moon. I do not know the specifics of how this entire event was handled, but when I purchased tickets the day they went on sale, as far as I could tell there was just a single showing, at 7:30 PM. Yet Monday night there were numerous showings – at 7:30 and at 10 PM, in both 2-D & 3-D! So it seems that somewhere along the way, more screenings had to be arranged, presumably to accommodate the demand for tickets. When we emerged from our screening at about 9ish, the entire theatre was packed with people waiting for the next screenings. It seems that the initial expectations were obliterated, and a proper Doctor Who theatrical movie, likely starring Peter Capaldi, needs to happen in the next couple years.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to publicly recant something I’ve said numerous times over the years (though probably never online - which makes this as much confession as retraction), and that’s that I do not like Doctor Who fans, an opinion I formed back during the lean years when the show was off the air, about an unhappy, grumpy group of folks who often sort of seemed to dislike even one another (there was probably a fair amount of self-loathing involved, on my part, too). That’s all changed now, and with each new convention I attend, and each new batch of Whovians I engage with, I realize that not only do I like Doctor Who fans, but I might just love them.

I love their passion. I love their ingenuity. I love their intelligence. And what I loved more than anything else Monday night at the movie theatre was the love they have for one another. I wore my Tom Baker scarf – one my aunt knitted for me back in, like, ’84 or someting - and people just fawned and squealed over it. Men longed to have one just like it, and women wanted to wrap it around themselves – and it was just a scarf! Still, folks admiring my wares is also not what I’m here to discuss.

It’s Doctor Who families that blow me away – parents that have in-Doctor-nated their children, and they were all there on Monday: so many enthusiastic families – children waving around their sonic screwdrivers, parents wearing fezzes. It was such a sight to behold…and it gets better. My initial reaction to seeing all these children in the auditorium was one of fear – how are these little ones going to ruin my one and only chance at this particular cinematic experience? How many crying fits and bored kids getting up and running around will I have to suffer through?

None of that ever happened. They were so into the program that beyond the laughter and squeals in the appropriate places, there were utterly, silently transfixed. Some of it was because the program was so awesome, but much of it, I believe, was also down to just plain good parenting. Maybe Harry Potter started all this, with its books and movies, and now Doctor Who is picking up where J.K. Rowling left off, by helping to make smarter, more imaginative children, by demonstrating that intelligence and kindness and patience are attributes to strive for, not to be ashamed of. As far as our TV entertainment goes, families don’t have much to watch and enjoy together anymore. TV networks and cable channels have splintered all the choices into specific groups and demographics. Very little on TV tries to please everyone, and the networks have given up on trying to create something the entire family can enjoy.

Families coming together to view Who isn’t news to anyone living in the U.K., but over here in the States, it’s a much more recent development. It probably started with the arrival of the Eleventh Doctor, and has been gathering steam ever since. At the L.A. convention Gallifrey One back in February (where I took all the pictures on display here), I recall seeing similar families, and similarly well behaved, polite children, and I realize that this wasn’t just some anomaly the other night, and that the show is engaged in doing something very special and important to the people who discover and watch it: Doctor Who makes people want to strive for something better. A hero makes others want to be heroic as well, and this is perhaps why the Doctor is the world’s greatest hero right now. We need the Doctor now more than ever. It’s like Rose Tyler said in “The Parting of the Ways,” “The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life.” So not only can Doctor Who make the world a better place, but it is making the world a better place, right here, right now.

This holiday season, figure out a way to turn a kid onto Doctor Who. Share and connect. You’ll be doing the world a favor.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

From the very first moments of “The Day of the Doctor,” it was pretty obvious we were in for something special. They dared to go old school, with Hartnell-era style credits, coupled with a classic London bobby walking past a sign pointing toward the Totters Lane junkyard, which was then revealed to be on a wall outside Coal Hill Secondary School – all nods to the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child.” But things got modern quickly, upon discovering that we were not in the past, but the present, and Clara (Jenna Coleman) is now teaching at the school, gracing the very same hallways and classrooms as her predecessors Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright did 50 years ago (there’s actually a shout out to Ian on the Coal Hill sign if you look closely).

What happened to the Doctor and Clara being caught in his timestream at the close of “The Name of the Doctor”? Seems some time has passed, and some escapades have been glossed over. It’s business as usual, and Clara is off on a motorbike (the same one from “The Bells of Saint John,” right?) and into the TARDIS for more adventures. Soon enough she and the Doctor (Matt Smith) are on one, when they realize the TARDIS is caught in the grip of a crane attached to a helicopter, and they’re being dragged to UNIT HQ by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), which was a far more thrilling sequence than expected. Or are they? Kate’s acting on orders from the Queen – Queen Elizabeth I, that is.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.