These days longevity seems to be a terrible thing, the pace of technology, for example is so rapid there’s always a ‘must have’ upgrade for the new fangled gadgets, so now we have undoubtedly established that all things don’t last very long, I can smoothly move onto doing a post about a TV show that is currently celebrating its Fiftieth anniversary.
Any show that has the remarkable staying power that sees it commissioned for so long is more than a little impressive. My odyssey into the universe of Doctor Who starts where it should at the beginning, well, as much of a beginning as a programme that can encompass all of space and time (and beyond) has. For those of you who have missed out on all the fun that has been going since 1963 here’s an extremely brief overview:
An alien (Time Lord) travels through time and space with a succession of different companions in a ship that can go anywhere in time and space and is stuck looking like a 1960’s Police Telephone Box. Many adventures are had and lots of different actors play the main role of the Doctor (more of this in a later post) as well as his aforementioned fellow travellers. Iconic bad guys and sci-fi set pieces litter the history of the show, not to mention different writers, styles, story arcs and show credits.
That is a simplistic look, fair enough but the complexities of the show are many and I could be here all day listing them (and missing out loads as well), suffice to say that an overview of what makes this show more interesting than lots of other shows in (or out) of the genre that have a huge budget and run to a decent compliment of episode per season is no easy task.
You can probably already guess the answer to this but what connects: Cyrano de Bergerac, the great fire of London and some bee people. Yes that’s right, Doctor Who, a show that can happily combine any conceivable – or otherwise – ideas, for the universe is infinite so anything can be imagined and I would argue be made into a plausible (for the show) plot line. I say this because however glaring a plot hole or contradiction that I come across, I can usually explain it fairly quickly with some counter argument to what happened, even if the show appeared to miss its own mistake. Anything that can be made feasible in the context of later self referencing itself makes more a more fun programme to invest in and potential plot lines that last for decades.
From this viewpoint, the sheer scope adds depth and makes any sort of parameters and rules more or less redundant and allows for varied themes and episodes. A lot of TV series tend to have an established feel to the episodes and tend to have only one a series that differs, The X-Files always did a comedy episode for example, whereas Doctor Who manages to frequently combine humour, horror, whimsy and sadness (to name a few) within the same episode. The feel of one type of episode can be turned on its head at any moment. This draws in the viewer and is sometimes so seamlessly done that you don’t immediately realise the change. It’s this sense of the unknown that keeps you hooked for every episode and constantly expecting the unexpected.
With a not very big budget, especially compared to our American brethren’s visual output, Doctor Who has always excelled at the extremes of special effect, from the genuinely sinister and horrifying to the downright laughable, that of course is part of the charm. Any show that wants longevity has to become inventive in its use of effects but more importantly has to introduce varied themes and ideas and most importantly good layered stories. Stories that tackle a huge range of ideas and science based theories, the aping of social themes, satire and above all multi layered messages.
To modern eyes the wobbly sets and acting can look dated but the beauty of the show is it tackled such themes as genocide and equality, racism for example but with a lighthearted veneer making it family friendly and something to dwell on after watching. So lots to be rewarded with for watching this show then and I haven’t mentioned all of it.