How to watch Doctor Who

Well, I haven’t written something here in a long long time! What inspires me today?
My old work chum Ron sent me this message on Facebook:

Bill…question…Cori of all people asked me yesterday if we should watch Doctor Who. Obviously I’ve heard good things. But if one was to start…where do you start watching? a few folks have said starting 2005 would be good. Your thoughts?

Of course you guys should watch Doctor Who!
But good question about where to start if you’re not a Whovian from childhood.

tombakerdoctorwho.jpgI grew up with Doctor Who in the Tom Baker era. That was when we had a total of three channels. Actually, four channels if you included PBS, which just happened to be the Doctor Who channel. It was the only thing that made public television worth watching and I’d watch religiously every Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. on my black & white TV in the kitchen.

The shows were 45 minutes long (two back to back episodes with no commercials) with a cliffhanger one weekend and the conclusion the next. The original shows aired in England were 30 minutes (with commercials) each week. I couldn’t imagine stretching a story out that long! Shock! Horror!

Today’s shows are broadcast as complete hour-long stories. That’s nice because we don’t have to wait until next week for the conclusion–a week was a lot longer when I was a kid–but that also means today’s shows have very compressed (rushed) story lines.

The noticeable differences between the old and new shows, though, are the special effects and the sets. The Doctor I grew up with had the GREATEST cheesy green screen effects on a three wall set set whereas today’s Doctor has computer-generated effects rivaling the original Star Wars movie and it films on site. Think about the difference between the original Star Trek series and today’s movies.

Ah, the original Star Trek! That’s my inspiration to answer you, Ron.

Star Trek, The Next Generation, wasn’t well received when it was first released. New shows were relegated to Sunday at 10: 30 p.m. after the news rather than prime time. The local station, however, would then play two original series Star Trek episodes after that. I remember watching the new Star Trek with my roommate and then watching the first few minutes of the first old show long enough to guess the episode. It was a game we played every week.

So, Ron, that’s what I’ll suggest. Your first Doctor is usually your favorite Doctor for the rest of your life but you need to learn to appreciate the old and the new Doctors. My advice to you and Cori is to watch one new Doctor and one old Doctor right after the other.

Begin with a revival Doctor Who episode starting in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and follow that with a classic Doctor Who story (all episodes) with Tom Baker. Learn to appreciate them both.

And I also suggest you watch the old series in the dark.

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