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Doctor Who? Questions From New Viewers


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#1

BanjoSteve

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Posted Mar 3, 2006 @ 10:40 PM

I saw a teaser for this when I was watching Battlestar Galactica the other day, and it looked cool. I've heard of the show before (something about time travel? different versions of the same character or something?) and it sounded interesting, but I've completely forgotten what it was about. So what's the deal with this show? What's the premise? Is it about the adventures of a guy named Doctor Who, or am I being hopelessly naive? (for the longest time I thought the name of the ship in Firefly was "Firefly")

#2

jeet

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Posted Mar 3, 2006 @ 11:09 PM

Is it about the adventures of a guy named Doctor Who, or am I being hopelessly naive?

"Doctor Who" is the name of the program. The lead character is referred to as "The Doctor".

#3

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Posted Mar 3, 2006 @ 11:14 PM

So what's the deal with this show? What's the premise?


Just as a general comment, I'd never watched any of the previous twenty-five seasons of Doctor Who, and I had no problem following along. Evidently there is canon mythology, but the show seems to work whether you know anything about it nor not.

The Doctor is a 'Timelord', which is more or less what it sounds like. He travels through time and has strange adventures, and occasionally fights his arch-enemies, the robotic Daleks. Everything else is pretty much gravy, near as I can tell.

Edited by kieyra, Mar 3, 2006 @ 11:15 PM.


#4

HeadCase

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Posted Mar 3, 2006 @ 11:16 PM

Don't call him Doctor Who or I'll have to smack you. Seriously.

The basic premise of the series is that the Doctor is a Timelord who travels through time and space, usually with a companion or four, in a ship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). Any time an actor wants to leave the show, the Doctor regenerates into a new body (and personality). The episodes about to air on Sci-Fi will feature the Ninth Doctor.

#5

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Posted Mar 3, 2006 @ 11:32 PM

It should also be stated that the premise of the series is wonderfully introduced in the first two episodes of the new season, which are being shown together. Everything you really need to know is in those two hours.

#6

Jacob

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:16 AM

This FAQ is going to suck so, so bad. Cross your fingers Sars doesn't ask for it until about a hundred years from now.

#7

Taiichi

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:18 AM

There is quite a bit of canon (and fanon). Anyone who really wants to familiarize themselves with the background can check the extensive information on Wikipedia (but beware of potential spoilers).

...and occasionally fights his arch-enemies, the robotic Daleks.

...and his arch-enemy, The Master, and his arch-enemies, The Cybermen, not to mention The Rani, the Autons, and the Sontarans ... then there is Sil (who not so much an "enemy" as an annoyance).

Edited by Taiichi, Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:39 AM.


#8

FoolishWanderer

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:43 AM

This FAQ is going to suck so, so bad. Cross your fingers Sars doesn't ask for it until about a hundred years from now.

Hey, let us do all the hard work of answering the questions, you just compile.

One bit of information is that the show hasn't been too big on continuity over the years. I can think of at least two origins of the Daleks, two explanations for the sinking of Atlantis, and two candidates for the Loch Ness Monster. At that's just what's been on screen. There's a ton of spinoff media out there, though that generally tries to obey what's already been established.

#9

StickyKeys

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:52 AM

So basically it's a British Quantum Leap? Because I think I could be on board for that, but I saw aliens, and unless it's The Fifth Sense I'm not huge on aliens.

And how do we already have an ep thread?

#10

tjl

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 1:00 AM

StickyKeys, yes there are aliens at times. Basically, because of the TARDIS the show can be set pretty much anytime the writers want (past, present, future) or anywhere.

There is already an episode thread because the season that is going to be on Sci-Fi has already aired in the UK and Canada (and maybe some other places). In fact, the next season is due to air soon in the UK.

#11

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 1:02 AM

I admit to knowing very little about the series -- I know the premise, but not much beyond that.

But, I do have to ask -- does this version have the dog?

#12

PatrickH

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 1:03 AM

I wouldn't describe it as a Quantum Leap type show. . The stories tend to be anything from futuristic space events, a Charles Dickens era murder mystery to contemporary political WMD controversary parody.

Since the TARDIS can go anywhere in anytime, it's more like you get your familiar friends who can go anywhere and get into all sorts of trouble, with aliens, historical figures and other related weirdos.

It's kinda a comedy, kinda a drama, kinda a space adventure and all vastly openended.

#13

StickyKeys

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 5:54 AM

Okay, so I'm hearing that this has a million seasons out already. Is it like BSG where it was reimagined and we'll see that? We'll be shown season 1, but where is everyone else? Is this on DVD and if I get the DVD, will I need to watch anything else? Like a miniseries or something?

#14

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 6:31 AM

StickyKeys, no need to worry. The series about to air on SciFi isn't a reimagining like BSG, it's essentially a continuation of the original show. The original ran from 1963 to 1989 when it was taken off the air and it was revived only for a tv movie in 1996 made for the US and aired on Fox, which failed to take. However you do not need to have seen any of this to watch the new series. TPTB (ie. Russell T. Davies, et al) created the new show with the assumption that they would have a whole generation of new viewers who would need to be introduced to the show. Everything you need to know is given to you within the context of the show. Viewers of the old series will no doubt get more of the "in" jokes, but new viewers won't get lost.

Also in regards to where the show is, the season about to air on SciFi is about a year old and has already aired in the UK and Canada (dvds are available in both countries). The second season will begin in the UK in April, whether it airs on SciFi will depend on how well the first season does over here.

#15

FoolishWanderer

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 6:34 AM

Is this on DVD and if I get the DVD, will I need to watch anything else?

Yes, it's on DVD. No, it's more Star Trek: TNG than BSG reimagined. It's a continuation, but you don't need to be familiar with the original stuff. Although, honestly, it helps. Plus, there are some stories that are great. Though there are a bunch that deeply suck.

Daleks and Cybermen are as forhead-y as you can get.

I've never thought so. The whole actor is concealed, including the eyes. Plus, the voice is heavily distorted. For that matter, with the Daleks, even the body shape is different. You don't get much more alien than that without a large CG budget.

#16

Frelling Tralk

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 7:06 AM

The first episode of the new series is aimed at attracting new viewers. It's based around the human girl Rose, who gets caught up in the life of the Doctor, so the audience gets introduced to his world alongside her.

Okay, so I'm hearing that this has a million seasons out already. Is it like BSG where it was reimagined and we'll see that? We'll be shown season 1, but where is everyone else?

A lot of episodes from the 1960's were completely destroyed by the BBC (taped over I think), and are no longer available to watch.

Edited by Frelling Tralk, Mar 4, 2006 @ 7:24 AM.


#17

LJC

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 12:53 PM

It's not camp exactly--not like, say, the ABC "Wonder Woman" series set in WWII was camp, but a gentle non-mocking of its subjects kind of camp. It can be a bit camp, but never undermining the characters or the story, if that makes sense.

I think new Who is a family show much the same way "Smallville" is/was, in that there's stuff for the 8 year olds, and there's stuff for the 80 year olds. It's meant to appeal to more than just the narrow 14-20 male range, because it's meant to be family viewing. Which means it has to work on several levels, which gives it a keener edge at times, in terms of complexity of the scripts and stories.

That said, RTD's Doctor Who does have an excellent mix of humour, wonder, drama, and a broad scope which can accomplish both ends of the spectrum easily, without feeling out of place. And Gattis, Moffat, Shearman, and Cornell's eps actually I think are at times stronger individual scripts than RTD's, but RTD definitely is the one who nails the overall character arcs and sets up the 'verse.

In my mind, the closest 21st century parallel is Farscape. That was a show that gave you a classic Tex Avery Warner Bros. style animated episode that mnaged to not feel out of place. That takes mad skillz, and the new Who team have that same kind of mad skillz when it comes to covering a broad range of human emotion and stories, all within the same framework.

The series premise means you can go anywhere and anywhen. That means you get historicals, science fiction, aliens, ghosts, oddities, angst, and everything in between. There really is nothing quite like it. Which is how it's survived 27 TV series, 80+ audios, loads of books, webcasts, stage plays, and 43 years of fandom.

Edited by LJC, Mar 4, 2006 @ 1:07 PM.


#18

BanjoSteve

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 2:16 PM

You get comedy, you get Companions, you get life and death struggles, you get the Big Questions, drama and genuinely creepy moments. And all that can happen in one episode.



When you say "Companions" is that in the Firefly sense of the word?

#19

La Anah

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 2:27 PM

"Companions" are the people who travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS. The Doctor has historically been rather asexual, with segments of the fan base getting very upset whenever it is hinted (or shown) that he has romantic feelings. So no, NOT in the Firefly sense.

#20

Aurelian

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 2:40 PM

The Quantum Leap stuff was purely "time travel in another body and solving problems" comparison. I understand both shows are different (and now understand many reasons why! ;-p), but it's really all I had to go on. It's sounds more akin to Outter Limits (which I love for no discernable reason).

Honestly, Who is like nothing else. One week it can veer towards a historical gothic tale, the next it can be out in space with aliens, then it's a critique of modern culture, then it's a family drama. It kind of defies categorization entirely. Like the Tardis's broken circuit, it's a true chameleon.

#21

amphora

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 5:00 PM

EllycatinOz-

Please try it out. The first episode unlike so many new shows totally rocks and you will be hooked very quickly. It has excellent acting, good scripts, tight direction and a great premise.

SOLD! That endorsement (along with Jacob's recaps) means I'll be making a couple dates with Dr. Who. He better be a gentleman.
My question: how many of the episodes are just stand alone stuff? I like my tv to have season-long stories and the action to have consequence. I don't mind fluff as long as it's fluff with continuity.

#22

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 6:51 PM

My question: how many of the episodes are just stand alone stuff? I like my tv to have season-long stories and the action to have consequence. I don't mind fluff as long as it's fluff with continuity.

Wow, how to answer that one? This is a case where you almost have to look at the season as a whole. I watched it as it aired in the U.K., and many of the episodes appeared to be stand-alones, sometimes even just "fluff"... BUT the final two-parter brings back so many of those seemingly inconsequential storylines, making them far more important than they'd seemed at the time. If you stick around to the end, you'll be amazed by how incredibly well it all ties together.

And, without getting too spoilery, I'll leave you with two words: "Bad Wolf".

#23

prolixiii

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 8:45 PM

Here's a question -- how are the effects? I am mostly familiar with the Tom Baker era of DW (and some before him, though not much after) and I'd have to think that the crap-tastic effects would be one of the things that new viewers wouldn't care for.

Don't get me wrong, the production values add a lot of charm to the old shows for me (big masks, use of actual TV equipment as spaceship sets, VERY obvious chroma-key) -- in fact, I am often pleasantly surprised at how well the show did with limited budget and technology. But with shows like BSG on the air . . . I just think that it better be good. And melodramatic, of course.

And PLEASE bring back Davros. I LOVES me some Davros!

ETA: I wanted to point out that the old show was really a horror sci-fi show at its height. I recall seeing a restospective in which a lot of British celebs were chatting about how they had to watch it from behind the couch when they were kids, it was so scary. When I was watching it, in the late '80s (in OLD reruns), I remember the robots in "The Pyramids of Mars" and pretty much everybody except the giant rat in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" were very very creepy.

Sorry to get off the topic of the new show, but the old one was extremely formative for me -- snif!

Edited by prolixiii, Mar 4, 2006 @ 8:56 PM.


#24

Aurelian

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 9:38 PM

I have to agree that it's not exactly up to par. I'm not saying they're bad, they're just not designed to be the hyper-realistic effects of BSG. If I had to place them, they're about at the level of Farscape, probably a little bit better in some areas.

But, as Braxton Hicks said, that's really part of the charm.

Edited by Aurelian, Mar 4, 2006 @ 9:39 PM.


#25

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Posted Mar 4, 2006 @ 11:27 PM

Wow, how to answer that one? This is a case where you almost have to look at the season as a whole. I watched it as it aired in the U.K., and many of the episodes appeared to be stand-alones, sometimes even just "fluff"... BUT the final two-parter brings back so many of those seemingly inconsequential storylines, making them far more important than they'd seemed at the time. If you stick around to the end, you'll be amazed by how incredibly well it all ties together.


So it's like season one of Veronica Mars, then? I'm definitely on board now.

#26

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Posted Mar 5, 2006 @ 12:25 AM

So what about the DVDs? There are so many available here in the states but they all have obtuse titles like "Doctor Who: City of Death- The Tom Baker years 1974-1981"

If I wanted to "catch up" (although 23+ seasons and all the rest make that an impossibility) how would I know which discs to rent? Which stories, actors, the order, where to even begin? I notice that there are boxed sets of specific stories, is that the way to go?

Additionally, on the TARDIS, is it a spaceship as well as a time machine? You all say "anywhere, anywhen" so that implies yes but just for clarification. What's with the phone booth I've seen on various DVD covers? Does the Doctor work for someone in his Timelording duties, or does he just gallivant around doing whatever? Like, are there missions?

I'm excited to see this as I've read the reviews, and I'm a sci-fan who's never seen this show, which seems wrong somehow. I'm just so confused.

EDIT: Also, who's Captain Jack (Besides Johnny Depp) and what's with the scarf?

Edited by dcow, Mar 5, 2006 @ 12:27 AM.


#27

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Posted Mar 5, 2006 @ 12:33 AM

Additionally, on the TARDIS, is it a spaceship as well as a time machine?

IIRC, yes.

What's with the phone booth I've seen on various DVD covers?

The TARDIS has a device called a Chameleon circuit that allows it to blend into any environment that it materializes in. When he materialized in 1960's London, it broke and stayed stuck in the form of the blue police call box it turned into back then.

Does the Doctor work for someone in his Timelording duties, or does he just gallivant around doing whatever?

Occasionally, he's worked for the Time Lords and the White Guardian in the old series.

Like, are there missions?

In the old series not necessarily. More like adventures. I'm not sure about the updated version.

#28

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Posted Mar 5, 2006 @ 12:57 AM

If I wanted to "catch up" (although 23+ seasons and all the rest make that an impossibility) how would I know which discs to rent? Which stories, actors, the order, where to even begin? I notice that there are boxed sets of specific stories, is that the way to go?

Hmm. I'd say you should go for a variety of stories & Doctors. You may want to watch the "The Beginning" DVDs, when they come out at the end of the month. I think they hold up fairly well today, despite the fact that they're 40+ years old. Besides those, well, "City of Death" is quite good. "The Caves of Androzani" is a favorite of many, plus it contains a regeneration--a concept that you may want to familiarize yourself with. But, if you have Netflix, feel free to just pick one at random. You don't really need to worry about a viewing order with Doctor Who.

EDIT: Also, who's Captain Jack (Besides Johnny Depp)

Captain Jack is this guy that the Doctor and Rose encounter in the season that Sci-Fi is about to show. He doesn't show up until the final third or so of the season, so don't worry about it now.

and what's with the scarf?

The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) wore this really, really long scarf; one might say that it was his trademark. And since Baker stayed in the role for so long and was so popular, especially here in the U.S., the scarf has become one of the show's icons, alongside the TARDIS and the Daleks.

Edited by areacode212, Mar 5, 2006 @ 1:00 AM.


#29

prolixiii

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Posted Mar 5, 2006 @ 1:04 AM

If I wanted to "catch up" (although 23+ seasons and all the rest make that an impossibility) how would I know which discs to rent? Which stories, actors, the order, where to even begin? I notice that there are boxed sets of specific stories, is that the way to go?


Yes -- they should be organized by story. The Doctor invariably materializes in the middle of some situation, fixes it by use of his superior mind and inferior companions, and then disappears at the end. This makes the stories more or less stand-alone, once you have the premise in mind. I'd suggest that you pick a few of the stories from the Tom Baker era -- he was the longest-running and
(for many, meaning me) the most influential. I'd suggust "Genesis of the Daleks", "Horns of the Nimon" and "Talons of Weng-Chiang" -- but just because those are the ones that I remember. I don't mean to start a war here about which seasons were the best. So . . . just pick a couple at random, and you'll get the flava.

Additionally, on the TARDIS, is it a spaceship as well as a time machine? You all say "anywhere, anywhen" so that implies yes but just for clarification. What's with the phone booth I've seen on various DVD covers? Does the Doctor work for someone in his Timelording duties, or does he just gallivant around doing whatever? Like, are there missions?


The TARDIS travels in both time and space, by dematerializing at one point and materializing in another -- how is not explained except in the most obtuse manner possible. It's not a spacecraft in the usual sense (no rockets). It is much larger on the inside than on the outside. Theoretically, the outside can change its shape/appearance in order to blend in with its surroundings, but that capacity on the Doctor's (antique) TARDIS is broken, and it is stuck in the form of the police call box you have seen. It is hinted (maybe stated?) that the Doctor's TARDIS is stolen/salvaged, and he is constantly "fixing" it. (In the old show.)

The Doctor is often referred to as a "renegade" member of the Time Lords, an alien race from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor mostly freelances, but is occasionally given assignments by the other Time Lords (or he is arrested by them, or he runs for President of their government, etc.). He has an unstable relationship with the folks back home. (I understand that this, in particular, may be different about the new series -- though I don't know.) One of the main companions from the Baker era was a female Time Lord named Romana.

How's that for a random assortment of facts about a show that's been off the air for 17 years from my memory?

ETA: Well, everyone beat me to it.

Edited by prolixiii, Mar 7, 2006 @ 8:17 AM.


#30

FoolishWanderer

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Posted Mar 5, 2006 @ 6:54 AM

There's a lack of clarity on how one gets to be a Time Lord, however. Some canon suggests that of the entire population of Gallifrey, only a select few get to be Time Lords and have the power to run a Tardis, manipulate time and space, see all the potentialities for all of history, etc. Alternately, it's possibly that all Gallifreyans are also Time Lords.

I think it's actually somewhere between the two. My understanding is that you're Gallifreyan. You have some kind of innate understanding/perception of time. You can go to Timelord academy and actually train to become a Timelord, much the same way we're all humans who have a small understanding of the human body, but if we want to become surgeons, we have to go train for it. Of course, some new book or audio could come out tomorrow and completely fuck this theory up.

And if you're new to Dr Who, please do not watch Horns of Nimon. It's terrible. Most of its entertainment is unintentional. Watch it in a few months, once you're familiar with how good the show can be, before watching it at a particularly low point.

Edit: typo.

Edited by FoolishWanderer, Mar 5, 2006 @ 6:56 AM.