Geekdom Come, The Franchise

The Franchise-Doctor Who

If you’re not excited for Jodi Whittaker’s debut as the Doctor this Saturday you’re either not familiar with her work or a terrible person. As a devout Whovian I can guarantee you I’ll be glued to my seat the second that distinctive music begins to play. But for those of you a bit less fanatic about a sci-fi show that’s been on the air for over fifty years I thought I’d use this edition of The Franchise to give you a bit of a primer.
Core Concept: “A Mad(wo)man with a Box” The Doctor may be a Time Lord with a genius level intellect and the power of a God but at the end of the day she is just lonely woman in search of new experiences and hell-bent on doing right by those she encounters on her travels. The Doctor solves problems using intelligence and compassion rather than force and weapons. A being of immense power who would rather run than use a gun. The series as a whole serves as an examination of humanity, the good and the bad, and asks the question how can we do better.
Essential Moments: The very first regeneration: What was done simply as a clever way to switch lead actors without having to completely re-write the premise of the series became a signature part of the franchise. Allowing the series to stay fresh and relevant for over fifty years. The introduction of the Daleks: The Doctor has faced many foes but none so deadly as the Daleks. They are the Doctor’s opposite, the antitheses of all she embodies, the enemy by which she defines himself, the foe that has taken so much from her, and on top of that, they’re bloody terrifying. The Formation of UNIT: The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce is humanity’s response team to extraterrestrial threats. They also work for the Doctor, or she works for them. It depends who you ask. But since their addition to the cannon in 1969, they’ve been the Doctor’s steadfast friends and allies. Most of the time. The Ninth Doctor: The return of the Doctor and the launching of the modern Doctor Who franchise, After nearly two decades after the last episode had aired (ignoring a not very good at all TV Movie in the middle) the Doctor returned to our living rooms. Charming, angry, and broken. Tennant may be the best Doctor of the modern era but it will forever be Christopher Eccleston who breathed life back into a character who had been left for dead.
Rouges Gallery: I’ve mentioned the Daleks already but I would remiss if I did not mention their creator Davros. Davros is worshiped by the Daleks as their god and creator, but not being a full Dalek himself he sometimes finds himself at odds with his creations. When facing the Doctor, Davros is less concerned with killing the time-lord than he is with either proving his own intellectual superiority or disproving the Doctor’s moral superiority. Stories that involve Davros often force the Doctor to reevaluate his own choice and whether or not she is, in fact, any different than those beings she fights. In this regard, Davros has more in common with the Master(who I’ll get to in a minute) than his own creations. The Cybermen are another of the Doctor’s main adversaries and while on the surface there may not seem all too different in their motivations from the Daleks, there are some key differences. The Daleks are an existential threat, they believe themselves superior and wish to wipe out all others who are not pure. Basically, they’re space nazis. The Cybermen wish to assimilate the galaxy, upgrading the beings the encounter to what they believe is a better existence free from emotion. They are the cautionary tale of what humanity might become if we cut ourselves off from our compassion. This section is running a bit long, which is a testament to the writers of this series who have crafted so many great villains over Doctor Who’s 50-year history. From the Weeping Angels to The Great Intelligence, the Silence to the Sontarans there are just too many great antagonists to cover here. But I would be remiss if I did not address one more foil from the Doctor’s canon. The Master (or Mistress depending on the regeneration) is the Doctor’s oldest friend and perhaps deadliest single adversary. (S)He is the shadow Doctor. The Time Lord without a conscience. A creature of chaos intent on proving to the Doctor both that he is the superior Time Lord and that they together are superior to all other creatures in the universe. The Master poses a unique quandary for the Doctor. When only two of your people remain, how far are you willing to go to be your brother’s keeper.
Best Stories:  Blink: may be an episode that significantly lighter on the titular Doctor than other episodes but it certainly encapsulates the spirit of the Whoverse as well as any story in the modern series. Scary new villains, an expert use of time travel, and a focus on the lives of the people whose worlds will never be the same after encountering the Doctor. Also, it gave us the phrase “timey wimey”, which on it own puts it head and shoulders above other Doctor Who stories. Heaven Sent: Lies on the other end of the spectrum from Blink, focusing entirely on the Doctor and his immortal nature. It is by far the best episode of the Capaldi era and shows the Doctor at his most desperate. The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Perhaps the best non-Dalek storyline from the Tom Baker era. It should be just another stunt episode that puts the Doctor in Sherlock Holmes shoes, but somehow it evolves into more than that. Nothing epitomizes the campy horror and sheer delight of the Tom Baker’s Doctor better than this tale. Genesis of the Daleks: The origin of the Daleks, the first appearance of Davros, Tom Baker, Sara Jane Smith, a bleak examination of the horrors of war and the limitations of the Doctor. This is the best story of the Doctor’s original run. Perhaps of all time.
NEVER DO IT THIS WAY AGAIN: Doctor Who has had a lot of misses over the years, for every great story there is a pretty awful one. Some scripts can be saved by the innate charm of whichever Doctor we happen to be with at the time but some stories not even David Tennant or Tom Baker could save. Like In the Forrest of Night when the trees invaded, which somehow was even lamer than it sounds. Or Robot of Sherwood which made Robin Hood a robot. Not a terrible concept, but there were plot holes for days and he was a pretty whiny robot archer. But perhaps the worst Doctor Who story of all time is Timelash. I don’t even know where to begin with this. The crappy production value, the horrible acting, or a convoluted plot that manages to be unnecessarily complicated and yet ridiculously predictable at the same time. Sometimes the older episodes don’t hold up because of newer technology or changing social norms. And sometimes they really are just that bad. Timelash was that bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.