Arts & Events

Mixed response from Whovians at return of BBC’s Doctor Who

The coming of autumn brings a host of delights: colorful leaves, cocoa-drinking weather and, most importantly, new seasons of our favorite TV shows. For many of us, that means the highly anticipated seventh season of British sci-fi masterpiece Doctor Who.
Debuted in 1963, Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show in history. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a 900-odd-year-old Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. With the help of his blue police-box-shaped spaceship and time machine, the TARDIS, he travels the universe with a succession of companions, usually young women from Earth.
Due to his genes, and some quick thinking on the part of the writers, the Doctor cannot die: if mortally injured, he simply changes every cell in his body and regenerates. This allows the show to continue with a new actor, keeping the chemistry and feel of the show fresh.
After a nearly 15-year hiatus, a new, revamped version was launched in 2005, starring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth incarnation of the Doctor. David Tennant took over the role at the end of 2005, and the Doctor is currently played by 26-year-old Matt Smith, who joined the cast in 2010 along with a brand-new companion and a remodeled TARDIS.
“I love the whimsy involved with everything,” junior Dylan Russom said. “There is an overarching theme in most of the seasons, but the Doctor and his companions tend to just randomly pop in on different time periods and planets.”
Since Smith joined the cast as the title character, the show has been rapidly gaining popularity not just in the UK, where it has always been a prominent part of popular culture, but worldwide.
According to junior G.A. Kang, this is probably due to the expansion of the BBC America channel as well as a strong Doctor Who presence on Netflix and social media site Tumblr. “Also the fact that Doctor Who cast members visited America is another factor that kind of fueled this recent popularity,” Kang said.
Along with the new Doctor came a new head writer: Steven Moffat, known for co-creating another popular BBC program Sherlock, took over that position from Russel T. Davies in 2009. Moffat’s writing is known for its convoluted plot twists and heart-wrenching emotional moments. The overall style of the show changed somewhat, too, from the characteristically cheesy special effects of the show’s previous years to a much more polished final product that continues in the current season.
These changes have not always been met with approval. Erika Barker, a junior, has been a Who fan since she was introduced to the show in the fifth grade by her English parents, but she has not been following the most recent season.
“I think so much of what made Doctor Who joyful and fun to watch has been taken away,” Barker said. “While the Doctor himself is pretty goofy and there are silly jokes made, the high production quality makes the whole series, to me, feel as though it takes itself way too seriously.”
Viewership of the show, however, has never been as high as it is in the current season. Doctor Who is broadcast weekly in about 50 countries and has inspired an enormous fan base that is involved in the production of fanzines, conventions, clubs, themed rock bands and even symphonies.
The seventh season has four episodes so far and has already seen the Doctor facing his arch-enemy the Daleks, encountering dinosaurs on a spaceship, saving a Wild West settlement from a revengeful cyborg and moving in with his companions Amy and Rory.
Amy has been the longest-running companion since the 2005 re-launch, and is scheduled to depart the show following this Saturday’s episode “The Angels Take Manhattan.” The new companion will be Jenna-Louise Coleman, who has already made a surprise appearance in the first episode of the current season as Oswin Oswald.
“I think Rory and Amy have been amazing, but they’ve spent more time with the Doctor than any of the other companions and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Doctor interacts with Oswin,” Russom said. Coleman will return to the role in the 2012 Christmas Special.
New episodes of Doctor Who air on BBC America at 9 p.m. on Saturdays.