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June 8, 2013

Weekend Reviews: British TV show works in the U.S.

The Daily Star

---- — Up until this year, my first year at college, the only time I’d heard the words “Doctor Who” mentioned were in passing by my friends who had a passion for science fiction. I, for the most part, do not. 

Because of this, I was largely unaware of the series while in high school and therefore missed many of its seasons as they were airing for the first time.

Once I began my freshman year of college, a number of my floormates discovered that they all had the show in common and would often reference it and its characters. Being the pop culture fanatic that I am, I did not like being out of the loop, and so finally, about a month ago, I decided to rectify the situation.

Thankfully, Netflix has the first six seasons of the Doctor Who series beginning in 2005, and I have been hooked ever since I started.

Now, for those of you who were in the same boat as I was, “Doctor Who” is a British television show that is aired on BBC, and in the states, BBC America. The show first aired in 1963 and ran until 1989, and a made-for-TV movie was made in 1996, with the series finally returning in 2005.

The plot of the series is somewhat confusing, but I will attempt to do it justice. The main character of the series is known as just “The Doctor,” an alien from the planet Gallifrey, which is home to the time lords. During the Time War, which was essentially a large battle between different alien races, the time lords were decimated, and the Doctor is the only one who remains.

The Doctor is able to travel through time and space in his “TARDIS,” which stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. The TARDIS is crafted to look like a blue police phone call box (a common sight in 1963 Great Britain), but it appears much larger on the inside. The Doctor also carries a tool called a sonic screwdriver, a multi-purpose tool that is quite useful in getting him out of a variety of sticky and often severe situations. 

Since the original series aired for more than 20 years, the writers figured out a clever way to introduce new cast members and get rid of others without killing them off. Whenever the Doctor sustains an injury that would be life-threatening to a human, he simply regenerates. This means that his soul is transferred to another body, and for the most part, give or take a few personality traits, his is the same Doctor.

So far, the Doctor has regenerated 11 times, each time introducing a new actor and allowing the series to stay somewhat fresh and avoid clichés. 

The Doctor typically travels with at least one companion, usually a human who helps him with tasks and keeps him company as they travel through space to different planets or different time periods. 

The general fan consensus favors the 10th Doctor, who is played by British actor David Tennant, although I have also heard a lot of praise for the current doctor, the 11th, played by Matt Smith. Tennant is usually the favorite because of his quirky, energetic take on the Doctor, and it is hard to not find him likable. 

When I began the show, I liked the ninth Doctor that I had come to know, played by Christopher Eccleston, and wasn’t sure I would be able to get used to others playing the same character. However, I think that each actor is different enough to provide a fresh perspective while remaining faithful to the Doctor’s overall personality.

I can’t quite say it’s as easy to get over the changes in companions, at least for me. Without a doubt, my favorite companion is Rose Tyler, the first companion of the new series. Rose, played by Billie Piper, was brave and intelligent, and I grew to care for her as a character and root for a romance between her and the Doctor. When she left at the end of the second season, I cried harder than I ever have at any TV show or movie. And I’ve read Harry Potter.

Once you begin watching the show, it is hard to stop. I’ve quickly gone through the first three seasons, and am in the midst of the fourth, and still find myself looking forward to each episode. 

I also recommend, if you decide to try it out, to watch it with a friend, because it is otherwise obscure enough that not many people will know what you are talking about and your words could just come out like mumbo-jumbo to them. 

Anyway, enough mumbo-jumbo from me. Back to the show!

Maggie McVey, a 2012 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at