Comparisons between classic Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes and current series runner Steven Moffat have been inevitable ever since Moffat’s first story “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” But these comparisons were even more inevitable (at least for this fan) on a weekend in which BBC America aired both “The Bells of Saint John” and the classic third Doctor serial “Spearhead from Space.”
Both stories find Earth under threat of invasion by aliens who are willing to use something mundane and turn it into something scary. In the case of Holmes, it was using plastics. In Moffat’s case, it’s wi-fi.
Of the two, I can tell you I vastly prefer the Holmes invasion story and not just because I’ve seen it multiple times.
It’s because the Holmes story didn’t feel like a mash-up of greatest hits from other successful installments of Doctor Who.
Last week, my favorite television series of all time celebrated its 49th birthday. To celebrate, I popped in the DVD release of the first episode of Doctor Who that ever aired back on November 23, 1963. But instead of stopping with the original episode, I found myself in the mood to sit down and watch not only the entire four-part serial that kicked off 49 years of travels through time and space, but also in the mood to re-visit the classic series and the era of the first Doctor again. So, from time to time as we count down to the 50th anniversary of the greatest show ever made, I’m going to look back on Doctor Who and post some thoughts on the stories I take in. They may all be from one era or I may skip around. All I know is I’m looking forward to re-discovering this classic television series as the celebration of 50 years kicks into high gear.
Whenever I watch or re-watch the first episode of Doctor Who, I try to cast my mind back and wonder what it must have been like to tune in to that very first episode on the twenty-third of November back in 1963. I often wonder if I would have been hooked right away or if I might have dropped in and out on the first few installments before embracing the show as much of the British public did a few weeks later when a certain pepper-pot shaped monster arrived on the scene.
Watching “An Unearthly Child,” I think I would have been hooked right away — though the three episodes that follow the first episode might have tried my patience.
I didn’t cry when Adric died. Nor did I cry when Rose Tyler left (the first time). (I was honestly a bit relieved since I’d wearied of her character and the multitudes who declared her the best companion ever…)
Sarah Jane Smith’s departure, while bittersweet, didn’t get me all misty-eyed.
I will admit that as the Ponds made their departure from Doctor Who this week, not only did I have a lump in my throat, but I was also fighting back tears like I did in the first ten or so minutes of Up.
Damn you, Steven Moffat. You got me.
Doctor Who and dinosaurs haven’t had the best history. Just ask anyone who’s seen the Jon Pertwee serial “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (it hit DVD earlier this year without the extra of enhanced dino effects). Or look earlier in the Pertwee era to “Doctor Who and the Silurians” where a large dinosaur served as a watch-dog of sorts to the aliens of the week (or in this case, seven weeks).
Now as the series comes up on its fiftieth anniversary, Steven Moffat and writer Chris Chibnell seem to want to make up for previous dinosaur related faults with the fairly innocuous ”Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” In many ways, the story was exactly what I expected–a fun, entertaining story that’s a nice way to pass an hour or so of television viewing.
After a longer the usual (for the new series anyway) hiatus, the Doctor is back, kicking off the lead-up to his fiftieth anniversary by facing off against his long time, lethal foes, the Daleks.
If you haven’t yet seen “Asylum of the Daleks,” I highly recommend you stop reading now. I’m going to discuss the entire episode, including SPOILERS just as soon as I find some milk and eggs for my souffle.