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Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Missing Linc's Doctor Who Viewing Guide - Series 1

Hello, time travelers! A few months ago a friend of mine expressed an interest in watching Doctor Who, but didn't know where to start. He admitted to seeing the first episode of the revamped series, but wasn't impressed. Whovians will tell you that "Rose" is not the best episode, but the first series does indeed have a lot of great moments. And so, I decided to write up a Doctor Who viewing guide for him, highlighting episodes that, I think, exemplify what the show is about. So, if you're reading this for the first time, get ready to dive into a show that has captivated audiences for 50 years. If you don't realize you're reading this for the ninth time due to a temporal shift in the time vortex.....welcome to Doctor Who!

A Brief Introduction (Or: Doctor WHO?)
Doctor Who Series 1 Logo

Doctor Who is a British institution with humble beginnings. In 1963 we were introduced to the Doctor, a man who travels in a ship called the TARDIS that can go anywhere in time and space. Disguised as a police box from 1960’s London, the TARDIS (short for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) has played host to the Doctor and his many companions over the years. The show was put on an indefinite hiatus in 1989, tried to regain its footing with a TV movie in 1996, and ultimately came back with a bang in 2005. The Doctor is of a species known as the Time Lords, purveyors and protectors of all time and space. Time Lords have a unique ability: When they are fatally injured, they can regenerate with a new face and personality, but retain all the same memories. All told, there have been 11 men thus far to play the Doctor, each of whom has put his own unique spin on the character while continuing this great story of time, space, adventure, love, mystery, and danger. So, let’s dive into the newest chapters (called “Series” to distinguish them from the classic “seasons”). Or, as my favorite, the Tenth Doctor, would say: “Allons-y!”

Series 1: The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
Christopher Eccleston
Time Ladies?
Must Watch Episodes

1. Episode 6: Dalek

I'm skipping to halfway through the season because I think this is where Christopher Eccleston really shines as the Doctor. From taunting one of his oldest enemies, to caring for Rose, to showing his true compassion for the people and things of the universe, Eccleston delivers a fantastic performance. Want to know how a giant pepper pot can be scary? Watch "Dalek". This, more than any other episode, is the one that got me hooked.

2. Episode 7: The Long Game
Doctor Who

Right on the heels of "Dalek" comes a really creepy episode, and one that showcases just how weird the show can be. Also, this is the one with Simon pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Star Trek) playing the eerie Editor. Something is not right on Satellite 5, the entertainment and news hub orbiting Earth that transmits to the entire Human Empire. Once people are promoted to floor 500....they never come back.

3. Episodes 9 and 10: The Empty Child and the Doctor Dances

Another fairly creepy two-parter set in London during the Blitz. A strange boy wearing gas mask is stalking a group of orphans, and the Doctor wants to know why. When the bombs fall on London and everyone is in hiding, that's when the Empty Child appears. And if he touches'll become just like him. Want to send shivers up a Whovian's spine? Just go up to them and ask "Are you my Mummy?"

4. Episodes 12 and 13: Bad Wolf and The Parting of Ways

The two part series finale that ends in our very first regeneration, "Bad Wolf" and "The Parting of Ways" is Doctor Who at its finest. At first, the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack Harkness are back on Satellite 5 and forced to compete in futuristic versions of popular games shows (including "Big Brother" and "The Weakest Link"). What they don't know is that something much more sinister is lurking behind the scenes. When the ultimate evil force is revealed, the Doctor has to make a very hard choice: In order to destroy evil, he must also destroy the Earth. His choice ultimately ends up with his regeneration, and he goes out in the most "fantastic" fashion. Watching a regeneration for the first time is a unique and powerful moment for any viewer.

Episodes For Greater Context

1. Episode 2: The End of the World
Doctor Who
Doctor Who at its most sci-fi-y. Cut to the year 5 billion and a viewing party for the destruction of Earth by the Sun. A Mos Eisly Cantina's worth of aliens, a murder plot, and tiny killer robots makes this a quintessential Who episode. What makes it poignant, though, is that Rose touches on a very human question: What does it mean to be you when everyone and everything you've ever known has been gone for billions of years?

2. Episode 8: Father's Day
Doctor Who

Rose asks the Doctor to travel the day her father died, so that she can be with him instead of him dying alone. This episode deals with that happens when you interfere with fixed events in time. Hint: Nothing Good.

3. Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead
Doctor Who

Another thing Doctor Who does well is visiting historical eras. This is the first jaunt back into the past, where we meet up with none other than Charles Dickens! But something isn't right in old London town. The dead seem to not want to stay dead. Is it ghosts, or something not from this world? 

Silly But Necessary

1. Episode 1: Rose
Doctor Who

Well, if you watch it you'll know why this one is on the "SBN" list, but it is the episode that relaunched the series. The first episode of Doctor Who in almost 20 years introduces us to Rose Tyler, whose life will change forever when she meets a mysterious man called the Doctor. He is a man who has just lost his people, the Time Lords, in a terrible war, and is unwilling to risk the life of young Rose. But, as is appropriate of the first companion of the modern era, she keeps right up with him. Killer mannequins and an unearthly consciousness, as well as one hungry trash can, terrorize the citizens of London and it's up to the Doctor and Rose to save the day.

2. Episodes 4, 5, and 11: Aliens of London, World War Three, and Boomtown
Doctor Who

This trilogy is a two-parter followed up by episode 11. Aliens take over wearing human suits and fart a lot because of the gas pressure. Kinda silly overall, but it does introduce an important secondary character, sets up events for the finale, and reminds you not to take the whole series too seriously. 

Well, there you have it, folks! I hope that however you decide to watch Doctor Who, that you really do enjoy it. By the end of of the first series I was absolutely shocked at how much I really liked the show. Now, I've watched the entire modern series to date as well as a bunch of the older episodes. I can definitely see why after 50 years it's stayed in the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world. In short, it's "Fantastic...absolutely fantastic!"

And you know what? So was I.


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