For those of you who may not know, Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction series in the history of television. It premiered in England in November 1963, the day after JFK was shot. It ran for 26 seasons, with a hiatus in the mid-1980s, came back, and ended its original run in December, 1989. A Fox tv movie in 1996 failed to get the franchise up and running again, so for years the only new Doctor Who consisted of brief sketches for charity.
Then last year, Doctor Who returned to the Beeb, as masterminded by Who fan and novelist Russell T. Davies. I was more than a little worried by the advance word on the show. It was being "reimagined" for the new millennium, with a younger, more contemporary Doctor, and less of the continuity that had built up over the decades, the complex backstory that I loved. In short, it sounded awful.
But it isn't awful, as it turns out. It's witty, intelligent, and the companion (the Doctor pretty much always has at least one companion) is every bit as brave and resourceful as my favorite previous companion, Ace. Yeah. Good stuff!
Rose Tyler has saved the Doctor's life more than once.
Here's the premise, both of the original series and the new one: a human meets a mysterious traveler, who seems to know exactly what to do about an alien invasion, although he's just as clearly improvising as he goes along. The traveler calls himself The Doctor. (Doctor Who is a joke and a question, not the character's name.) He is a Time Lord, a Gallifreyan. (He once claimed to be half human, but this may have been a joke or a lie; on many other occasions strongly denied being human at all.) He travels though time and space in a blue box called a TARDIS, which is bigger on the inside than the outside. The human gradually learns all this, helps him defeat the alien invasion (or whatever), and becomes The Doctor's traveling companion. They visit other planets, the future and the past, always get in trouble, and tend to witness a lot of death. They win the day with cleverness and technology, and sometimes by blowing stuff up. The Doctor is compassionate but not sentimental. He tends not to kill anyone or anything while there's a chance he can reason with it instead.
Different companions come and go, but The Doctor remains - albeit not always intact. When he is on the point of death, he regenerates, taking on a new appearance and a slightly altered persona. This is how the show has kept going all these years: 10 actors have starred as The Doctor on tv, and it's all part of the backstory that from time to time he looks and sounds different than he did before. The catch is that he only gets to do this twelve times.
Yes, well, it's better than it sounds.
The Doctor and Rose confront a murderer.
Anyway, the new series makes one major change in all this, but I won't mention what it is here. If you haven't seen the new versoon of the show yet, I don't want to issue any "spoilers."
Into the TARDIS - quick!
If you like British humor and science fiction, and have or can get The Sci Fi Channel, I recommend that you watch this. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the 2006 series, starring David Tennant instead of Christopher Eccleston. That's right - The Doctor has regenerated yet again.
Continuing with my theme of continuation, I was going to write another music bit tonight, but I need more time to work on it. I also need to continue work on my Quantum Leap music article for The Observer. It seems to be impossible to do serious research during the week.
Finally, continuing the subject of Signs, I'd like to direct your attention to a whole blog full of photos of signs:
Book of Signs
Matthew is putting together a whole book of sign photos he's taken over the years - hence the title. He seems to specialize mostly in my favorite kind of sign, the vintage and retro ones left over from the 1950s and 1960s. Great stuff!
Oh, and a few of you have speculated on the meaning of the *1 sign. Do you guys truly not know what it is? Here's another clue: