No, I Haven’t Seen That Show Yet. Here’s Why.

I’ve often heard it said we’re living in the era of Prestige Television (or Peak Television, if you prefer).  Regardless of the terminology, there is the general sense among people who think, write, and talk about these things that the 21st century has seen the rise of a Golden Age – if not The Golden Age – of Television.  The caliber of what’s being offered on TV is generally considered to have risen.  There are more “high quality” shows generating more critical acclaim than ever before.  The line between “TV star” and the once-more prestigious “movie star” is blurring.  In fact, these TV shows with shorter seasons, renown casts, and complex storytelling, are often touted as six (or ten (or thirteen)) hour movies, broken up into smaller installments.  You couple this with the rise of streaming services (and the accompanying “streaming wars” where each service tries to outperform the others to earn your subscription fee) alongside the culture of binge-watching and our experience of television’s been transformed.  It is a remarkable time to be consuming such content and the excited query, “Have you seen [fill-in-the-blank-show] yet??” drives our pop culture conversations like never before.

The thing is, my answer is almost always “no.”  Like 9/10 times it’s “no.”  And here’s why.

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What I Learned (and Questions Remaining After) Watching Doctor Who: Flux in One Sitting

Harkening back to the serial nature of Classic Doctor Who stories, the last series of Doctor Who, Series Thirteen, was six episodes telling one massive story.  Named Doctor Who: Flux, this series premiered on 31 October 2021 and each episode was released in weekly installments with the finale airing 5 December 2021.  Filmed amidst Covid restrictions, I’m not sure how long the original arc of Flux was intended to be but the effects were evident in many ways, from lack of location shoots to the primary cast playing multiple roles to a narrative running over with story bits.  While I adore the Thirteenth Doctor – seeing her as “my Doctor” in as much as I can see any Doctor as “mine” when I love them all – and largely love what Chris Chibnall has done with the world of Doctor Who during his time as showrunner, Flux was…rough.  Watching it week to week there was so much I enjoyed but I also felt the narrative was overcrowded, trying to do too much with the time they had and ending with many questions lingering in my mind.  So I wanted to see if watching this one sweeping story in one sitting affected my understanding of the story!

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Clara Oswald and the Doctor: The Song of Our Souls

Here’s the next installment in my li’l series exploring every companion’s first trip with the Doctor!  The idea of the first trip on Doctor Who fascinates me.  Not the first time a companion meets the Doctor, when they get caught up in the wake of adventure, danger, and world-saving.  But rather the first trip they willingly take in the TARDIS after the Doctor invites them to travel with them through all of time and space.  What type of person says “yes”?  Where do they go?  What does the journey reveal and how does it affect them?  After helping the Doctor (Matt Smith) stop the Great Intelligence from harvesting human consciousnesses, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) responds to his invitation by saying, “Come back tomorrow.  Ask me again.”   When the Doctor asks why, she says, “Because tomorrow I might say yes.  Sometime after 7:00 ok for you?”  In “The Rings of Akhaten” (S7E7) the Doctor returns and they journey to the inhabited rings of the planet Akhaten in the distant future to wander their lively bazaar and attend an ancient religious festival.    

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Impressions of the Third Doctor – A Journey Through All 695 Episodes of Classic Doctor Who

I love the Third Doctor.  I love the Third Doctor so much!  In many ways, Russell T Davies’ basic Doctor Who blueprint – the Doctor travelling through time and space with one female companion – was born here.  Despite the familiar model, the Third Doctor’s era held a strikingly unique storyline for Doctor Who with the Doctor stranded on Earth for three of five seasons!  This is the third piece in my series exploring all 695 episodes of classic Doctor Who.  Like its predecessors, it considers my feelings/impressions upon meeting this regeneration of the Doctor as well as considering the “firsts” the Third Doctor’s adventures bring to Doctor Who.  Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor covered five seasons, Series 7-11, spanning 3 January 1970 to 8 June 1974. 

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And Lo, Jodie Whittaker Begat Ncuti Gatwa: Feelings on the Thirteenth Doctor’s Impending Regeneration

This fall, in a 90 minute special airing in October as part of the BBC’s Centenary Celebration, the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate as the Fourteenth Doctor comes into being.[1]  After all the speculation as to who would follow Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor in the TARDIS, the BBC announced Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa was cast as the Doctor’s fourteenth regeneration[2] (well, you know, fourteenth not counting the Fugitive Doctor, the War Doctor, the Morbius Doctors, and every incarnation of the Doctor we’ve met and/or seen alluded to with the Timeless Child).  Naturally, there’ve been many pieces reporting the announcement and compiling quotes from Ncuti Gatwa, returning showrunner Russell T Davies, Jodie Whittaker, Chris Chibnall, and everyone else in the orbit of Doctor Who willing to comment on the news.  This piece isn’t that.  Others have written it (and have done a better job than I could (that’s not my strength as a writer)).  Instead, I want to talk about feelings (much more my forte!) about this impending regeneration when our ever-changing Doctor will change once again.

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Spending New Year’s with the Daleks and Seeing the Infinite Power of a Moment

I was so excited for Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils (and OH MY GOSH) but with the way my brain naturally works plus BBC America’s Doctor Who marathon up to the premiere, I’ve been thinking about Legend of the Sea Devils as deeply as the special which immediately preceded it, Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks.  And because I’ve still SO MANY FEELINGS I want to process about Legend of the Sea Devils before I’d write about it, I decided to write about Eve of the Daleks.  After the insanely intense (and, at times, confusing/convoluted) nature of Doctor Who: Flux, Eve of the Daleks was a nice pallet cleanser.  Granted it still had me worrying for the safety of our new characters the whole time and the emotional ground it covered was more intense than Flux, but it was a fun, self-contained, single episode story.  For me, part of its deep resonance came in how it invited me to consider the power of a moment.

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The Monsters and the Doctor: Reframing That Which Scares Us

One of my favorite marks of the Doctor’s character is the way they respond to meeting all manner of monsters.  When I first began watching Doctor Who this was one of the earliest signs of how different a hero they were than I was used to.  Time and again – no matter how scary or threatening or unapproachable whatever the Doctor finds in the universe may appear – their first reaction is never one of fear or judgment.  They certainly never attack.  Rather, they marvel at its beauty.  They are overcome with joy and excitement at seeing something they’ve never seen before.  And, if what they encounter appears frightened or injured, they are moved by compassion and offer help.  In all this they are a beautifully important model for us, too.  As Steven Moffatt, the Doctor Who showrunner for Series 5-10, rightly observed, “There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”[1]

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Three’s Company: Why the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, and Zoe Heriot are a Dream TARDIS Team

The finale of Doctor Who: Flux aired Sunday night.  I’ve lots of thoughts and lots of feelings.  But they’re still percolating so, instead of writing about Doctor Who: Flux, I want to write about the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and the dream TARDIS team I’ve had bouncing around in my mind since I finished watching the Second Doctor’s era of Classic Doctor Who last summer.  While I struggled at first to connect to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), the wonder of his era came alive for me when he and his longtime companion Jamie McCrimmon (Frazier Hines) began travelling with Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury).  As soon as I met Zoe the seeds for this piece were sown.  I want – nay, I need – some sort of story (be it novel, audio drama, comic, or all of the above) where she reunites with the Doctor to travel with her and Yaz.  It would be perfect!  I think it’s a story that needs telling, too…and here’s why.

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Should I Watch Doctor Who? / How to Begin Watching Doctor Who

Once upon a time, I didn’t watch Doctor Who.  I didn’t know why the blue phonebooth was important and I didn’t know if that garbage can thing with the whisk and plunger was a good guy or a bad guy.  Once upon a time, I was too intimidated to even think about watching Doctor Who.  Then I started a new job and met Theresa!  We became fast friends and the only way I survived my first year teaching was because of her friendship and guidance.  Theresa’s the best.  One of the many things we bonded over was our shared love of Marvel, Star Wars, and all those nerdy corners of pop culture fun.  But I couldn’t discuss one of Theresa’s favorite shows/characters/universes with her – Doctor Who.  Eventually, trusting Theresa and her taste, I jumped into the world of Doctor Who and my life has become better in every way for it!  But you may not know Theresa.  Maybe that’s why you’re here.  Maybe you’re curious if you should watch Doctor Who and/or how you even begin watching Doctor Who but you don’t have Theresa there to help you.  Well, that’s why I’m here.  I hope this short piece helps answer your questions, calm your concerns, and ignites your excitement for Doctor Who in the way being friends with Theresa did for me :D.

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The Third Doctor and the Shadow of the Division: A Timeless Child Reflection

One of the unique things about a show/story/character as long running as Doctor Who is its potential to fold back on itself, to tell a story that opens a new path for future narratives while also inviting you to return to older stories and see them in a new way.  As I explored last week, Chris Chibnall’s addition of the Timeless Child to the world of Doctor Who certainly does that.  This week, as I’ve been filling my time between Doctor Who: Flux “Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse” and Doctor Who: Flux “Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans,” I’ve been continuing my journey through all 695 episodes of Classic Doctor Who.  As I’m moving through the Third Doctor’s era (which I ADORE), I’ve been thinking of the Timeless Child.  Specifically I’ve been thinking of how seamlessly it brings together a few plot points which felt a bit disconnected to me.

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