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"Exterminate! Exterminate!" - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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"Exterminate! Exterminate!" [Apr. 9th, 2007|08:39 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Easter Monday. The day of that Resurrection. Well, call me Geoffrey Magdalene if you will, but this past Easter Sunday I saw my own resurrection.

Back when I was a kid - roughly aged 10 to 14 - my Saturday evenings were spoken for. Yes, the Montreal Canadiens were part of it, but at 7:30, there was Doctor Who, as presented on TVO by a woman who would later become a friend, Judy Merril (but that relationship is another story).

Already on air for over 15 years, Doctor Who was a British "sci-fi" program that looked like it was shot on a budget that would have made Ed Wood more than happy. The "special" effects were anything but special. Its aliens made do with make-up rather than rubber suits and its space-ships were obviously made of painted cardboard, even when seen on a 12" black-and-white screen.

But it didn't matter. What the BBC didn't spend on special effects, it clearly spent on its actors and, especially, on its writers.

Doctor Who was the kind of fantasy that was exciting and comforting at the same time. It's plots were serious (as how could the "end of all life in the universe" not be?), but it's characters - without insulting its younger democraphic with camp - made it clear to its older, that it was, well, just supposed to be fun.

And fun it was.

The Doctor himself, the 900 year-old lone survivor of a race known as Time Lords, was a classic pulp-hero, a being who loved being in the thick of things. He would save the world every week, the universe itself every second fortnight.

Yes, it sounds silly. It was silly. It was that rare entertainment beast: "fun for the whole family".

The plots were fast-moving and playing to the highest possible stakes. But the Doctor himself was having fun - no tragic hero, he sought out adventure and lived to perform good deeds, and no matter that he was seldom thanked for them.

If not quite fearless, he was bold, he was kind and he loved his life. He was pert and saucy and had no time for for social pretensions. He offered as much (and as little) respect to peasants or small children as he did to generals or super-villains.

The best comparisons I can come up with are to Herge's magnicent series of comics, The Adventures of Tintin and C.C. Beck's delightful Captain Marvel. All three managed the very difficult trick of providing suspense and good-natured humour at the same time, with plots intricate and engaging enough for an adult's sensibilities, while being simple and reassuring enough to excite a child without terrifying them.

As can easily happen, I lost track of Doctor Who not long after I moved to Toronto, back in 1979. The show itself carried on for another 10 years, but I saw none of the episodes, nor any reruns. Doctor Who remained only a fond childhood memory.

And as time went on, I grew afraid to revisit that happy place. So many childhood joys prove, on encountering them as an adult, to be a pale shadow of the memory.

But between my brilliant neice and the equally-brilliant sabotabby's recommendations (among others), when I stumbled across it on Sunday, I thought it was time to take my chance on viewing the Resurrection.

Well, what can I say?

The new Doctor (Time Lords, it seems change bodies roughly as often as actors leave television roles to try for the big time) is no Tom Baker - but thank god, he doesn't try. Nevertheless, he is impish and impetuous, witty and adventurous and in general a delight to watch and listen to.

He is a marvellous Doctor and his latest side-kick, Rose, is just as spunky and more than occasionally helpful than you can ask a sidekick to be. (A North American aside: Rose's boyfriend is black and it - from this side of the pond - it seems just a trifle strange, in a good way, that absolutely nothing is made of that fact.)

In the first episode of the revival, Rose is saved by The Doctor when the mannikens in her department store come to life (never mind - I told you you're not meant to take the plot seriously) and ends up joining him (as what 19 year-old wouldn't at least hope he or she would do when offered the chance to fly through both time and space?) on his adventures.

"Is it always this dangerous?"

[Maniacal grin] "Oh yes!"

And they're off.

Though twice as long as the original episodes, the new Doctor Who (well, I'm behind the times. Ecclesone quit after the "first" season and I have yet to explore the "second") is every bit as engaging as the original. The plots as convoluted, the Doctor as charming, and the supporting players as interesting.

If you loved Doctor Who as a kid, you'll love the revival. It you are a kid, then by god, you're in for a treat!

The special effects are better than they once were, but this show still puts its emphasis on the writing. Dialogue carries the plot, not body-counts or 100-decibel screaming.

But for now, I have to watch more. After four episodes, the Daleks (not to mention Davros) have yet to make an appearance.
linkReply

Comments:
From: meardaba
2007-04-10 02:24 pm (UTC)
There's a new season this year, with a new assistant.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-15 11:32 pm (UTC)

New Sidekicks, New Doctors

Fond as I am of Rose, I'm looking forward to meeting the new one. And if Billie Piper gets to play the Doctor herself one of these days, I think she'd do a fine job of it. At the very least, she pulls off the proper sense of fun.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2007-04-11 01:26 am (UTC)
I was only into Dr. Who marginally growing up in the 1980s and watching it on TVO or PBS with my cousin.

I really enjoyed Eccelston two years ago when the new series debut. I only saw about half the episodes and have been meaning to buy it (yes I said buy it as opposed to downloading it).

I've only seen one episode of this past season, but David Tennet(sp?) was just as good.

You knew Judith personally? I can't wait to buy you a beer and talk shop.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-15 11:39 pm (UTC)

Judith, Sudbury, Beer and Shop

I did know Judy (and one of these days I intend to write a long piece about her as I knew her. It started when she taught a few 6-week "writing for publication" sessions at my high-school, then we re-connected a few years later at a peace rally. We became friends of sorts, and I was at various times a house-sitter, researcher, chauffeur and handy-man for her until we had a falling-out a couple of years before she died.

But as I said, she deserves a serious memoir ...

I agree with you about Tennent(?), but I thought he was good enough. Just as I thought Ecclestone was no Tom Baker. But it's really the writing that makes that show something more than "just kids' stuff" to my mind.

I'll be in Sudbury the last weekend of this month. Do drop me a line to let me know what your schedule's going to be, as it may influence when I return home to Toronto.
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[User Picture]From: fadefromnothing
2007-04-11 02:09 am (UTC)
Geoff, I'll be needing your phone number!
School is letting out in three days, and it would be wonderful to see you, maybe rendezvous at the Rhino?

I've fallen in love with the place, as a note. Parkdale has been good to me thus far.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-15 11:41 pm (UTC)

Don't You Check Your Friend's Page Any More?

I'm pleased you're liking Parkdale. Now, please visit http://ed-rex.livejournal.com/98331.html for a Sidra-only entry with all the contact info you'll need.
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[User Picture]From: lopukhov
2007-04-12 10:12 pm (UTC)
They replaced Christopher Eccleston with this other Bloke, I haven't seen The Second Series yet. I thought Eccleston was really sexy as the new Doctor, although Billie Piper (I like that she is a proudly robust young woman) is also pretty sexy. They make a sexy time-travelling duo together!
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-15 11:42 pm (UTC)

They Do ...

The new Doctor has his charm, but I doubt you'll find him as sexy as Ecclestone. But it's still a lot of fun.
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[User Picture]From: lopukhov
2007-04-15 11:50 pm (UTC)

Re: They Do ...

I saw the new doctor in action in one of the games on the Doctor Who BBC website. He is young, and cute, but not sexy. That was the thing that struck me most about Eccleston, normally I'm not easily charmed by older men, but there was something abou his attitude as The Doctor that separates him from Tom Baker and the young bloke.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-23 11:58 pm (UTC)

Re: They Do ...

...normally I'm not easily charmed by older men...

Dang. So much for my fantasies of luring you into some perverse tryste ("triste"?).

But I digress.

I think I said it in my post, but in case not, I see Dr. Who as a wonderful example of television where the writing is more important than the actors. From my perspective, Billie Piper is delightfully sexy, but the character of Rose is simply someone I care about, despite the inherent ludicruousness of the series.

At the risk of contradicting myself, though, if you ever get the chance to form an opinion, I'd be curious to know what you think of Tom Baker's Doctor.
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[User Picture]From: lopukhov
2007-04-24 12:17 am (UTC)

Re: They Do ...

I'm in love with Tom Baker's Doctor.

And it's "tryst". Good thing one of us has been reading her Pynchon, right?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-24 12:23 am (UTC)

Re: They Do ...

I'm in love with Tom Baker's Doctor.

I guess when a 13 year-old (straight) boy "falls in love" with a 30-something (male) actor's character, it's called hero-worship. I loved his scarf, though ...

As for Pynchon, I tried The Crying of Lot 49 a few years back and found it unreadable - should I give him another shot?
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[User Picture]From: lopukhov
2007-04-24 02:22 am (UTC)

Re: They Do ...

The scarf does it for me too, and sabotabby, I believe. My big plan over the summer is to knit me one of those.


I found Crying to be humourous, but difficult to read. I've been trudging through Gravity's Rainbow for the past 2 years, and still barely made it past p.120. Still, the one thing I remember clearly from Crying was the "Tryst of Trystero". The Trystero in w.a.s.t.e.


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[User Picture]From: ellie_elephant
2007-04-23 11:05 pm (UTC)
I did a fangirlish squee when I saw this entry. I got into Doctor who at the start of the first season, and have been a devoted fan since.

Have you been following the third season? Don't know how much I can say in this comment because I don't want to spoil it for you.

On the new sidekick: I love Billie Piper too - I'm a diehard Ten/Rose shipper, but I think the new one (Martha) is fantastic, and I love that she's not just a replacement for Rose.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-04-23 11:52 pm (UTC)

First Season or "First" Season?

I haven't seen any of the 3rd (or "3rd") season yet; the website through which I am watching them hasn't posted any of them yet. So I don't yet know why Rose gets out of the picture or how the Doctor meets his new Companion.

As for your fangirlish squee, a couple of points.

First, I really wonder how different I might have turned out had the internet existed when I was your age (and younger). When I was watching Dr. Who - 11 through 14 or so, as I recall - I was the only person I knew who liked it. My grade 8 homeroom teacher, the wonderful Mr. (Ted) Pritchard, at one point told me that he had watched it when he was a kid, back in the early '60s, but that was it for me in terms of being able to share my pleasure in it.

Which is a long way of saying, I wish you can appreciate just how wide a door the net is - but on some level, you can't, because you've never been without it. It's kind of fun to be young enough to more-or-less take a new technology into one's life, to "meld" with it (as it were) but to also be old enough to remember what life was like before it existed.

Sorry about the rant. And it's really good to see that you still check your LJ at least once in a while. I've missed your reports.
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[User Picture]From: ellie_elephant
2007-04-24 12:06 am (UTC)

Re: First Season or "First" Season?

I think I'd probably get a lot more work done without the internt :)

I do remember darkly the days before the internet. I think when I really started using it was around 97 (I was about 9), and then I only used it to email.

As for the Doctor Who obsession - here in Germany, I'm the only one in my group of friends who's even *heard* of Doctor Who - it's never been broadcast here (although I think one German TV channel recently bought the rights for the "First" season). I'd never heard of it either until people starting drooling over Christopher Eccleston on LJ.

And no worries about the rant :) I can't imagine what my life would be like without the internet - I miss it terribly whenever I'm at my Gran's (that, in itself, is like stepping back into the 50's). And you're not the only one who's constantly reminding me how young I am - in Germany, most people who start uni are already over 20, so I'm still always the baby of the group.
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