Okay, I have a confession. I know absolutely nothing about Doctor Who. If I had to single out a giant gaping hole in my popular culture awareness, this would be it, and the shame I feel in this regard is multi-storied. Firstly, I take pride in the fact that, even if I'm not really into something pop culture related, I at least have some conceptual knowledge about it and why people like it. Then there's that fact that I consider myself to be something like a low-level anglophile. Also, sci-fi is totally my bag. Time travel? Space-time continuum? I can't get enough of this stuff. So why haven't I gotten on board yet?
It seemed to me that Doctor Who was a fairly recent phenomenon that only really gained in popularity over the last couple years. What a shock it was when I found out that, in fact, Doctor Who has been a British pop-cult staple for fifty years! This is really intimidating. Where would I start? The Doctor Who world is so immense that I feel like I'm too far behind to ever begin.
So, after a little research (Wikipedia), and some solicitation (everyone I encountered on my morning break), I decided that it was time to jump in. Thanks to the miracle that is streaming video, I immediately watched the first episode of Season 1, "Rose" (2005).
I'm hooked already and kicking myself for not getting started earlier. I don't even feel lost despite the fact that the episode begins in medias res. Everything gets explained through clever and not-at-all annoying exposition. But where I really see the brilliance is in the the next episode, "The End of the World" (2005). The Doctor brings Rose 5 billion years into the future to witness Earth's destruction. What is best, however, is the synthesis of suspense and action with intelligent and biting comedy. An obvious dig is the depiction of the last human as not much more than a perpendicular trampoline. This "woman" is largely unrecognizable as a human being due to excessive plastic surgery. A pointed comment on the shallow nature of people.
The plot revolves around several species who, for entertainment, have gathered to watch the earth die. I love the introduction of one of these groups: The Appearance of the Repeating Meme", which we later learn (but should already have realized) is only an idea. It's mind-bogglingly fantastic. I was duped.
The last "woman" brings two historical artifacts from earth to share with the spectators. The first is an ostrich egg, which she describes as something like a Dragon straight out of Game of Thrones. Next is the iPod (jukebox!) from which she plays traditional ballads like "Toxic" by Brittney Spears. Ha! But the underlying joke here is that this lady believes her account is accurate. And that this is quite possibly as accurate as we often get with our own historical accounts. Does an ostrich have wings? yes, does it breathe fire? no. Does an iPod store music? yes, does it play vinyls? absolutely not. Close, but not close enough. It's supremely brilliant!
Doctor Who is so cool, one wonders what I was so afraid of in the first place and now I know what I'll be doing instead of catching up on sleep this weekend.
Do you have a "blind spot" in an otherwise well-informed lexicon? I really want to know. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org