Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Doctor Who... Me?

Neil Gaiman, whom I once stalked at BEA, had a twitter conversation with about hotcakes, and who now seems to be awkwardly (and unknowingly) stalking me in reverse, has written an episode of Doctor Who that will air this Saturday night on BBC America.

As a child, in the pre-cable days of the universe, my family would watch a great deal of PBS. One of the family favorites was All Creatures Great and Small chronicling the fictional veterinary hijinx of the Herriot family and that rapscallion Tristan Farnon played by Peter Davison (whom you can see with his hand up a cow here). My earliest memories of Doctor Who are of saying "Hey! That's Tristan" at the Doctor Who promos for the late-night PBS reruns. Peter Davison played the Fifth Doctor. Here's a short made for a British TV Special where he meets himself as the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant :

I'd never actually seen an episode of Doctor Who until last week. Even though I'm something of a Science Fiction fan, it was just something I'd never gotten into. It was a silly, low-budget BBC show after all from late-night PBS and not part of the American consciousness. Then, of course, through following Neil Gaiman's blog I heard more and more about it. I started looking into it. I asked friends about it. Some were watching it with gusto. Some, like me, had never turned it on.

It had all the earmarks of a show I'd enjoy, but how could I get caught up? The show started airing in 1963. There are 32 seasons and a TV movie, some 700+ episodes! Then Neil Gaiman did a panel discussion at WonderCon (blocks from where I work, no less... Neil, soon you'll be showing up in my company break-room looking for tea and asking me to follow you around to the Cartoon Art Museum) where he said this (from his blog):

The bit I think I was happiest with is about 16 minutes in, when I was asked what I would say to someone worried about having to know 47 years of backstory before watching Doctor Who, and I said:

“No, look, there’s a blue box. It’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space and sometimes even where it’s meant to go. And when it turns up, there’s a bloke in it called The Doctor and there will be stuff wrong and he will do his best to sort it out and he will probably succeed cos he’s awesome. Now sit down, shut up, and watch ‘Blink’.”

Then last week Diana discovered that even though we don't get BBC America, we get episodes of Doctor Who on-demand in the "catch-up" section. So we took the plunge. We started making our way through Season 5, the first of Matt Smith's tenure as the 11th Doctor.

I was prepared for it to be a little off-beat and humorous (which it greatly is). I was not prepared for it to be so scary. Not that all of it is scary, but some of it is. Weeping Angels are freaky. I'm told the aforementioned episode Blink from the David Tennant years is one of the scariest things you'll ever seen. I can imagine.

So, while I'm sure we won't be caught up through Season 5 and into Season 6 (or through everything back to 1963) in time to watch Neil Gaiman's episode on Saturday, I'm glad we stumbled into it. I recommend hunting for it in your on-demand selections.

And don't blink when you look at this picture.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.