Review of “Doctor Who”

Back again, with the promised review of Season One of Doctor Who — this is the season we just finished in the States. I know our friends over in Great Britain are already into Season Two (and I am so jealous). I also know that the season ended here three or four weeks ago, but I only got around to watching it this past weekend.

Anyhow… I enjoyed the series overall. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who for years… ever since I was a sprout catching the series (with Tom Baker as the Doctor) weeknights on WGBH out of Boston.

This most recent season (with Christopher Eccleston) captured some of the playful magic I remember from the old days, with a bit of weary darkness; Eccleston’s Doctor has seen and done a lot more than Baker’s, and is also profoundly alone on many levels — he’s the last of the Time Lords, and he seems burdened with the knowledge that all things come to an end. In fact, I get the impression that while the Doctor doesn’t want to end his own life, he does have a death wish. In a nice piec e of irony, however, it is when his life is most at risk that he feels the most alive.

The grounding aspect of the series is, as usual, in the hands of the Doctor’s companions. In this season, he is accompanied by a present-day (by our standards) young woman named Rose Tyler, played wonderfully by Billie Piper. In the second half, the two of them are joined by Captain Jack, who brings a more traditional ‘action hero’ flavor to the cast.

For me, the highest points of the series are “The Doctor Dances” (the second part of a two-part World War II era story) and “Boomtown” which, while rather slowly paced and talky, did much to provide insight into the current Doctor’s state of mind.

The series finale was solid, if a bit post-modern (setting up ‘parodies’ of several high-profile BBC reality shows), but ended with a healthy does of deus ex machina; Rose becomes the recipient of phenomenal cosmic power, and rewrites recent events as if they had never happened. In order to save her life, the Doctor takes the power into himself, leading to his regeneration.

Despite the occasional misstep that happens along the way, the first season of the “new” Doctor Who is fun, and provides a nice counterpoint to the realistic , harder-science darkness of Battlestar Galactica. If you’re familiar with the original series, this show (out on DVD in the U.S. tomorrow, actually) should conjure some good memories for you. If you’re not familair with it, this 13-episode season is a great starting point to dive into the long and expansive history of this British science-fiction classic.

I give the first season of the new Doctor Who a B+.