I don’t know.
I think I must be in the minority here in that I just couldn’t get into the show. I watched the first two episodes when they first aired. I think in the first one they were attacked by manikins and in the second there was a big head in a jar or something like that. I mean it was ok, but I just couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about. Granted, it was the first two episodes so it may have gotten better. Will probably give it another go one of these days.
The first season of Torchwood, however, was quite enjoyable.
I liked Torchwood a good deal, but was biased against the Doctor from when I was a wee lass and the pictures of the Daleks on the books were just so…dumb. I thought Daleks were stupid and just couldn’t get into a book that was stupid.
Then again, I was maybe 10, so I wasn’t yet up-to-date on the subtleties of character development; perhaps I should try again, hrm.
Cyberman: Our technology is compatiable; although your design is less elegant.
Dalek: DA-LEKS HAVE NO CON-CEPT OF EL-E-GANCE!
Cyberman: This is obvious. -Doomsday.
Anyway, I was going to say that one thing that makes Doctor Who different is its distinctly British style of SF. What I like to call “eldritch horror” SF, something that goes back to Lovecraft and also features prominently in British works like the Quatermass series. The theme is basically this: Earth and humanity are a tiny spark of light and goodness in a universe of horrors, and our survival up until now is a miracle. The premise of Doctor Who is that he is the miracle. The Whoniverse is what you get when you take the Lovecraft mythos and throw in a single champion, a cosmic monster slayer of literally superhuman knowledge and technology, to whom the human race (and pretty much ANYTHING else that isn’t a parasitic, carnivorous world-devourer) owe their very existence to. Contrast this to the typical American SF theme of the band of hardy heroes beating the crap out of anything that messes with them.
Who was always a nice balance to the plethora of American series on TV, like Star Trek or Buck Rodgers etc. Americans always seemed to like being part of a team, army, star fleet, the good Doctor just got things done on his own.
Closer to MacGyver than Mr Spock in that regard.
I just tried a few random episodes my dad had TIVO’d over the break, and was pretty underwelmed as well, despite being a sci-fi fan. Tennant’s over-enthusiastic acting seems pretty false to me (especially when he tries to do “angry”), and the plots just seemed sort of…weird for weirdnesses sake and not really engaging.
For me one of the reasons is the scope of the show - I look forward to the “Next Week” preview almost as much as each show because there’s a kind of joy for me in seeing it’s Ancient Rome, or a space ship in the 51st century, or World War II, or an ice planet, or whatever. Each time you know it could be anything. Will it be a deep character episode, a depressing drama, a light-hearted romp?
That’s not the only reason I love it, but I think it’s a big part of its success.
That and the lack of cynicism. I’m soooo bored of cynicism, and *Doctor Who *cheers me up in the way it simply revels in its own fun. They joy that the actors are feeling when making it is apparent, and that’s inectious.
Nitpick: Davies ain’t the one who added “vulnerable” to the list. That would be producer John Nathan-Turner and writers like Eric Saward, Christopher Bidmead, and Terrence Dudley – those who wrote for the Fifth Doctor.
I think the show works because it’s aimed at kids and adults. Has the wonder and OTT adventure with just enough scariness to feel a deliciously dangerous for the wee ones. Adults can also dig the sci-fi concepts (such as they are), heroism, character ineterplay (when there is some – New Who delves into that much more than Old School Who), and eye candy of companions. And now the Doctor must be crushable too, apparently, a quality that didn’t enter into Old School Who (except again for #5).
It’s just… a charming, unpretentious show. Sci-fi shows on this side of the pond these days are all about Big Ideas and analogies to real-life politics and darkety-dark-dark. I like that stuff too (DS9 is tied for my fave Trek) but sometimes one wants splashes of color instead of muddy grays.
I’m a programmer. My oldest friend is an MD. We’ve known each other since high school. We’re both Anglophiles.
He loved Doctor Who from the first time it showed up on PBS. I’ve watched a few episodes, but I just couldn’t get into it. There didn’t seem to be enough there to interest me.
He had a hard time accepting Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor because he was a big fan of the TV series All Creatures Great And Small (as was I), and Davison was, at least in our minds, typecast as Tristan.
He also likes Douglas Adams. I liked Asimov and similar hard SF.
As for Harlan Ellison, I have a feeling his comments were a bit intentionally hyperbolic. He also said this http://harlanellison.com/buzz/bws005.htm:
And in the case of us Anglophiles, British.
Ah! I think you have it! From Gilgamesh and Odysseus to Doctor Who is a pretty straight line. We are told from our schooldays that it is the TEAM that succeeds, because that’s how Real Life works, but we are still drawn to the HERO. Er, and his sidekick/companion.