16
Jan 06

Doctor Who – What Were They Thinking?

Do You SeePost a comment • 427 views

The book I’m reading about the 60s covers the beginning of Dr Who in some Carmodic detail (it’s a symbol for erm yeah WHITE HEAT OF TECHNO), and on Friday night I watched the first ep of the Eccleston series again, so time for a DR WHO POST. The 60s book makes the familiar point that Dr Who was on course for being a total flop until the Daleks showed up, but this was the first time I’d really thought about it rather than taken it as writ, and yes, I can see why, to wit:

Episode 1. Great spooky intro with ordinary teachers going to help ordinary schoolgirl who turns out to be not so ordinary i.e. she lives with her Grandfather in a spaceship!! Who is he? Who is she? What are they up to? Why have they got a spaceship? Exciting stuff!
Episode 2-4: NONE OF THESE QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED OR EVEN ADDRESSED!
Episodes 5-ever: Ditto but with monsters so that’s OK.

Of course unless you’re quite old you didn’t watch Dr W from the first episode, so you will have come to it expecting and getting a status quo – Dr and companions fly round universe – and buying into the tacit don’t-ask-don’t-tell pact with regard to origins. So we just see the first story, a drawn-out caveman yarn, as a bad story and move to the next one. But in 1963 the show took no real effort to set up this status quo AS a status quo – it just ignored the audience, went LOOK DALEKS! and when the dust settled the whole ‘origin’ question is sidestepped. This seems to me pretty radical, especially next to the reintroduction which does take pains to answer and explore a lot of set-up questions. But equally I can understand audiences getting enormously cross and frustrated as the first episode turns out not to be part of any kind of story.

PS Eccleston was really good, sigh.

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