So, we’ve ended the naughts and moved on to the respectable and grown-up sounding double digits. We’re now in the age of space colonies and hovercars, aliens hanging about*, and underwater cities, and we’d better enjoy them since we’re all dying in two years… Or maybe that’s just the imaginings of modern-day sci-fi, where everything in the future is cool and alien and military and blue with lens flares! Stuff is always going fast and blowing up, the world(s)/universe(s) is/are always ending, and the robots are uprising! Everything needs exclamation points, it’s so exciting! And aliens are all reptilian, or robotic, or big insects – not too scary looking, and having characteristics of something familiar on Earth. After all, how could aliens be actually alien? And they’d have to be about the same size as a person; an insect could never actually be an alien, they’re too small. There are no people in the future except the military/government, and some scientists peppered in. Well, there might be space hookers, but they’ll most likely be pleasurebots and not real people.
So, even with infinite possibilities of the future, we tend to shelter our visions of it within comfortable, safe, and predictable paradigms. Science fiction isn’t as much about fear and the vast unknown anymore; it’s about cool, it’s about gadgets and explosions and one-liners. It’s gone from Rod Serling to Michael Bay; from drama to melodrama. Science fiction does not equal effects and chases; it can be more than just old war/western movies set in space (or a blue-tinged Earth). And this is what Doctor Who sometimes gets wrong, but sometimes gets really right. Like so much sci-fi these days, it was given a reboot treatment to ‘freshen’ it up, to try to shake the stigma of its previous low-budget visuals and attract a new audience. This is a show that’s supposed to be fun, light, and not preachy about the Doom that Will Occur if You Don’t Change Your Ways Now, yet that doesn’t mean it can’t have engaging stories and elements of suspense, mystery, fear, and wonder. While I barely remember anything of the older episodes I used to watch as a kid, I was very excited about the new series, as it is a concept that can, rather literally, do just about anything – go anywhere, at any time – and, best of all, it does so from the viewpoint of a tourist, with ordinary people along for the ride. It’s a show you can enjoy if you don’t care about the Science part of sci-fi, yet isn’t as stupid in this department as some other shows are. But in a way, its strengths are also its weaknesses; different writers and an open invitation to take the character any place and/or time can lead to some amazing stories, but it’s inconsistent. While The Twilight Zone had an open slate in terms of characters, Doctor Who is really about one central man. And like so much modern fare, it does tend to resort to chases and explosions and effects at times, cheapening it a bit. Don’t get me wrong; I love explosions and effects most of the time, but episodes like Midnight and Blink really prove you can do a show like Doctor Who without it all revolving around How Cool the Planet Looks.
So, suffice to say I’ve been a fan of the new show – not all episodes are strong or even good, but there are so many gems in there it makes the whole series brilliant. And while Christopher Eccleston was fun and a great Doctor in his own right, David Tennant has raised the bar so high that his departure really feels more like the end of the show than the end of his turn; it’s almost more of an era ending than the new year was. I’m afraid for the new season; I keep having nightmares of blue filters and lens flares and Matt Smith becoming Emo Doctor. Maybe part of that is that it’s hard to swallow being ten years older than a 900+year-old man; at least I’m only 3 months and 3 days older than David Tennant. Maybe part of that is cynicism about committees trying to make the show ‘cooler’ and hoping to get the Twilight audience/dollars. Whatever it is, I’ll hold off on the new Doctor for a bit and let all of the stages of loss pass first. So hello, 2010, and goodbye Doctor. It was a fun run, but I’m hoping that there’ll be something out there this year without a bunch of lens flares and sparkles and blue filters, and I’m not yet convinced that it’ll be you.
(*I think we’ve seen what would happen if aliens really did land today; videos would be on YouTube, a bunch of people would write blogs about how the videos are fake, a bunch of other people would write blogs talking about how much they love the aliens & how they totally relate to them cos they’re, like, so misunderstood and Team Aliens 4evr! <3!)