There are many in the television industry who believe that if a show doesn’t catch an audience right out of the gate, it will never be able to gain a following. It’s this logic that causes networks to cancel a series after two episodes… and which completely ignores the fact that by this standard, legendary sitcoms CHEERS and SEINFELD would have been dead before concluding their first seasons. In this recurring feature, we’ll sample episodes of shows which we’ve never seen despite their having been on the air for a season or more and try to determine just how easy it would be for a newbie to jump in midstream. This week, we look at BBC’s DOCTOR WHO
The Premise, Best As We Can Tell: It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a doctor who travels in a phone booth reminiscent of the one featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s far less popular sequel, jumps through time, and protects the earth from aliens.
What it Reminds us of: Those episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION that featured “The Traveller.” Episodes, which incidentally, now seem far less cool and original having now realized how heavily they were inspired by DOCTOR WHO.
What Works: Thanks to an easy-to-digest premise and a sweeping John Williams-esque score that had us wondering if we had accidentally stumbled into a Steven Spielberg flick, our first taste of TARDIS pretty much had us hooked from the get-go. Sure we have no idea as to what TARDIS actually stands for (if anything), or why, for that matter, the good doctor is so intent on protecting this loveable planet we call earth. But nonetheless, full marks go to the newly introduced eleventh doctor Matt Smith, whose charisma and energy simply oozed off the screen to the point that we’d be shocked if NBC execs weren’t already on the line with his agent in an effort to secure him for an American series of his very own. That and it certainly didn’t hurt that Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), the doctor’s newest travelling companion inexplicably spent the entire episode traipsing around in a skirt more befitting fellow-countrywoman Billie Piper (SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL).
What Doesn’t Work: The episode’s villain — which to us looked like a giant eyeball that may-or-may-not-have walked off the set of Dreamworks Monsters vs. Aliens — wasn’t nearly as menacing as we would have liked. Also not up to snuff was the…
Accessibility: Although DOCTOR WHO is clearly a phenomenon, it would have been nice for BBC to take a moment to consider those few neophytes that may not know the difference between a TARDIS and a Time Lord by offering up a quick “For Dummies” synopsis at the start of the series. “A Brief History of WHO” if you will, to answer a few lingering questions that certainly would have made our introduction to the WHO-niverse that much easier as we scratched our head throughout the premiere as to what exactly the doctor’s association with our planet is, why he used to look like David Tennant and if there is in fact anything a sonic screwdriver can’t do?
Tune-in Factor: Despite the fact that Space — the network that airs the show in Canada has yet to get with the decade and broadcast their roster of shows that practically scream for High Definition in just that. We’re already (to borrow a line from our favorite fictional President) asking, “What’s Next?”