Monday, November 24, 2008

What Writers Can Learn from Doctor Who

Doctor Who has settled into a comfortable place in America again. Between The Sci Fi Channel, BBC America and DVDs not to mention audiobooks and other spinoffs, The Doctor is widely available on our shores.

His next appearance is a Christmas special in Britain, The Music of the Spheres, followed by a series of TV movies then a change of lead actor and perhaps format.  If you haven't come to know Doctor Who, and you're interested in writing, you should check out the Russell T. Davis-penned era that's drawing to a close.

Isn't this show about goofy aliens
It's replete with goofy aliens and strange story arcs to be sure, but it's also rich with character and relationships that are worthwhile for any storyteller to observe, especially any interested in penning tales with fantastic elements.

For those who don't know, The Doctor, the title is a bit of a joke, is a Time Lord, a race found on the planet Gallifrey. He's the last Time Lord as the new series opens, a "lonely god" as one character puts it. 

In the opening episode of the new series, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston  and later David Tennant, he regenerates instead of dying)  meets Rose (Billie Piper), a twentysomething Londoner who's having a bit of trouble finding her way in the world.

After helping in defeating one of The Doctor's recurring foes, Rose joins The Doctor on his time- traveling TARDIS for adventures in time space. Turns out she loves traveling.

Time traveling
Soon they're jumping forward to the end of the universe--in what's probably an homage to early series writer Douglas Adams of restaurant at the end of the Universe Fame--visiting Charles Dickens in the past and dueling Daleks. They're The Doctor's arch enemies and source of his planet's demise.

That wanderlust trait for Rose is at the core of the first two seasons of the new series. For a stunning viewing experience, view those two seasons as one long, incredible story arc and study what tugs at the heart strings even as people with goofy faces and occasional flatulence put in appearances.

It's really fabulous and tear-jerking, and the supporting players in the mix enhance the adventures exponentially.

Watch for the relationships, the character nuances, the clever plotting, the foreshadowing. While there are many stand-alone episodes, most things are interconnected. There's also a chilling episode called "Blink" that's worth viewing for those interested in crafting subtle chills. Angel statues can be scary, I'm telling you.

It's really worth the effort of a few hours. Is there a writer on your Christmas list? Think about Seasons 1 & 2. 

That's not a hint. I have Seasons 1 & 2. I uh, could use Season 3. 

Christine, if you're reading this...


Steve Malley said...

LOVING these new episodes!!

I'm also kind of excited about the rumour that Billie Piper might step in as the first female Doctor...

Charles Gramlich said...

I've only seen one of the new episodes but I liked it.

Sidney said...

There are some excellent stand alones in the new series. "Blink" "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "The End of the World" are some of my favorites then the two-part Empty Child/Doctor Dances arc. The end of Season 1 then the end of Season 2 are stunning.

Bridges said...

Add Fathers Day from S1
and Turn Left from S4

Sidney said...

Yeah, Father's Day is a good one and an important one to Rose's story arc. Turn left is a good look at later companion Donna's character.

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