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Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows

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A good science-fiction television series for children, "Dr. Who," reaches the end of its fourth week tonight on WHYY (Channel 12).

"Dr. Who," produced by the BBC, has been running successfully in England since 1963. WHYY has purchased 98 half-hour episodes and is airing them each weeknight at 7.

"Dr. Who" has been running so long that four different actors have played the title role. The current one, now cavorting on Channel 12, is Tom Baker.

Baker is a pixie of a fellow with ringlet curls, a blade of a nose, and eyes as big as golf balls. He wears a floppy hat and affects a rakish air. A long scarf encircles his neck, its ends falling to his waist.

Dr. Who rides around in a box, slightly larger than a telephone booth, called the Tardis. It is "a time and space machine." It enables Dr. Who to "switch realities with the turn of a dial." The doctor can range back and forth in time on earth, and to and fro among all the known planets and some as yet undiscovered.

Since British TV is more frank about adult life than American video, Dr. Who is always accompanied by a woman traveling companion. Currently flying around with him in the Tardis is Sarah Jane Smith, an attractive brunette played by Elisabeth Sladen. She will be replaced later in the run on WHYY by Leela, described as "a primitive savage," portrayed by Louise Jameson.

One of the things that makes "Dr. Who" a series for children, rather than one that would hold the attention of many adults, is the cheapness of the special effects. They don't even come close to the quality of those done on "Star Trek" a decade ago.

A space ship shown in flight last night was a simple one, without detail. Spacemen's guns, seen on the same episode, looked as flimsy as plastic Christmas toys.

The costumes look like they cost about $32.50 per person. Dr. Who in particular never seems to change clothes. I guess there's no room for a closet on the Tardis.

The series is divided into individual series, each running two, four or six episodes, with subtitles like "The Revenge of the Cybermen," "Terror of the Zygons," "The Brain of Morbius," and "Horror of Fang Rock." They proceed along the approximate plot level of the old Buck Rogers movie serials.

But as fodder for children, they are tastefully mixed. Dr. Who, for example, is as unthreatening as Mr. Rogers, a nice guy just moseying around doing good.

The character of Sarah Jane Smith is nicely handled. She is a good role model for girls: Not a dumb sex object, she is poised and self-possessed, self-reliant and capable.

And "Dr. Who" will surprise you now and then. For example, on the season premiere July 16, I liked the scene where Sarah Jane Smith went to visit a scientific laboratory. When she met a man and woman there, she automatically addressed the man as "director."

The woman replied sharply to Sarah: "I hadn't expected male chauvinist attitudes from you." The woman was the director. The man was her assistant.

If you have children in your home, you might profitably suggest that they try "Dr. Who." They may well find "The Time Lord," as he is nicknamed, to be a pleasant visitor in the early evening.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Winfrey, Lee (1979-08-10). Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows. The Philadelphia Inquirer p. 15-D.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Winfrey, Lee. "Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows." The Philadelphia Inquirer [add city] 1979-08-10, 15-D. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Winfrey, Lee. "Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows." The Philadelphia Inquirer, edition, sec., 1979-08-10
  • Turabian: Winfrey, Lee. "Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows." The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1979-08-10, section, 15-D edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Dr. Who is pleasant surprise among children's shows | url= | work=The Philadelphia Inquirer | pages=15-D | date=1979-08-10 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=27 May 2024 }}</ref>
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