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Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining

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2005-04-05 Globe and Mail.jpg


Woo-woo. Danga-danga-dang. Woo-woo.

Yes, the most distinctive theme music in the history of television is back, because that fella Dr. Who rides again. In case you've been on some other planet, Dr. Who (CBC, 8 p.m.) has been reborn, and returned with fanfare to the BBC last week in the United Kingdom.

"Who Rah!" said The Daily Mail. "Who's the Daddy" declared The Sun, with uncharacteristic restraint, when the new Dr. Who triumphed in the ratings and pulled in about 10 million viewers for a beleaguered BBC. "Who Wrecked My Marriage" screamed The Daily Express, but that was about some fella who used to play Dr. Who and blamed the role for his marital troubles. That's another story, obviously.

Then, a few days after it aired, the show's star, Christopher Eccleston, promptly quit the show. He's legged it off the Who caravan. He's in all episodes of the current series but declined to appear in a second. He said he feared being typecast. Nobody can blame him - being Dr. Who is a big burden for an actor.

The drama of Eccleston's departure was only one element of a very high-stakes game. The revival of a much-loved and potentially lucrative franchise was shrouded in secrecy for months and the BBC rightly had conniptions when a portion of the first new episode appeared on the Internet. Intrepid BBC techies traced the leak to Toronto and somebody got fired.

If you've never been exposed to Dr. Who, you're probably wondering why there is all the fuss. Well, there are plenty of reasons for the fandango of interest.

Dr. Who first aired on BBC TV in 1963 and it ran until 1989, making it the longest-running sci-fi show in TV history. Christopher Eccleston was the ninth actor to play the doctor. The most popular were Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. The doctor zips around the universe, using an old phone-booth thing as his base and vehicle. The doctor has been around for centuries and rejuvenates himself when he becomes old. His great enemies are the Daleks, critters that look like upright vacuum cleaners and whose entire vocabulary seems to be composed of one word - "exterminate."

The BBC spent about $20-million to revive and revitalize the show. It stands to earn about $80-million from sales and merchandising if things go well in the next few years. So there. This is important stuff.

Tonight's first episode of Dr. Who is terrific. It's wacky, colourful, lively and vastly entertaining. (I'll tell you here that I was never smitten with the series. Even when I saw it as a kid, I thought it was a very square drama.) In fact, it's a great example of a tired concept being expertly revived and cast. The BBC brought in Russell T. Davies, creator of the original Queer as Folk, to write it and he's done a superb job. The show is set in the London of today, but it's a London of bright colours and great innocence. People are sweet and kinda goofy. Also, there are buses everywhere, a concept that will surprise anyone who has spent time in London waiting at a bus stop. The only real menace comes from a carnivorous wheelie-bin.

Things start with Rose (Billie Piper, a pop star of sorts in Britain, apparently) going to work at a department store. We see her working and being cozy with her boyfriends at lunchtime. Then, at the end of the day, for reasons unclear, she finds herself alone in the store. Some plastic mannequins take a dislike to her and attack her. Up pops this fella wearing a leather jacket, and he zaps the mannequins and saves her.

He's Dr. Who, of course, and he's a very cheerful chap. Especially for a chap involved in some universe-wide war, of which the marauding mannequins form only a sideshow. Eccleston performs with verve and a twinkle in his eye. His is a perfect take on a character that cannot be taken too seriously.

Given the vast weight of the history of Dr. Who, the light, vaguely comic touch is absolutely necessary. There's a great scene when the doctor turns up at Rose's home the next day. Her mom is a tad too excited about the presence of the strange man in her home. She says this out loud. The doctor handles it with aplomb.

There is much dashing about, some nifty special effects and the doctor talks a lot of mumbo-jumbo about science, bad critters and the nature of time.

By the end, Rose is the doctor's devoted sidekick and the daring duo set off for more adventures. Then the woo-woo music starts again.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Doyle, John (2005-04-05). Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining. The Globe and Mail p. R2.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Doyle, John. "Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining." The Globe and Mail [add city] 2005-04-05, R2. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Doyle, John. "Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining." The Globe and Mail, edition, sec., 2005-04-05
  • Turabian: Doyle, John. "Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining." The Globe and Mail, 2005-04-05, section, R2 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining | url= | work=The Globe and Mail | pages=R2 | date=2005-04-05 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who's back. And Who's looking vastly entertaining | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024}}</ref>