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New, improved 'Doctor Who'

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2006-07-04 Detroit Free Press.jpg

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Latest version of the British show trades cheesy for clever

When the long-running British sci-fi fantasy TV serial "Doctor Who" was first imported to the United States, via PBS, in the 1970s, it found some ardent admirers, but I could never get on the Tardis — the vehicle the eccentric Doctor uses to cruise the universe and go back and forth in time. It was all a bit too cheesy.

Yet for most fans, the chintzy sets and special effects were as much a part of its oddball charm as the monsters and aliens in rubber suits.

So the news that an improved "Who" swiftly became the most popular show on English television when it returned to the air last year didn't impress me. This, after all, is a country so traditional it has kept the cheery nighttime soap opera "Coronation Street" on the air for 46 years.

But who knew? A surf of the Sci-Fi Channel, where the first season of the new "Doctor Who" had its American debut this spring, revealed the new "Who" with Christopher Eccleston as the good/bad Doctor to be a clever delight.

All 13 episodes are now compiled on the five-disc "Doctor Who: The Complete First Season" (★★★, BBC, $99.98, discounted in the $70 range).

If you have no "Who" history, the wikipedia.org capsule version goes like this: The longest running sci-fi series anywhere (it began in 1963 with new shows running annually until 1989) was styled as a family show with an educational component, since the mysterious, easily irritated alien adventurer (played by 10 actors over the course of the original show, explained by the fact he could regenerate his physical self) would generally set his equally cranky machine for interesting sorties into history, like the French Revolution or Caesar's Rome.

But episodes set on other planets and in the future proved the most popular, and like its closest U.S. equivalent, the various "Star Trek" series, Doctor Who often found himself locked in conflict with the same enemy: Daleks, a race of killer mutants from the planet Skaro who bear a decided philosophical resemblance to Germany's Nazis.

The Daleks return in the sixth episode of the new "Who," which is family-friendly, and requires no real knowledge of the show's history.

Eccleston, a fine actor familiar to Yanks from his work in British films like "Shallow Grave" and "28 Days Later" and the original English version of the cop show "Cracker," is terrific as the Doctor, but don't get attached.

As you'll learn perusing the copious extras, he has regenerated into actor David Tennant (who played Barty Crouch in the last "Harry Potter" installment) for the next series, which has completed its run in the U.K. and should show up here on the Sci-Fi Channel later this year.


Caption: Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston star in "Doctor Who," the newest incarnation of the BBC show that originally ran from 1963 to 1989. Its first season is airing on the Sci-Fi Channel and is available on DVD.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Lawson, Terry (2006-07-04). New, improved 'Doctor Who'. Detroit Free Press p. 5B.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lawson, Terry. "New, improved 'Doctor Who'." Detroit Free Press [add city] 2006-07-04, 5B. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lawson, Terry. "New, improved 'Doctor Who'." Detroit Free Press, edition, sec., 2006-07-04
  • Turabian: Lawson, Terry. "New, improved 'Doctor Who'." Detroit Free Press, 2006-07-04, section, 5B edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=New, improved 'Doctor Who' | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/New,_improved_%27Doctor_Who%27 | work=Detroit Free Press | pages=5B | date=2006-07-04 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 August 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=New, improved 'Doctor Who' | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/New,_improved_%27Doctor_Who%27 | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 August 2019}}</ref>
  • Title: Doctor Who returns to Earth, landing at Sci-Fi Channel
  • Publication: The Honolulu Advertiser
  • Date: 2006-07-07

  • Title: Latest 'Doctor Who' trades cheesy for clever
  • Publication: The Daily Dispatch
  • Date: 2006-07-16