The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – Issue 0

Welcome to the first edition of The Weekly Checkup, Inside Pulse’s weekly column devoted to Doctor Who and Torchwood. My name is Mike Maillaro, and I was really excited when our ever awesome editor, Grey Scherl, asked me if I wanted to give more focus on my favorite TV series. My column will normally come out on Saturday, but I wanted to give a quick little preview issue explaining what Doctor Who is and why you should care.

What is Doctor Who?

Fellow Doctor Who fan Craig Ferguson put together a little video explaining Doctor Who, so the best place to start is there:

Like Craig said, Doctor Who debuted on British TV in 1963. Yes, Doctor Who predates Star Wars (1977); it even came before Star Trek (1966). At it’s core, Doctor Who is a simple idea. An alien being named The Doctor (not Doctor Who, a mistake that is made quite often) travels through time and space with various companions aboard a space ship that resembles a British Police Box. It’s called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), and it’s much bigger on the inside.

In order to keep the show going, The Doctor’s species (Time Lords) are capable of regenerating themselves if they are about to die. The Doctor’s physical form and even aspects of his personality are all changed when he is reborn. This has allowed 11 different actors to play The Doctor in official continuity over the last 50 years. The current version of The Doctor is played by the youngest actor to take on the role, Matt Smith. Matt Smith brings a great “alienness” to the role, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite Doctors. Not my favorite Doctor though…more on that some other time. Wink, wink.

The current Doctor’s companions are Amy Pond (played by the gorgeous Karen Gillan), and Amy’s husband, Rory Pond (played by Arthur Darvill). Amy has known the Doctor since she was a child and has a huge crush on him, which creates an interesting dynamic among the TARDIS’s crew.

When Doctor Who started, it was done as serials with stories taking place over 2 to 12 episodes. These serials ran from 1969 to 1989. Sadly, all of the tapes of episodes starring the first two Doctors were destroyed by the BBC back in the 60’s and 70’s. There has been a concentrated effort to reconstruct those episodes from various sources, but there still are 108 episodes missing, including 11 full serials.

In 1989, Doctor Who was cancelled. Ever since, there have been attempts to bring it back, including a TV movie co-produced in America and aired in 1996 which was intended as a pilot. Unfortunately, the movie bombed, and Doctor Who went back on the shelf. I have not seen it yet, but other than what I have heard is a great performance by Paul McGann as the Doctor, it’s supposed to be pretty bad.

Finally, in 2005 the show was successfully brought back under Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk and Cassanova) this time starring Christopher Eccleston (The Others, Heroes, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). Eccleston only stayed on the show one season, to be replaced by the wildly popular David Tennant (Cassanova, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Under Davies and current show runner Steven Moffat (Sherlock and Coupling), Doctor Who has reached whole new levels of success in both quality and popularity.

Doctor Who has gotten so successful that it even has some spin-offs, including The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. The Sarah Jane Adventures featured one of the companions from classic Doctor Who (Sarah Jane Smith played by Elizabeth Sladen), and was more geared towards children. Sadly, this show came to an abrupt end when Elizabeth Sladen died of cancer earlier this year.

Torchwood’s fourth season is being co-produced with Starz, and will also be getting some love in this column. While Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures are more all ages friendly, Torchwood has always been a little more adult.  Torchwood is often described as a cross between Doctor Who and The X-Files, and is about a band of operatives who use alien technology to protect the Earth against alien threats.

Season four is called Torchwood: Miracle Day and poses the question: what would happen if people on Earth stopped dying? As you can imagine, it’s not all flowers and butterflies. Torchwood features Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman). Captain Jack started out as a rogue in the Han Solo vein. After spending some time with the Doctor, Jack became more of a hero and also immortal…which it’s safe to assume ties in to the Miracle Day.

What is my connection to Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is getting bigger in America, but it’s still relatively unknown here. I actually stumbled on Doctor Who is a very strange way. I was flipping through an issue of Toyfare, and they had a whole feature on Doctor Who. I read it, and I immediately wanted to know more. I ended up using Netflix to catch up on the current series, and my wife and I were hooked from the first episode of the Russell T. Davies era (Rose). We’ve been slowing catching up on the old Doctor Who serials via Netflix too.

The thing I love most about Doctor Who is that every episode can be something different. In the first half of the sixth season alone we have seen a secret alien invasion in the United States during the sixties (with an awesome Nixon), a pirate tale, a very intimate look at the Doctor’s closest friend and companion, and a story about doppelgangers that really gets to the heart of identity and what it means to be “real.” And when the season comes back, it will be with an episode titled “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

What’s this column going to be like?

Since Doctor Who and Torchwood are on the air, most of my column will be updating the latest Doctor Who and Torchwood news each week, all with my own commentary. I want to make it accessible to new readers and still have plenty of things for fans of the series to enjoy. When episodes air, I will likely put mini-reviews in the column, though the columns going up on Saturdays, they will likely be a week behind most of the time.

While the current episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood will likely be getting the most priority (mostly because that is where most of the news is focused), I do have a lot of things I will be discussing about classic Doctor Who and older episodes of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, too. At the very least, I will have a semi-regular feature in the column called “Companion Guide” which will talk about the many companions the Doctor has had over the years.

So thanks for checking out the column, and I am looking forward to being your guide through all of time and space. Be here on Saturday for the real first column for two exciting pieces of Doctor Who news….I’d tell you more, but…Spoilers.

By the way, let me know what you think about the title of this column. That has been an area I am very undecided on.  We keep getting good suggestions, but The Weekly Checkup was my favorite.

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