Thursday, April 4, 2013

TV Anorak: An American Intro To British TV-The D's

1. British: A person obsessively interested in a thing or topic that doesn't seem to warrant such attention.

This series of Challenge posts is an introduction to British TV shows for my fellow Americans. For instructions on how to play different region-coded DVD's, please go either here or here to read my previous blog posts that should clear up any confusion. Next up:


The "D" category isn't necessarily filled by a long list, but may be long due to the fact that the most important and longest running show on television falls here. This is one of the oldest (if not "the" oldest) British show I can remember watching as a kid. Anyone have a clue? Well Allons-y Whovians, because I could be referring to none other than:

Doctor Who
Is there anyway to sum up 50 years of a show in just a paragraph? Not from my point of view! I am not a sci-fi fan...never understood the Trekkies and whatever you call a Star Wars fan (Disney-owned or not). Doctor Who is incredibly different. To me, it's more about the characters and their relationships versus the actual aliens and adventures.

Tom Baker, the fourth incarnation of the Doctor was my first doctor, Peter Davison was my second and I lost touch with it after that. But low and behold, in 2005, the Doctor returned in the form of Christopher Eccleston, and I had my next doctor and a new favorite show! Chris only lasted one series, but anyone even slightly familar with the series know who the 10th doctor is...David Tennant! David is MY doctor, not my first, but my first "real" doctor. Matt Smith has taken over the series as doctor 11, but I'm still having trouble getting attached to him (about like Peter). Funny side note, Peter's real-life daughter, Georgia Moffett, who played David's Doctor daughter (although that's a stretch, since technically she was a cloned off-spring) is married to David in real life...basically the 5th's real daughter, who played the 10th's daughter is married to 10 in real life! Yeah, reminds me a bit of life here in Arkansas!

But on to the show description...because of the long run of the series and the fact that many early episodes were destroyed or misplaced by the Beebs (slang for BBC, not that stupid Justin Beiber kid...whoops, better be careful or I will start getting death threats from 11 year olds! Where are these demon's parents while they are spitting bile on the web at anyone dating, speaking to, or about this kid? I worshipped Simon Le Bon at their age, but never threatened to kill anybody over least not that I remember. Shoot, off topic again, sorry).

It would literally cost you a fortune to try and get all the older Who episodes on DVD, so I just recommend starting with the first new Series. If you find yourself becoming a serious Whovian and have a bottomless wallet, start collecting the older episodes. They are constantly getting found and re-released. Who is one of the few shows that have a significantly larger number of episodes per series than it's other British counterparts. It's success worldwide makes this possible (and a pretty large budget-one of the highest on British TV).

OK, one more attempt at a description and this ain't gonna be easy in short form! Doctor Who is a Time Lord, the last of the Time Lords (sort of) from the planet Gallifrey (which was destroyed in the time war with his greatest enemy the Daleks), because of his love of humans, always finds himself saving them through all of time and space travelling in his time machine, the Tardis. He usually has a human companion (sometimes more than one). Billie Piper starts us off (you might know her from Secret Diary of a Call Girl) and she is still my favorite companion to this day. Followed by Freema Agyeman (my least favorite...the rebound companion) and the comic genius Catherine Tate (you may have seen her in the American Office-another British rip off), then Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (with various pop-ups of Alex Kingston of ER fame, throughout each series). There is a new companion starting this month, so the verdict is still out on her.

Sure, some of the aliens are a bit far-fetched and cheesy (but not nearly as bad as the old shows-science fiction and big budgets rarely went hand in hand), but I find the time travel episodes to be my favorites...Shakespeare encountering an alien race of witches, Queen Victoria and the werewolves, the genius that was Vincent Van Gogh, whose madness gave him the ability to see "real" creatures not even the Doctor could see, Charles Dickens and his gaslight ghosts, and too many others to mention. The show manages to stay somewhat kid friendly (unfortunately, who didn't want to see 10 and Rose do more than kiss?), teach lessons about life, and just generally be extraordinarily entertaining! The best episode ever? Blink - staring a very young Carey Mulligan...Weeping Angels might just be the most terrifying creatures ever shown on TV! The entire series has twists and turns and everything happens for a reason...a seemingly insignificant event could wind up as the almost destruction of the earth later on. You have to watch close or you might miss something important.

Doctor Who has spawned several spin off's: Torchwood (an anagram for Doctor Who-and making an appearance in the "T" list), The Sarah Jane Adventures starring Elisabeth Sladen, an early doctor companion who sadly died of cancer a couple of years ago (and SJA are much more geared to littler kiddies), cartoons, games, books, toys, etc. It even has it's own behind the scenes show called Doctor Who Confidential that airs on BBC3 after every episode! This year marks the 50th Anniversary, and BBC has produced numerous specials about the series and there will be a 50th Anniversary episode that could include all the living doctors on the same screen! The Whovian world is a world unto itself...but sadly, we must move on, but not before a video montage of my Doctor - 10, the marvelous and sexy David Tennant!

Doc Martin
Martin Clunes...need I say more? Doc Martin is about a surgeon who develops a fear of blood and reluctantly moves to Cornwall to start up a family practice. He is definitely an Asper, has OCD, and is generally a grumpy man who hates people...great GP material! He falls in love with a local teacher played by Caroline Catz (look for her in the next "D" and maybe in the "M" and "V" posts) and manages to bungle their relationship every chance he gets! But I love these 5 series and have fallen in love with Cornwall because of it!

DCI Banks
Ahh, Stephen Tompkinson again! DCI Banks is the story of yet another grump, but a much better looking one! He's cold and hard on the outside due to the kicks in life he's received, but he's passionate and will do almost anything to solve his cases for the sake of both the victims and their families. Caroline Catz comes into series 2 as a seemingly temporary replacement for his first partner that he has romantic feelings for (but is off having some other man's baby - a man who turns out to be a that a spoiler?), and I'm not sure about what happens in series 3 since it's not listed on yet, but I can't wait!

Dalziel and Pascoe
I have a thing for British cop shows (in case you haven't noticed the pattern). I started buying these in their American format simply because the first few series weren't available anymore in their original British incarnations (they have just now started re-releasing them). Dalziel (pronounced "D-L") is the gruff, sexist, overweight, heaving drinking and smoking DCI of the mid-Yorshire CID (oh, and I guess I should give a bit of Brit police 101...DCI - Detective Chief Inspector; CID - Criminal Investigation Department) who's new partner Pascoe is an ivy-league educated, Sargent (but is soon fast-tracked into a DI). It lasted for 11 series and the 7th just got released on DVD.

Honorable Mention to:
The Deep - it's a hard one to describe, but the cast and the acting make this a definite view! Minnie Driver, James Nesbitt (making another appearance in my list), Goran Visnjic (of ER), and my personal favorite, Tobias Menzies (who makes several appearances in my list as well). Some might call it Sci-Fi, and it has that feel, but again, as with most British shows, characterizations are the main attraction.

You'll probably notice that I skipped Downton Abbey. To be honest, I'm not really a Downton fan (although I do watch them merely for Hugh Bonneville and Brendan Coyle). It's just not a time period that I care for and I can't really get attached to the characters (but then again, it might be because it's so popular and I tend to steer away from the shows that attract the masses).

And that's it for D! Sorry for the really needs it's own series of posts to fully give it its justice! I might just have to do that some day!


sharine said...

Love British tv but can never get into Doctor Who for some reason.

lizbirdk said...

Loving this series, thank you. As a UK resident I get to watch my choice of this excellent tv! As you are a DT fan, can I recommend that you look out for 'The Spies of Warsaw' (BBC) and 'Broadchurch' (currently showing on ITV) when they come out - DT is brilliant (and sexy) in both!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My Daughter is a Dr. Who fanatic and I go along for the ride. I like Matt Smith better than David. Please don't hate me for it. New episode on Saturday.

Siobhan Fox said...

Weeping Angels are terrifying!! That is hands down the scariest episode. Chris was my first Doctor and took me ages to warm up to David. Mary had very large shoes to fill and is still finding his feet so to speak. Last weeks episode was good but still out on the new companion. I hated Catherine and wouldn't watch her but as Donna she was brilliant. One of my fave monsters were the Adipose. Soooo cute.

Siobhan Fox said...

Matt not Mary. Silly phone.

Keebles said...

lizbirdk - I have Broadchurch on preorder and Spies is in my wishlist!

Susan - No hate, but I have to agree to disagree!

Siobhan - I can remember when Chris regenerated to David, I was so mad and I swore publically I was done with the show! I remember doing the same thing when Duran released Wild Boys in 1984 - I cried for a week swearing that D2 was ruined forever. I'm not much on sticking to my convictions obviously!

I still watch Matt with an open mind, but he didn't snag me like David did in his first season, and he still fails to capture my attention. If he is leaving at the end of the year, I'm very curious to see who's next!

Kate N said...

You seem to have overlooked the comedy genius of Desmonds....:O

Joysze said...

Ahhh.... Doctor Who. I love Doctor Who. It took me a rewatch of the Matt Smith episodes to get over the Doctor not being DT. I quite like him now. Not as attached to him as compared to DT, but that'll make it easier when he leaves and there's a new Doctor. :)

Speaking of Star Trek... love ST too. Well... The Next Generation and DS9. Patrick Stewart for a captain... who could resist? ;)