the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Dr. WTF?

I grew up watching "Dr. Who" on the PBS station out of Albuquerque, usually late at night, and in my earliest experiences, with my hands over my eyes to protect me from those damned terrifying Daleks. My inner four-year-old can still hear the cries of "EXTERMINATE!" echo in the darkness of my childhood bedroom. As I got older, I got hip to exactly how low-budget the FX were, and love replaced fear. Sure, the scripts were pretty dreadful, the sets and effects worse, but the show had a charm and earnestness that were really endearing, much the same way that the first Star Wars or the original "Star Trek" did. It was goofy, geeky, cheesy, but it had soul.

I was pretty upset when the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, decided to cancel the good doctor, and I had almost completely given up hope of it ever starting back up again after years of on-again, off-again rumors (and one made-for-TV film that was too flawed and too off-mainstream to have ever gone anywhere, despite some glimmers of potential). When I heard that there was to be a new series, and that it would run on the Sci-Fi Network--so I wouldn't even have to worry about being an evil internet pirate, g'yarr!--I leapt to the Tivo with all the glee of being a little kid again...

A little kid who was about to get his childhood crapped all over.

So... Gosh. Wow. I watched the premiere on Friday night, and I'm simply stunned by its awfulness. It's the sort of thing that makes Jar-Jar Binks seem like a pretty good idea.

The new version of the theme music strikes me as pretty bad, and it runs on top of a really ugly opening sequence that looks like a cross between the time-travel sequences in the Bill & Ted movies and the giant, swooshy block letters of Superman. There's almost constant incidental music throughout the entire show, and it is reliably inappropriate and awkward throughout; the least offensive stuff is like a Casio keyboard demo on speed, while the worst is, quite literally, a Britney Spears track. The effects are just as low budget as before, but instead of having the well-intentioned, practical charm of prior incarnations, we are now treated to bad CGI in diarrhea-like abundance (highlights include a character being attacked and eaten by a hungry rubbish bin and the Doctor arguing with a giant mass of molten anger that sloshes around a lot). And the acting... I will admit that the original series were far from great acting, but there was an honesty about it that made you not care. The cast of this latest go-round is pretty well-rounded in its not-very-goodness, but the new Doctor is simply terrible, played completely cartoonishly--and not the good kind of cartoon like the classic Bugs Bunny who has some wit and guile about him, oh, no; this Doctor is Pokemon-grade, Ash Katchum as a Time Lord. And, if you'll permit one more fanboy rant after all that, I am really tired of having the TARDIS set changed every time someone wants to try reviving "Dr. Who." The interior of the TARDIS was what gave the show a needed sense of continuity between regenerations; this "new Doctor, new TARDIS, new music, new everything" approach is just tacky.

Everything about the new show is unconvincing and artificial, a through-and-through phony attempt to cash in on decades of fan support for a beloved and much-missed show. In short, it's missing a soul. Perhaps that was the price of its resurrection.

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