Discovering ‘Doctor Who’

doctor who ninth doctor season series 1 Christopher Eccleston Billie Piper Rose Tyler.jpg

In the fall of 2005, at the age of 15, I fell in love with a British science fiction show.

 

I had been watching the Norwegian national broadcasting network’s second channel NRK2 to an excessive point all through the summer.

NRK2 norwegian broadcasting

While NRK1 mostly showed mainstream stuff like the news, HBO dramas, programs made by NRK itself, well-known movies and new detective shows, NRK2 often showed more unknown cult fare.

Some of the stuff on NRK2 which I liked the most were British comedy from before the new millennium. Stuff like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Blackadder and The Young Ones.

I bet you didn't expect the spanish inquisition

 

Then one evening while I was watching the channel after school, I saw a weird commercial for a program which looked like it involved an alien with a pig’s head crashing into Big Ben, and the subsequent political turmoil taking place in 10 Downing Street.

doctor who aliens of london space pig running

This turned out to be a trailer for just a two-part story a few episodes into the 2005 season of Doctor Who, with the rest of the season having completely different stories each (or every other) episode.

The Space Pig also turned out to be a pig from Earth which had been genetically altered by an alien crime-family, to fool humanity before the family’s actual plan could be set in motion.

 

This was one of the first times I had been exposed to this kind of weird storytelling, and I loved it!

The only thing similar to it that I had experienced at that point were books written by Douglas Adams, and I later learned that he had written episodes for Doctor Who in the 70s, and that he had even been the showrunner for a year.

douglas adams doctor who tom baker lalla ward romana paris

That was also something that surprised me when I found out, that this cool new cult television show that I had just discovered were actually not that new at all, and had been running on-and-off since 1963.

 

And it was a cult show back then.

Maybe not in Brittain, but at least in Norway, and probably most other countries aswell.

I spent a lot of time trying to get other people to watch it, to no avail.

Now, most people have heard of Doctor Who.

new doctor who series 1 season 1

After I saw those Space Pig episodes, I downloaded the first episodes in that season so that I could be fully filled in while watching the rest of the show on TV.

Then at the end of the season’s run on television, just as the Norwegian winter started rearing its head, I was amazed at the ride the show had taken me on.

And I looked forward to the next season for almost a year. For while the show aired in England during spring back then, I wanted to wait until I could watch it legally on Norwegian television, where I had discovered it in the first place.

 

Fall of 2016 arrived, and ‘Doctor Who’ had finally started to show up in the TV-guide.

But when I sat down to see the continued adventures of The Doctor and Rose Tyler, I was greeted with their meeting.

NRK had started showing the 2005 season all over again.

 

I continued watching the whole season a second time, in the hopes that there had been a mistake, or that they were going to air the new season directly after the old one, but it never came.

From that point on, I always watched it online, before buying each season box-set.

The-TARDIS-travelling-in-time-in-Doctor-Who

And it was while looking for new episodes online that I stumbled upon a bunch of episodes from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and an American TV-film from 1996.

It turned out that the story in the new seasons of the show were a continuation of the story that began in ’63, and that the main character I knew as The Doctor, was actually the ninth actor to take on the role, explained away by The Doctor’s ability to regenerate himself when close to death.

doctor who 2005 all nine doctors

You can imagine my confusion..

 

I have since seen all 841 episodes that have aired at this point, the summer before Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the thirteenth Doctor.

All 28 days and 17 hours of it!

 

I am now in the middle of rewatching it all with one of the few people I actually managed to convince to see it, my girlfriend.

 

Source Code – A Retrospective

source code retrospective

This is my contribution to the Time Travel Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World. You should check out all the other posts aswell!

 

The film I am covering is the 2011 sci-fi thriller bottle-movie – Source Code, directed by the great Duncan Jones (who just released his new film ‘Mute’ on Netflix).

Admittedly, this is kind of cheating.

Source Code is not technically a time travel story, but it does work with the narrative-device of going back and forth across the 4th dimension of a narrative, so I figured it would fly.

 

Spoilers below!

source code jake

Spoilers? Oh no!

In Source Code, we follow Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens. During the course of the movie, we learn that he was recently involved in a helicopter-crash in Afghanistan, and that he is almost dead, with only his brain still functioning.

After the crash, he was transported to a military base in America, where he has been kept alive, and plugged into a device that lets you experience the last eight minutes of a person’s life.

Dr. Rutledge, the creator of this experimental government program, played by Jeffrey Wright, wants to use Captain Colter Stevens to avert a massive terrorist attack.

Only hours before the movie starts a train heading for Chicago was bombed, killing all aboard. The authorities have reason to belive that more attacks are incoming. We later learn that a man named Derek Frost, played by Michael Arden, is the bomber, and that he is planning to take out Chicago with a nuclear device.

By letting Colter experience the last eight minutes of the life of one of the victims on the train, they can investigate the scene of the atrocity, from a time before the explosion wiped away all evidence and eye-witness testimonies.

Colter is placed within the memories of a teacher named Sean Fentress, who is commuting with a colleague named Christina Warren, played by Michelle Monaghan. Sean and Michelle seem to have been crushing on each other, before they were crushed by the explosion.

Colter now has to try to figure out where the bomb is, who placed it there and where the next bomb will go off out in the real world. All while trying to investigate his own situation both in the simulation, and in between memory loops as he talks to his handler Colleen Goodwin, played by Vera Farmiga.

Colter slowly learns new information, gets blown up, goes back to the start of the eight-minute loop, learn a bit more, gets blown up, and so on, and so on.

dr rutledge quote - source code

Yup, that is the guy from Westworld. He seems to get typecast as ‘Control-Room Science-Guy’.

Source Code follows the same formula of a character slowly learning the ins and outs of a time loop as in Groundhog Day, but it draws just as heavily from check-point systems in modern video games, where you restart from a given point upon failure, so that you can immediately try again.

In fact, the film has some important references to games.

The name of the Source Code project is Beleaguered Castle, a variation on the solitaire card game. Solitaire is a puzzle for one player to solve, just like the train-bombing is a puzzle for Colter Stevens to solve.

That aspect of the film is something that it shares with the Tom Cruise movie ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’, and since that film came out three years later, I would not be surprised if someone saw Source Code and went “I like this movie, but we could make it better if we added aliens!” To be fair, that is a pretty fun flick.

Source Code window

“I’m telling you, Tom Cruise stole my idea!”

Source Code is a great film, and if you have not seen it yet, you should.

It has romance, comedy, action, and even a bit of existential dread.

I may have spoiled some big points, but not so much as to ruin the experience.

 

At the start of this I admitted that this is not exactly a movie about time travel per se, but I think that I may want to recall that statement.

For what is memory, if not a form of time travel?

 

Time Travel Stories

Time machine

I love time travel in fiction.

That is one of the main reasons why I love Doctor Who.

 

I love how this storytelling device can put ideologies from vastly different cultures, separated by decades or centuries, up against each other. By doing this, we can compare them, and find strengths and weaknesses in both. It can also just lead to funny jokes, or cool imagery, like a medieval knight riding on a velociraptor and wielding a laser sword.

I love how time travel can be used as video game check-points. Did you fail at something? Why not go back and try again? In some stories there are really horrible consequences to doing that, in others there are not.

I love the paradoxes that can occur, and how the story can work around them. What happens if the time-traveler travels back in time, and kills himself at birth? If he never grew up, then who killed him?

I love when there are created time-circles, like when Philip J. Fry from Futurama became his own grandpa. He could not have been born without fathering his father, but he could not have fathered his father without being born.

I love seeing how different the world could be, if certain things in history had changed. What would the world look like if America was still a colony? Or if The Roman Empire never fell?

I love the possibility of treating another time like another country. Letting a character “vacation” in Ancient Japan, as an example, could lead to some very fun storytelling.

But most of all, by combining all these elements, I just love how weird it can get.

 

I wrote this as a sort of prelude to the Time Travel Blogathon, in which I am taking part by writing about the 2011 film Source Code.

 

What is your favorite time travel story?