“Because it will change your life.”

“Doctor Who”

Saturdays at 9 p.m.
BBC America

This phrase, which the Doctor utters to his newest companion, is the very essence of “Doctor Who.” Many have been skeptical of the reported brilliance of BBC’s famous series, which is the longest-running science-fiction show in history, but after taking a leap of faith, they find themselves enamored and captivated by the timeless classic. The latest season is sure to continue in this fashion, pleasing old fans while acquiring new ones.

The Doctor is not a doctor by regular conventions. This doctor is a Time Lord, an alien species with time traveling capabilities, and he’s the last of his kind. Through 31 seasons of “Doctor Who,” the Doctor has journeyed through time and space in his blue police-box time-machine, known as a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), protecting the universe and saving humankind with the aid of a companion and his sonic screwdriver. Each time the Doctor or his time machine gets seriously hurt, it regenerates into a new form. The 31st season marks the beginning of the reign of the 11th Doctor (relative newcomer Matt Smith) and his quest to repair the Universe, mending mysterious new cracks in time and space.

Playing the iconic role of the Doctor is an incredible challenge. With die-hard fans full of every criticism imaginable scrutinizing every move, it’s not a task most actors would be up to. But Smith’s portrayal is absolutely stunning. He manages to maintain a loveable quirkiness, yet also balances eccentricity with a believable fearlessness and thirst for adventure. Concerns that “Doctor Who” has strayed from its legacy by casting the youngest-ever Doctor will be forgotten after mere minutes of Smith’s performance.

The Doctor’s newest companion is Amy Pond (relative newcomer Karen Gillan) who was once visited by the Doctor as a girl, and spent most of her life obsessively waiting for his return. When he finally does come back, she runs away with him on the night before her wedding. Gillan is just as charming and talented as her co-star, making the cast nothing less than magnificent.

Today’s science fiction shows are often cluttered with innumerable CGI sets and characters, and a large part of the charm of the early “Doctor Who” series is its old-school effects. The latest season strikes a balance between old and new. We’re given breathtaking shots of Starship UK — 29th-century Britain, floating like an island through space — and intricate and elaborate ancient tombs, as well as the tried-and-true clunkiness of our favorite evil robot-aliens: the Daleks. Though the modernized “Doctor Who” has undergone some aesthetic changes (the TARDIS interior no longer looks like a game show set and is now reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory), the series abstains from any over-the-top effects that would serve only to show off how far technology has come.

However, the most remarkable aspect of “Doctor Who” is neither its beautiful yet restrained visuals nor its stellar cast. What sets “Doctor Who” above the rest is — and has always been — its superb storytelling prowess. In only an hour and a half, the premiere creates a narrative that introduces the new Doctor, unites him with his companion and launches him into an adventure where he has only 20 minutes to capture an escaped shape-shifting alien prisoner and return him to the inter-galactic police force, the Atraxi, who are threatening to incinerate Earth. Somehow this complicated plot is introduced, developed and resolved at a natural pace with plenty of humor and excitement.

Due to excellent writing, the dialogue is snappy and the stories are complex, engaging and suspenseful; a single episode of “Doctor Who” accomplishes in an hour what most movies cannot accomplish in two. And “Doctor Who” has done this hundreds of times. Naturally, it can’t be expected that each and every story has outdone box-office hits, but the sheer magnitude of individual tales this series has produced says a lot about the legacy we’re witnessing.

Any TV show that can withstand 758 episodes, 47 years, 31 seasons and 11 lead actors must have something incredibly special at its very core. This isn’t just a TV show, it’s a British national phenomenon that has created its own culture.

The journey on which we are about to embark with our 11th Doctor will not only live up to the standard set by years of excellence, but will likely accrue many new fans if they’re willing to make the leap of faith and trust the Doctor. Maybe “Doctor Who” won’t change your life, but at the very least, it should change the way you think about TV.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.