Sunday, February 5, 2012

Doctor What? Learning to love science fiction

The Whovian adjusts her hair in a tube station.
A few years ago I tried to watch Doctor Who for the first time. Netflixing the first Christopher Eccleston episode (the premiere episode of the first series in the revamped version of the show), I sat at my computer perplexed, disturbed and slightly annoyed by the fact that the graphics almost looked like Rose and The Doctor were hanging out on the set of All My Children.

Soft hues created a halo effect leaving me wondering if I was really trying my hand at watching Sci-Fi or if this was some sort of soap opera masquerading as a program about aliens and time travel.

But I was wrong. I was so so wrong.

Fast forward a few years and I'm in London on vacation with my dad. Fate intertwines with my insatiable need to be in the United Kingdom and I'm sitting in front of my hotel room TV in the evening on a Saturday watching the BBC with my dad. We are two lazy bums unwilling to get up and eat at a restaurant, so we've brought food in to munch on while we sit like sedentary fatsos watching the telly.

Then the weirdest music comes on...wee-woo-waaa (I'm sure you know it all too well if you're a Whovian) and we're both captivated and confused. My dad's half paying attention, half pretending he's too cool to be watching this show that is clearly not a genre he's ever seen anything akin to other than perhaps in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But by a few minutes in, we're both staring at the itty bitty 15 inch screen mounted eight feet in the air, mouths gaping open, eyes wide and unblinking. Matt Smith is running around on a space ship with Amy Pond and as incomprehensible as this particular episode is to a couple of new fans, we can't get over the Raggedy Doctor.

"That was so good."

The next week before we left to return home to California, we carved another evening out of London just to sit in the hotel and watch another episode of Doctor Who. We grew obsessed together, craving more episodes even when we returned home to the Who-less United States. (Note: At this time, Doctor Who was not as big a deal yet in the US. The joy of that parade was yet to come.)

Over the next year, I watched Doctor Who religiously. I caught up on episodes online, went through Netflix to catch up on every episode from the earlier four seasons.

When we returned to London, we were both equally enthusiastic fans. My dad, reluctant at first to admit to liking a show whose main characters is a "Time Lord" (non-Whovians say "what?"), was now watching new episodes on BBC America like the rest of the newly converted American Whovian population.

We devoted entire days to Who-related adventures. Hours were spent at the box office of Wyndham's Theatre to try and snag lottery seats to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing. We took the Hammersmith & City Line (doesn't sound so unusual, but for us it is) to the Doctor Who Experience exhibit. We bought a David Tennant action figure at Camden Market and bantered with the proprietor of the stall about how awesome his Ood doll was.

It's weird to get caught up in these things. For two people who pride themselves in being elitists of the art world - going to museums and talking like Thurston and Lovey Howell about how J.M.W. Turner is just a bit too wistful for our tastes - being fascinated by a cultural phenomenon, especially a science fiction one, like Doctor Who was not on the agenda.

But in the years that have passed since that trip to London which so fortuitously coincided with the airing of the first few episodes of the fifth series of Matt Smith's Doctor, I have learned that expectations for yourself don't necessarily coincide with reality.

Since then I have put a few more random things on my entertainment to-do and have-done lists. I've read The Hunger Games, an occasionally gruesome fantasy novel that I've grown to appreciate. I've watched video game playthroughs of Portal and re-opened my old Super Nintendo despite feeling slightly too old for the thing. I've gone to a YouTube convention and met musicians who play music about Doctor Who.

I've bypassed my own biased standards.

One day while talking with a friend of mine, he mentioned I should watch a show called Firefly. I'd never heard of it at the time (though since then I've heard of it a bit more than I'd like). He told me I reminded him of a character named Kaylee and that since I love Doctor Who for its characters, Firefly was a natural progression.

Now, many months after that initial comparison, I looked up some more information about Kaylee. Pleased by the comparison, I've decided the next adventure on my "what I never thought I'd do, but will do anyway" list is to watch Firefly.

If it's anything like Doctor Who, then I'm in for some happily defeated expectations.

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