Hey everyone! A fun late summer post today, and one where I yet again get to flex my muscles as HC’s resident geek authority. It’s on a topic that I’ll wager most of you have never even heard of before, but one that’s been an enormous part of my TV-watching life all the way since high school. It’s not a question of what the show is here, it’s a question of who – Doctor Who!
Before I dive into the nitty-gritty details of this post, I’ll first give you some context and background about the show, so you can understand why my Dad and I drove all the way down to NYC yesterday afternoon for a Doctor Who premiere! A disclaimer: the show is known for being cutting edge in the sci-fi world, so if that’s not your particular cup of tea (or heck, even if it is), some of the stuff I’m about to throw at you may make it sound like I’m in an altered state of mind, but I guess that’s just part of the show’s huge appeal. Doctor Who actually turned FIFTY years old last year… its first episode premiered back in November 1963, the same week as JFK’s assassination. The reason for the show’s longevity, still one of the most brilliant plot devices created in television history, is that the main character – the eponymous Doctor – is an alien from another planet, whose biology is such that every time he’s killed, he “regenerates” into a different body. AKA, every few seasons or so, the show is literally able to kill off its lead actor and recast the role, meaning it always stays fresh. Until Christmas last year, there had been eleven incarnations of the heroic Time Lord (twelve if you’re argumentative, hello John Hurt), before lead actor Matt Smith’s time in the saddle came to a tearjerking end.
So NOW: here we are today. The youthful, teenage heartthrob Matt Smith Doctor has died, and his sonic screwdriver has passed now to fifty-six year old Scottish actor Peter Capaldi! Many fans were surprised, and even skeptical, about the casting; Capaldi’s most well-known role before his casting as the Doctor was in the lead slot of the black British political comedy The Thick of It, as a VENOM-tongued spin doctor who elevated profane swearing to an incredible/terrifying artform. Hardly the stuff of the most popular family show in British history, basically.
Realizing this, and to promote the start of his tenure at the controls of the iconic TARDIS spaceship, the BBC organized a world tour for Capaldi and his co-star Jenna Coleman to greet fans and usher in the new era. Among stops like Seoul, Sydney, and Rio, the Time Lord and his human travelling companion were slated to make just one stop in the U.S., at New York City’s historic Ziegfeld theater. Diehard Whovians that we are, therefore, my Dad and I saw the announcement, nodded our heads, and shouted “Allons-y!”
Of course, we couldn’t head to New York for an entire afternoon without taking in the sights and sounds. To let an opportunity like this slip by? Fugghedaboutit. In the hours before the premiere, we walked a few blocks from the theater’s off-Broadway location into the pulsing Times Square area. I’m by NO MEANS a country boy – I’ve divided my upbringing between Lowell and Worcester, two of Massachusetts’ biggest cities – but it’s still hard not to walk around NYC with your jaw on the ground. The incredible diversity of peoples, fashions, trends that populates the streets down there is pretty incredible, and one can very easily get overwhelmed by it all. More than a few times, I wasn’t quite sure if people were dressed like they were for work, or were on their way to the Doctor Who premiere in authentic alien garb. Go figure.
After a quick sandwich in the basement of 30 Rock, it was back to wait in the long line wrapping itself around the Ziegfeld theater block. There were people who had been camped out since midnight the night before, so needless to say, anticipation was high for everyone’s favorite Gallifreyan to show up. Capaldi and crew did not disappoint, and the atmosphere around me as he interacted with the crowd would have been enough to power the TARDIS for a whole year (but, let’s face it, time is relative…).
From there, it was past a patrolling Cyberman into the theater itself, which, luckily for the thousands who had been standing in line outside, was indeed bigger on the inside. Some of sci-fi’s biggest names were in the audience that night, along with HUNDREDS of eager Whovians; some were in costume, some were looking bemusedly at those who were, all were just relishing in the experience of it all. The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick was our host for the evening, and to a chorus of sonic screwdrivers, we all watched as the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure began before our eyes!
I’m mum as to actual details about the episode; it’s not airing to the public until August 23rd, and Whovians are famously set against “Spoilers…” Suffice it to say, however, that all those who had been hesitant about this new Doctor have been forever silenced by one of the most truly aggressive sets of eyebrows I’ve ever seen, an accompanying Scottish brogue, and darn near one of the best episodes of television I’ve had the pleasure to watch. It may be just the exhaustion kicking in from the whole experience, but I’ll place a fair bet that there might be a new preferred M.D. around after the coming months…
And then a REAL keeper for the memory books: Hardwick came back up on stage after the episode and began a Q&A panel with none other than the stars of the show themselves!
Outside the theater, an aspiring reporter for Doctor Who Review asked me to stop and give my thoughts on the episode. I’m a sucker for blondes, and this one charmed me right into giving an on-camera interview.
An utterly fantastic evening all around, one that got me truly excited for the upcoming season of perhaps my favorite TV show. Having my Dad, the person who introduced me to it in the first place, along for the ride just sweetened the deal all the more; our adventures in time and space still make the Doctor’s look like practice.
I’ve got several Holy Cross friends who are as addicted to the show as I am, and I can’t wait to watch Capaldi win his way into their hearts over the coming semester. Having been in the room with him for an entire evening, all I can say is that, Peter, I’m with you all the way. Somebody, call a Doctor!!!!!