When Christmas comes around, there are a couple of traditions that every family can participate in. Gathering around the fireplace, drinking egg nog, or if you're Jewish like me, grabbing some Chinese takeout. But recently, I've found a new holiday tradition: the "Doctor Who" Christmas Special.
"Doctor Who," a British TV show which began in 1963, not only has an incredibly large fan base, but also won numerous BAFTA awards over its nearly 50-year run. The show is about a humanoid alien named "The Doctor" who travels in a time machine shaped like a 1960's era police box named "The T.A.R.D.I.S." (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). The Doctor likes to say it is "bigger on the inside," as practically hundreds of rooms can fit into the small box. He usually travels with a companion, often an average human girl from modern-day England. The two travel from Victorian England to the London Olympics to a far-off planet made of diamonds, all running into monsters and villains along the way. Every so often the Doctor "regenerates," which is when the Doctor changes into a new body. This is how the show replaces an actor after they leave. Currently the Doctor is played by Matt Smith, and his new companion arriving in the Christmas Special is played by Jenna-Louise Coleman.
"Doctor Who" has special attributes that other sci-fi shows just don't have. First of all, "Doctor Who" is just plain fun. The show is quirky, goofy, and at many times, just plain ridiculous. In one episode, for instance, the Doctor visits a hospital run entirely by cats. In another, the Doctor attends a dinner party with famed novelist Agatha Christie, and the guests begin to be murdered one by one. Yet the show can also be serious or heart-wrenching. The mid-season finale for instance, saw the tragic goodbye of Amy and Rory (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill), who had been with the show for two and a half seasons. At times, "Doctor Who" can be an emotional rollercoaster.
Secondly, the show can really mess with your mind. "Doctor Who"'s time-traveling premise often deals with paradoxes, and you really have to keep up in order to fully understand the plot. Major plot twists and turns are found in almost every season, especially in Season 6, when the viewer discovers the identity of the mysterious River Song (Alex Kingston).
Lastly, the show can be enjoyed by all ages. The show has very little blood, gore, or sex, and while characters do die, it is often off-screen. Kids love the goofy characters and intriguing settings, and adults love the creative plot and how the show really makes them think. The show has just so many episodes; it is the longest non-continuously running sci-fi show on television, and something can be found for anyone.
One of my favorite parts of Doctor Who is the monsters. The villains of "Doctor Who" are some of the most creative and diabolical fiends I've seen on any television show. The Daleks, heartless aliens shaped like pepper mills are classic to the show's history. The Daleks only have one mission: "Exterminate!" and the Doctor has to prevent them from destroying the human race about once every season. The Weeping Angels, psychopathic statues that can only attack when nobody is looking at them, are the most beloved villains in the series. The Silence, suit-wearing aliens with the power to make people forget they ever saw them, fight against the Doctor against the backdrop of the 1969 moon landing.
If you are #NewtoWho, you may not know where to start. With over 30 seasons, it can be almost overwhelming to begin the show. "Doctor Who" took a nine-year break from 1996 to 2005, and the show relaunched at the end of this break with a new Doctor (Christopher Eccelson) and a new companion, Rose (Billie Piper). The 1963-1989 series is a bit cheesier than most people can handle, so I wouldn't recommend it for first-time viewers. The show also drastically changed in 2010 when Stephen Moffat replaces Russell T. Davies as showrunner. If you really dislike cheesiness, you might want to start on the fifth season, as the show practically relaunches with another new Doctor and new companion. Seasons 1-4 do have some really bad episodes because of poor special effects, among other reasons. For instance, in one episode in Season 1, fat green aliens disguise themselves as humans, with a small side effect being farting because of the change in air pressure. Do not let these episodes discourage you though. Seasons 1-4 also include great episodes with Queen Victoria being chased by a werewolf, a new dieting pill being released in modern-day London causing fat to come alive, and a visit to an abandoned library that covers an entire planet.
The last several Christmas specials have been pretty varied, ranging from excellent to less-than-mediocre. The first one in 2005 involved aliens in a rock-shaped spaceship, and was relatively uninteresting compared to other episodes. The next special introduced the hysterical character of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), an eventual companion of the Doctor. Next was probably one of the Christmas special high points, involving the near-crash of a spaceship modelled after the Titanic. The following special was only so-so; it involved the Doctor meeting another Doctor in Victorian England, yet of course the new Doctor is not what he seems. After that was a pretty good episode entitled "A Christmas Carol," a contemporary of the Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (albeit including flying sharks, in typical Doctor Who fashion). The last special involved The Doctor traveling to a planet covered in mysterious Christmas trees. The upcoming episode, besides introducing the new companion, will also include evil snowmen, a reptilian detective, and a potato-shaped alien. The premise sounds pretty wacky, but a show like "Doctor Who" can hopefully pull it off. Definitely be sure to watch it on BBC America at 8 p.m. (central time) on Christmas Day.
There is a reason that "Doctor Who" was put on TV Guide Magazine's fan favorites cover: "Doctor Who" is simply an amazing show. Before the next part of the season begins, be sure to catch up on at least the fifth, sixth and seventh seasons. This show will teach you about history, will amaze you with its intelligent writing, and entertain you for hours. Don't let its seemingly hackneyed premise fool you. This show is original and creative. Teens won't want to miss this show, and I highly recommend giving it a try.