Readers of this space will know of my tendency to take on projects of self-improvement, particularly in the area of cultural literacy. My stalled march through the Bible, my ongoing conquest of The Reading List, my abortive but soon to be resurrected (albeit in altered form) reading of the plays of Shakespeare -- I think I can safely say that I know how to take on a project.
Now, it so happens that I had reached the ripe age of 42 without ever having seen an episode of Dr. Who. And yet I have long been aware that a great many people -- and more than that, a great many dorky people -- have taken pleasure and delight from this venerable British sci-fi serial. Add to this that I have been working my way through the popular "Spellman" detective books (verdict: not great, but amusing), the protagonist of which has an Dr. Who enthusiasm verging on the troubling. Finally, throw in that the college football season is winding down (and incidentally, may I say: How 'bout them Ducks?) and that I will need some sort of entertainment to quilt by. And the inevitable conclusion is this: I need to watch me some of that Dr. Who.
Me being me, of course, I intend to watch ALL of Dr. Who. In order.
Now, when I have informed friends and family of this decision, their question has invariably been "which one: new Dr. Who or old Dr. Who?" From this, I have concluded that my friends and family need their hearing checked. I said, "ALL Dr. Who," and "In Order." So I have begun at the very beginning, of course. So far, I have worked my way up to the Autumn of 1963. The Dr. Who whom ~I~ know so far is several iterations before what people are thinking of when they talk about the "old Dr. Who."
Now then: I have no intention of doing a running commentary on my Dr. Who watching on this here blog. I suspect there are many, many, many established sites within the internet community where you can get all the Dr. Who commentary you can handle. Indeed, you could probably spend the rest of your life seeking out other people's opinions on Dr. Who without running out of material. But I don't recommend it.
It has been fun, though, to work through the first year of the series. The "serials" -- a given story seems to last somewhere between two and eight half-hour episodes -- are of widely uneven quality. The special effects are somewhat less than spectacular to the 2010 eye, which gives some episodes something of a budget-of-shillings! quality to them. If you are into kitsch, there are plenty of giggles to be had, but I'm pretty willing to suspend disbelief and try to get the intended effect.
One last interesting thing. So far, I've watched the first, second, third, and fifth serials. Sloppy execution of a plan to watch them all in order? No. The fourth serial -- along, apparently, with quite a few others -- is not extant. Apparently the BBC had a policy into the 1970s of going through and throwing out the old stuff every year. Since VCR technology was in its infancy in the 1960s, and didn't really get rolling until the 1970s, all that remains of the fourth Dr. Who serial is some stills and a partial audio track. This is not exactly a loss on the level of the bombing of Coventry Cathedral, perhaps, but it is a little startling that something so relatively recent and of interest to so many could be irrecoverably lost.