I’m a longtime fan of Doctor Who. Like most Americans, Tom Baker is the first/best Doctor I’ve watched, but I think Jon Pertwee is fabulous and I liked the final 80s episodes with Sylvester McCoy, too. Though the body count was always high when the Doctor was around, there was also this fabulous escapism—go anywhere anytime and anyone could be the Doctor’s “assistant,” even me. Ridiculous cyborgs and robots like the movement-impaired Daleks and the gold-challenged Cybermen plus silly rubber masked extra-terrestrials from everywhere and anywhere just added to the fun.
The new incarnation of Doctor Who (first season just now airing in the States) does a superb job of retaining the old “feel” while adding some new flourishes—primarily in the areas of character development and relationships. First, the Doctor tells us that the entire Timelord “race” has been wiped out. So now he’s even more of a loner and renegade. Second, he’s flirty.
It’s delightful to see the very charismatic Christopher Eccleston play the Doctor with such working-class-boy-made-good chutzpah, excited like a child when he saves lives instead of destroying them (a great comment on the death toll of many a past Doctor’s life) and impishly flirtatious with his assistant Rose, the sweet blonde who’s even more white trashy than her predecessor Ace, and other young women he meets.
At the moment, though, I most want to praise the new Doctor Who for the character of Captain Jack Harkness. Reminding me a lot of an even flashier “Ace Rimmer” (Chris Barrie’s alter-ego from the British SF sitcom Red Dwarf), John Barrowman (whom I know best as a singer—his work in the Sondheim revue Putting It Together and part as Cole Porter’s lover in De-Lovely come to mind) is wonderfully hyper-competent and out-flirts the Doctor repeatedly (much to the Doctor’s dismay). Best of all, in the first season, he’s entirely and openly bisexual in his attractions, flirting with equal pleasure with women and men. I particularly loved the moment when he created a helpful diversion by chatting up a group of WWII pilots. Even when the Doctor finds Captain Jack an annoying nuisance (with obvious streaks of jealousy of his attractiveness to Rose and everyone else he meets), he never shows distaste for his omnivorous sexual attractions. I find this a delightful way to depict a future where bisexuality can be taken for granted.
Can’t wait for season two to air!*
*Yes, I know Captain Jack is getting his own show in England as I type... I'm guessing it won't make it to US television (or beyond a first season)--he's not the lead character type, imo, but let me know if anyone out there sees it.