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Who's The Man

Chris Rywalt and Monty Ashley have already covered this ground, but now that the BBC's new Doctor Who has made it to the States courtesy of the no-longer-entirely-awful SciFi Channel, it bears repeating that this is a terrific little show.

I never cared much for the original series; as a wee military brat in Britain, I vaguely remember being terrified by the spooky theme music and swirling time vortex that played over the end credits. Last year, a Who-loving friend got me to tape one of the rare episodes penned by Douglas Adams off PBS, and I was suitably amused. I'd heard good things about this new incarnation, but I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did.

I found myself watching both hours of SciFi's premiere with a big silly grin on my face, thoroughly charmed by its offhanded wit and unabashed hopefulness. Rather than act ashamed of its inherent cheesiness, Russell T. Davies' new series runs up and gives it a great big hug, trotting out weird aliens and second-rate special effects with a flourish. The new Who manages to embrace its sci-fi nature without seeming like an insular, by-geeks-for-geeks enterprise. (Unlike some shows I could mention.)

Much like Christopher Eccleston's portrayal of the title character, this show's got a spring in its step, a wink in its eye, and a few brief and intriguing flashes of darkness. As his companion Rose Tyler, a working-class Londoner plucked from mundanity to a life of high adventure, Billie Piper looks vaguely like she's been hit in the face with a shovel a few times too many. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and sweetness she brought to her role, not to mention her chemistry with Eccleston. That helps, since their characters are holding hands and skipping along toward the latest apocalypse awfully quickly.

Everything I've read online suggests that the show's first two episodes are among its weakest, with far better still to come. If that's the case, I expect the new Who will fill the Battlestar Galactica-shaped hole in my life quite nicely, at least for the next few months' worth of Friday nights.


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