Monday, April 25, 2011


DOCTOR WHO has been a British institution since the 1960's. Across the pond (especially in Canada) and around the world there was always a small core of fans that followed the show as well. Americans, for the most part, have always been rather cool on Doctor Who. It was always regarded as a "cult thing". Then it went away.

When it came back many more Americans began to sit up and take notice. Like a girl who goes away and then returns, blossomed into a great beauty that suddenly catches all the boys' eyes, Doctor Who came back and America began courting.

Now Doctor Who seems to have become receptive to America's advances. From Daleks in Manhatton (small bits of which were filmed in America) to The Impossible Astronaut which saw the main cast travel to Utah for extensive location filming, Doctor Who has fully embraced America.

Which leaves those of us who have been watching from the early days, Doctor Who's former suiters, standing around holding withered flowers, having been passed over for the captain of the football team. And we wonder, is our girl dressing differently for her new beau? Has she changed her style? Is she pandering to his tastes? Is she giggling overmuch and acting the coquette? Is she widening her eyes and playing the dumb blonde for her flashy new suitor with lots of cash?

In other words, is Doctor Who changing to try to appeal to the American Market?

The first episode of the new season seems to be heading in that direction, from the frenetic, action packed beginning to the ubiquitously American setting, the gushing emotions, even a little recap at the beginning to catch new viewers up to speed.

It's hard for me to watch Doctor Who tart itself up and dumb itself down to appeal to the new suitor. I stand here with my wilted flowers and my soggy jelly babies and my moth-eaten scarf and battered hat and I can't help feeling passed by.

Maybe this will just be a flavour of the week? A passing fancy? Will Doctor Who take back its mantle of Britishness that made me love it in the first place? Or will this new look, stetsons, jeans, and the American Flag be its new clarion call?

I guess, just like everybody else, I'll just have to wait until next week to see.

After all, ther's always Jim the Fish to look forward to.

I've been here and there. I've drawn a lot of pictures. I've written a bit, too. I'm not good at this self-promotion thing. Look, you want to know about me? just visit these websites. Okay?


Kal said...

Each and everytime that a show panders to the America audience (which means dumbing down it's storytelling), the show becomes a failure. You never look at two shows like the UK version of 'Big Brother' or the 'Office.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I don't honestly care.. I can't watch it anyway. So in that vein, I feel that so long as Doctor Who is only available on a station that 1/330th of the population has access too.. it's success in the US will be very limited. I also feel its preposterous to say that it requires "Dumbing down".

We simply have different tastes. You cannot tell me that every show in the UK is gold, as that simply isn't true.

That said, the US Torchwood is going to be horrible.. it was raunchy enough as it was.. but now that its on STARZ I imagine it will be all but unwatchable.

cerebus660 said...

I wouldn't worry too much if I were you, MD. The production team have evidently decided that, since they were filming in America, they would use as much American iconography as possible to give this story a distinctive flavour. ( Or should that be "flavor"? )But, of course, the beauty of the Doctor Who format is that the next adventure in the series can and will be totally different in terms of location, tone and atmosphere. In fact, as episode 3 looks to be a more lightweight adventure involving Cornish pirates, I'd say the "Britishness" you've missed isn't too far away.

BTW if you want to see an example of Doctor Who pandering to an American audience, look no further than the Paul McGann TV Movie. A promising, short-lived Doctor stuck in a horrible mish-mash of US TV cliches...

TS Hendrik said...

Moffat said in an interview that it doesn't have anything to do with pandering to Americans like many have suggested but that he simply had an idea for a story and thought it would be fun to travel here to film it.

As someone who grew up on the old Doctor Who, I'm not worried about it becoming Americanized. The frenetic quality you speak of was ingrained in the last series as well. I suspect that's just the flavor they're trying to give Matt Smith's interpretation of the Doctor.

Though to be honest I wasn't keen on the writing for last series. The whole countdown every episode got annoying. I'm hoping for better this go round. And I am quite interested in seeing what Neil Gaiman's episode will be like.

M. D. Jackson said...

Perhaps I have overstated the case for Doctor Who pandering to the American audience. It is certainly a show that is not everyone's cup of tea, particularly Lagomorph Rex's (though we won't hold that against him). Rex is right when he says that not every British show is gold. (Grahame, Norton, anyone?)

However, there are many fine and intelligent shows produced in America, so perhaps my assertion that Doctor Who had to be "dumbed down" is unfair. The divide is more cultural than intellectual. And yes, I remember the US produced Doctor Who movie, particularly as it was filmed in my old hometown, Vancouver, Canada, which stood in for San Francisco.

And like TS I am looking quite forward to Neil Gaiman's contribution to the show.

Anonymous said...

I was certainly worried about the show becoming all Frenchised when they shot bits of "City of Death" in Paris...didn't seem to harm it in the end (in fact it got the highest Who viewer numbers ever IIRC)

B Smith

M. D. Jackson said...

Don't be a smartass, B Smith!

City of Death was always one of my favourites. That was co-written by Douglas Adams.


Steve Does Dr Who said...

I didn't see any signs of dumbing-down in last Saturday's episode. Quite the opposite. Wasn't the main complaint from those who didn't like it that it was too complicated and confusing?

As for it having the odd story set in America. So what? The last series had episodes set in Venice and Provence. That's what the show does, it moves around.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I think theres a bit of confusion here. I really really like the show. But since I don't have the channel its on, I can't watch the show. BBC America is only available on a limited number of Cable and Satellite packages.

I'd love to be able to watch it. But unless they go back to having it on SyFy or PBS.. It isn't going to happen. Thats why I said I didn't care..

M. D. Jackson said...

Sorry for the confusion Lagomorph.

You know, you could always download the episodes (not that you heard that suggestion from me, because downloading TV shows illegally is morally wrong and I would never advocate that. I didn't say any of this. I was never here!)

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