Now I happen to be someone who's seen more than my fair share of science fiction shows. While I'd have to go with Star Trek over most others, it's never stopped me from watching and enjoying loads of other series. Add to that my high tolerance for crap, and I've seen lots more than I'd care to admit. But still there are some shows though that, try as I might, I never thought I'd be able to sit and watch, much less enjoy. These tend to be shows which feel so hokey that the idea of them alone causes my brain to scream in agony.
Doctor Who used to be one of those shows.
I never had anything against it really, other than it just looked bad. I simply couldn't understand why people would watch it (mind you, I bet this is how many feel about Star Trek and other staples of the genre). In the end though, boredom caused me to stoop to what I initially thought was a new low (boredom's a bastard like that).
And now I find I must thank boredom for its persistence in the matter. Also, Netflix for making it so easy to watch.
I should note that I haven't seen anything previous to the relaunch in 2005 though. Someday, maybe, but I fear the levels of boredom that would require.
What is it that makes this show great? I can't even decide on any one thing, it ends up being a multitude of parts working together.
First, the writing tends to be top-notch. I can think of few other shows where I actually care what the characters are doing. In fact, it seems like nowadays I spend more time thinking a character's being a complete idiot rather than rooting for them. The writers for Doctor Who however are capable of entertaining and witty dialogue with unexpected depth. Every character has facets which work to generate a feeling of realism seen far too rarely in television shows.
Next, the music is beyond great. From the character's personal motifs to the situational themes, they all manage to interplay and hit the mark. And it rarely stays the same, just about every series has had it's own themes to go with each villain and story.
Also, the plot lines weave together amazingly well. Recurring characters and themes occur regularly, allowing to build to the central calamity each series (there always will be one). I was surprised how quickly some of the characters would return, but they always had a part to play and it was rarely simply for fan service.
Lastly, somehow, the pure camp of the "alien" design tends to work out. I don't know a better word for it. It's beyond overdone and actually ends up making the show simply more fun. I'd even go as far to say it lends credibility to the feeling that you're viewing something wholly foreign, if only because it's always so far out of left field.
The first series took a bit more for me to get into, but it was partly because the show hadn't fully settled yet. It was never bad, just the timing wasn't right. Also, admittedly at that point they just didn't seem much production value at all.
However, this is one of the first shows in a while to grow the beard in their first season. All the early episodes had felt like something was missing, and then came along "Father's Day". It was a simple enough episode, premise-wise. In fact, it was even somewhat predictable. Yet somehow it pulled off a depth well beyond the written words. Something simply clicked. I don't want to say too much about the plot, just know that it's how television should be.
After that it was nearly time for the end of the series. They managed something I hadn't thought was possible anymore; they successfully weaved together the threads from the series into a set of final climatic episodes. This cemented the show for me. Not only had it proven it was capable of stellar episodes, but also that it could actually maintain plot-points and successfully resolve them! Fantastic!
While that was all there was of Christopher Eccleston (a real shame), Series 2 managed just to improve on the formula: better production value, a new and intriguing Doctor, and the continuing adventures of Rose. More on that later though ;)