I was very pleased to discover a couple of days ago that the sixth season of Doctor Who has finally appeared in all of its streamable glory on Netflix Instant Watch. Naturally I’ve irked out some time to dive back into the last Gallifreyan’s adventures and what do you know? So far so good.
The first eight minutes of The Impossible Astronaut left me completely dumbstruck, the conclusion to the ensuing two-parter saw me with a triumphant fist in the air, and the pirate adventure…okay, it was all right.
But then it was time for something very important indeed: Neil Gaiman’s episode, one of the catalysts for my even beginning to watch Doctor Who in the first place. Yes, it was wonderful. A perfect marriage of everything that makes Neil and the Doctor so beloved, both to fans and myself personally.
It also perfectly illustrated the trait that, perhaps more than anything else, makes the Doctor endlessly watchable: He can and frequently does display a huge range of emotions in a very short amount of time, and does so very convincingly.
It’s not at all bizarre to see him irreverent, curious, mournful, ecstatic, confident, desperate, egotistical, compassionate, hilarious, childlike, world-weary, and bone-searingly furious all in the same episode. Many characters display a range of moods, but does anyone else do so in such a short time span while utterly commanding the would-be whiplash in a way that never feels even a little forced?
I very much doubt anyone but the Doctor would be allowed to get away with it–we’re already sold on the fact that he’s deeply complex, with established passions, fears, habits, strict morals, and sources of guilt that justify all of his behavior.
That and the fact that we can’t really comprehend him; sure, a human doesn’t express many different things in forty-two minutes of story, but the last of the Time Lords might.
The result is that he’s a joy to watch, his depth allowing the series a longevity unheard of in the annals of television.