Two of my favorite things are making a convergence this weekend. Neil Gaiman has written the episode of Doctor Who that will air this Saturday, May 14th. To say I am excited is to understate the level of squee this fangirl is capable of.
If you haven't seen Doctor Who since, oh, the 20th century, don't let preconceptions of bad special effects and cheesy aliens stop you from enjoying the reboot of the franchise that began in 2005.
Christopher Eccleston starred as the Ninth Doctor, bringing a edginess to the role. David Tennant took over as the sexy Tenth Doctor from 2006-2010. Matt Smith, the goofiest doctor I've ever seen, now stars as the Eleventh Doctor.
The BBC obviously upped the budget, but what made a new generation of viewers fans of the show is the remarkable storytelling. These stories are smart, funny, tragic, and scary, often at the same moment. Not every episode is an A+, but rarely is an episode anything less than a B.
I highly suggest that you start watching the show from the Christopher Eccleston series, but if you're not sure you want to make that kind of commitment, take the time to at least watch the episode "Blink" from Season Three. You don't need to know anything about Doctor Who except that it involves time travel. In fact, the Doctor is hardly in the episode at all. But it is one of the most gripping hours of television I have ever seen.
Writers have much to learn from watching "Blink," the way writer Steven Moffat plants clues, builds tension, and adds humor to craft a perfect hour of storytelling. (In fact, the episode evolved from a short story the Steven Moffat wrote, which you can read here. But watch the episode first.)
And I must admit, I am expecting that level of excellence from the Neil Gaiman penned episode. Neil Gaiman is a brilliant storyteller and the number of accolades he has garnered is almost obscene. That whole smart-funny-tragic-scary thing is a hallmark of Neil's writing, and he seems a perfect match for Doctor Who.
Yeah, there's a but. The X-Files was once one of my favorite all-time television shows back in the day. Then they did some stunt casting (stunt writing?). Stephen King wrote an episode of the show that was derivative of the Talking Tina episode from Twilight Zone. William Gibson wrote a couple of episodes that I don't even remember anymore (except that they had something to do with virtual reality and artificial intelligence). These episodes were winks to the audience, but not really anything that made the show special.
I soooo want Neil Gaiman's episode to be everything I want it to be. I'm sure Neil and everyone associated with Doctor Who wants that, too. But I've worked production before. Good writing can be sacrificed to production delays. I'm trying to temper my wildly high expectations with reality.
Come Saturday night, though, all I want is an hour of epic storytelling. Is that too much to ask?
In the meantime, here are some Doctor Who related videos to distract you.
Dalek Masterpiece Theater (embedding is disabled, but it's awesome)
Musical Tribute to the Tenth Doctor (a must for David Tennant fans!)
And if Doug Adams had written an episode of Doctor Who, it might have looked like this.