Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stirring Up Controversy in the Nerdom

I recently got around to seeing the new Star Trek movie, and let me tell you, it was awesome. Best movie I've seen in the theater for a long time. Given that and my having enjoyed The Next Generation when I was a kid, I decided to check out TOS*. I must say I was a bit disappointed. Granted, I can see why people like it. The stories are really good, and deal with complex moral issues. Many kudos must be given to Gene Roddenberry for creating a fictional environment where new ideals of the 60s could be tested. I do find the character relationships--particularly between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy--fascinating. I can see why some have called it Horatio Hornblower in space, though it is sadly lacking in Lt. Bush (see July British Actor of the Month). But it all just seems so dated to me, and I haven't been able to get beyond that as quickly as I did with Doctor Who. Though both shows have their merits, I definitely prefer the former. So I present to you, gentle reader:

20 Reasons Doctor Who Is Better Than Star Trek

1. Doctor Who has never been cancelled. Well, not officially, anyway. When the BBC decided to get rid of the show, fear of fan backlash caused them to put it on hiatus--for 16 years.

2. Doctor Who is also the longest-running (non-continuous) sci-fi show in history. The classic series ran from 1963-89 with only one season off. So if you add in the TV Movie and the current series, that's about 32 seasons.

3. And you know what? You can count all of it as one series. Unlike Trek with its five different series, the new and old versions of Who are all part of the same continuity.

4. Or should I say "lack thereof"? Who has dealt with the frequent changes of style, tone, and format by playing fast and loose with canon. And because it's a show about time travel, they can totally get away with it! (Step on the wrong butterfly, and suddenly you're half-human on your mother's side.)

5. Sure, they have time travel in the Trek universe, but with Doctor Who that's the whole point of the show, so as for content, anything goes. One week they're fighting zombies with Charles Dickens, the next battling Bertie Bassett in space, and the next saving contemporary Earth from a giant robot.

6. And speaking of format, Who encompasses many genres--from gothic horror to comic capers to, in more recent years, romance. Just add a monster and you've got yourself a Doctor Who episode.

7. The asexual half-human (sometimes) alien isn't the sidekick, he's the star. Furthermore, the Doctor discovered kissing (TV Movie) and became one of the last of his species (new series) long before the Trek movie reboot.

8. Granted, both Doctor Who and Star Trek have a strange blend of being sexist at the same time they were trying to be progressive in their representation of women, and both have improved over time. But it seems like the Doctor's companions get more to do than the women of TOS. Plus, the Doctor's presumed asexuality makes the male gaze in Who not always in support of the patriarchy. And anyway, Kirk's love of the green ladies is kind of creepy.

9. The Doctor is--if not always a better dresser than Kirk--certainly a more, uh, interesting one.

10. Douglas Adams ftw.

11. A race of cybernetic beings who want to make everyone just like them? They're called the Cybermen, who first appeared in 1966.

12. TOS's effects weren't that much better. Sure, the bigger budget ensured the blue screen sequences didn't look like crap and that the sets didn't fall over, but a dude in a rubber mask is still a dude in a rubber mask.

13. The Doctor Who theme is appropriately otherworldly in all of its arrangements. And while TNG's screams "space epic," TOS's theme just sounds like lounge music, and doesn't really fit the show.

14. "To boldly go." I can't see Doctor Who writers making such a heinous grammatical error. For the show's original run, very few regular characters spoke in anything other than RP English.

15. While Roddenberry's mission should be applauded, sometimes it feels like the show takes itself too seriously. Classic Doctor Who rarely took itself seriously enough. Even when it was about something like, say, racism and genocide, the show's producers didn't seem to be too bothered if people missed the message because they were too busy hiding behind the couch.

16. Trek might have been progressive, but Who was anarchic. Whereas Star Trek showed us what a well-ordered society we'd be living in if we all just learned to get along, Doctor Who taught us to distrust authority and value our individuality.

17. Who was more explicitly political, especially during the 80s. One episode even showed how mass entertainment--like television--is used by capitalists to keep the masses down.

18. On a related note, Doctor Who is produced by public funds, which means it's less prey to the demands of advertisers and big business, and can get away with a lot more (see above).

19. Doctor Who is truly multi-media with its range of books, comics, radio plays, and even a couple of webcasts. Not to mention the two Peter Cushing movies from the 60s (which were big screen remakes of the Dalek episodes). To my knowledge, Star Trek just has the books and movies, and that animated series no one likes to talk about.

20. Spin-offs. Doctor Who has four: the K-9 and Company pilot, Torchwood for the adults, The Sarah Jane Adventures for the kids, and the up-coming Australian series about the new and improved K-9. Technically, Star Trek has four, too, but that's just because, if they wanted to keep the franchise going, they had no diagetically convenient way to explain how the Enterprise crew all looked different. Doctor Who's spin-offs expand its universe.

There. And I didn't even have to resort to "Because David Tennant is HOT!" Rebuttal is welcome.

*The Original Series. The one that ran from 1966-69; it was just called "Star Trek" so fans use this acronym to designate it from the other four. But you knew that.


  1. I think number 16 is by far my favorite point you've made. I too thought the Star Trek movie was AMAZING, but I have a total crush on spoke/sylar. But I tried to watch the original series and I could barely get past the first episode. One thing I thought was funny was that the actor who played Kirk in the new movie decided not to study how Shatner played Kirk but instead he decided to play it channeling Han Solo. I was like omg Trekkies will revolt!

  2. I would have never guessed that he was channeling Han. He seemed very Captain Kirk to me, despite the fact that... he didn't really... talk like Shatner. But, then again, I'd only seen maybe one TOS episode before I saw the movie.