My first ever Doctor Who episode: “Blink!”

The back-story, for those who missed it:

A few weeks ago, I noticed a TARDIS parked across the street from my house and managed to capture a picture of it before it vanished. This got signal-boosted and I was bombarded by an incredulous Internet who couldn’t believe a science fiction writer had never seen a Doctor Who episode before. I tried to explain, mildly, that while I am indeed a science fiction writer, I grew up reading science fiction books and stories and never really got into the movies and TV shows. I’ve seen some, of course. I’ve even enjoyed some. But when I’m not writing, I’d rather spend my time reading science fiction than watching it. Still, the Internet is persistent and so I agreed to watch an episode of Doctor Who if the wise fans of the show could agree on a recommendation.

What was recommended was a show from Season 3 called “Blink” which I purchased from the iTunes store that very day, but which I didn’t have a chance to watch until yesterday. Well, dear Internet and Doctor Who fans, I’ve now watched the episode you recommended and I have a few comments to make on the experience, if you’ll indulge me.

I loved it. You guys were spot-on in your recommendation. That show pushed most of my buttons: time-travel, clever monsters, humor, good writing, and good acting. Coming into this as a complete newbie, there were things that a seasoned fan probably got right away that I didn’t, such as the fact that the fellow in the video Easter-egg was, in fact, the Doctor. (I still don’t know who or what the “Doctor” is and why he is called the “Doctor” but more on that shortly.) The time-travel bootstrapping was very cool, although not completely original. In film, at least, we’ve seen a letter delivered from the distant past at the beginning of the third Back to the Future film. And in the science fiction literature, the earliest story that I can think of1 in which a trapped time traveler communicated with his time through a print medium was Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity (Doubleday, 1955).

But it was those weeping angels that were a brilliant stroke. The cinematography used to capture their motion was very well done, but even better was  Steven Moffat’s explanation of the creatures. They appeared as statues because the turn to stone when they are being looked at, but otherwise they move blindingly fast–so don’t blink! The scene in which Sally Sparrow and her friend Larry are in the old house, searching for the time machine and the statues are beginning to surround them was so well done that I found myself at the edge of my seat–a position that television rarely puts me in. And the way in which they are saved from the creatures: they all end up looking at one another, was also a clever and satisfying conclusion. I will say that I was confused slightly in that scene because the Doctor had described the creatures as killing with kindness, but sending the victim into the past.  But in that scene with the TARDIS in the basement, those creatures sprouted fangs and claws as if they intended to kill without too much kindness.

The time-travel was very clever, especially the use of the script made from the Easter eggs and Sally Sparrow’s “dialog” with the Doctor. And of course the ending, where she sees him on the street, but he doesn’t know who she is was also pretty clever.

It seemed a little odd to me that there wasn’t more of the Doctor in the show. Is that normal? Maybe that’s what helped make this episode a good standalone episode to watch?

So overall what did I think of the show? I loved it and I want to watch more. Indeed, the more I thought about the episode after watching it, the more I liked it. As it turns out, iTunes is having a special on BBC shows and I can pick up seasons of Doctor Who for $9.99. I’ve already acquired Season 1 of the new series. But I am going to blame you, Doctor Who fans, if the episodes don’t hold up to the quality of “Blink.” And when my editors nag me as to why they haven’t received the stories I promised, I’m going to be perfectly honest with them.

“You see,” I’ll tell them, “this TARDIS showed up parked across the street from my house. I made the mistake of photographing it, one thing led to another and I’m now prisoner to the Doctor Who series. It’s got me hooked.”

And since they are science fiction editors, maybe they’ll understand.

  1. Not necessarily the first time in the history of science fiction, mind you, just the first that I can think of.


  1. It seemed a little odd to me that there wasn’t more of the Doctor in the show. Is that normal? Maybe that’s what helped make this episode a good standalone episode to watch?

    No,. its definitely abnormal to have a Doctor-lite episode, but its not the only one to do this. Even the Old Series did that now and again.

    Why did we suggest this one to you, then, if its not typical? Because of all the reasons you suggested–its a SF heavy episode that stands alone, and pushes a SF writer’s buttons. It’s Doctor Who at its best.

    From here, what I would recommend is exactly what you did–start with Rose and roll with the first rebooted series and see what you think.

    If you like that, and get through the Ecclestons and some Tennants, then, Mr. Rubin, we need to talk some classic Old Doctor Who.

    1. And I will, of course, report on what I think as I go along. Not sure when I’ll start watching the rebooted series. I’m trying to finish up a story for Stan when I am on vacation in a few days. I’ve struggled with that enough to want to procrastinate no longer. So it may not be until next year that I actually start watching from the beginning.

  2. As Paul already mentioned, the Doctor is usually a much more central figure in the show. (After all, it is about him!) But “Blink” is a standout episode for many reasons, all of which you discovered, and it probably works well as an introduction to a lot of what the show is about.

    Also, as Paul notes, the best way to catch up with Doctor Who now is to watch the new series from the beginning. The new series is actually a continuation of the old, as the episodes have made very clear; but given that it was a new series, they had to start in a way to introduce the character and the show to viewers who knew little or nothing about the previous stories. And as it is, you’re not going to want to try to watch the existing serials going back to 1963 (well, maybe you’ll want to, but many are missing). Television storytelling has changed, and the older serials are much more slowly paced and were pitched at kids.

    But, may I recommend at least one old series episode? As soon as you can, watch “City of Death.” I think other commenters here will probably agree with my recommendation.

  3. Glad you enjoyed it – I’d be surprised if you hadn’t, as it won multiple awards including a Hugo.

    It’s difficult to suggest individual episodes, but if you follow them by series you should be fine. And you still have the fun of Daleks and Cybermen to come!

  4. The Christmas episodes are standalones. I’d also suggest the episodes found in the boxed set called “The Specials” as they are pretty standalone (well, there are some linkages to other things, but you can probably ignore these subtle hints until you catch up with everything and re-watch, then you’ll say “ah-ha!”): The Next Doctor, The Waters of Mars, etc.

    I’m a long-standing Who-fan, since Tom Baker started appearing on NYC stations in the late 1970’s, but with a mid-60’s connection to the Peter Cushing versions of some William Hartnell episodes. My daughter started getting exposure this past year, I tried her on New Who, she did not like it, tried her on Old Who, she was hooked, went back to New Who and now we watch both. We’re currently running through New Who up to the 2011 Christmas Episode.

    For Old Who, there are plenty of standalones and episodes where the Doctor is not as featured. As to who (hah) he is, etc., he evolved over time so don’t feel like you need to catch up on the backstory. All you need to know is: he’s old, he’s an alien, he regenerates and he usually drags along some companions. Have fun and the backstory will gradually soak in.

    As to Old Who, if you want, look for recent re-releases. They are coming out with a batch, with extra features, missing footage, deleted scenes, interviews and the like.

    Your son might like the Sarah Jane Chronicles, but avoid exposing children (IMHO) to Torchwood. Torchwood is a separate (adult) series that you might enjoy, it can be watched without needing Who (but they both back and fill each other over time).

    Any questions, shout directly and I’ll be happy to convert, I mean, help…


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