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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

British ‘Doctor Who’ fan hurts my American feelings

WARNING: Major spoiler about the latest episode of Doctor Who — which has not yet aired in the U.S. — follows. Don’t read further if you don’t want to know what’s going on.

So, on Monday the British press finally started commenting on that shocking ending of “The Stolen Earth”… such as Gareth McLean in his TV&Radio blog at guardian.co.uk, who talks more about the wonders of keeping anything secret in today’s gossipy, wired world than he does about the possibility that David Tennant may be leaving the show. Which is certainly valid commentary to be made. How we didn’t get one whiff of this twist is truly astonishing.
But it’s one of McLean’s commenters who made me stop short and wonder what the hell he meant. Perhaps a Brit reading this can fill me in. Commenter “matey” posted this:

Really hope they don’t change Tennant, but if they do that they get someone completely different (ie someone the americans find unpalletable/quaint)

Why would anyone wish for a new actor in the role that Americans would not like? Is there some sort of bizarre conception among British fans that either Eccleston or Tennant were picked for the role because they would somehow appeal to Americans… and if so, what drugs are those people on? It’s not as if Doctor Who is anything other than a cult thing here, or that it ever could be anything other than a weird oddity that appeals to only a tiny, tiny minority of geeks.

Or is matey the one who’s on drugs?

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  • soundacious

    Perhaps it just reflects a nostalgia for a less “sexy” Doctor … it is true that the general trend has been for the character to get younger and younger. It hardly leaves room for someone like Jon Pertwee anymore.

    The association with America is probably just that sexiness sells overseas … and less sexiness probably sells less overseas.

    All that being said, if they try and duplicate the non-magic that was Colin Baker, I am not responsible for my actions.

  • Joanne

    “Matey” is in a world of his/her own. I for one am thrilled both Doctor Who and Torchwood are such big hits in the US. For starters, that guarantees us more of both. Secondly, the Welsh bit of me finds it intensely gratifying that people are watching Cardiff on television in the same way I watch New York or Chicago. Thirdly, we get so many good US imports it’s about time we returned the favour.

    None of that, of course, means I’m ready for Eleven just yet …

  • Mark

    we get so many good US imports it’s about time we returned the favour.

    It may come as a surprise for you to hear that there are many (or at least, some) in the US who think of American TV as a bleak and soulless landscape catering to the lowest common denominator, where, with a scant few exceptions, what’s most worth watching is the bare trickle of stuff we get from the UK.

  • PaulW

    There seems to be this fear that ‘catering’ to American tastes would water down or devalue the British programs…

    Bull. It’s like saying the James Bond producers would need to cast Brad Pitt as 007 in order to sell the series in the US. We can take British actors in British roles, dammit. I’ve got no problem if/when the BBC trades out the current Time Lord for someone with a Celt/Cockney accent… like, oh I dunno, Kate Winslet as the Doctor might be nice… ;)

  • MaryAnn

    the Welsh bit of me finds it intensely gratifying that people are watching Cardiff on television in the same way I watch New York or Chicago.

    As a New Yorker, I’ll say that I love seeing Cardiff on tv, too. And I’m looking forward to actually visiting the city when I travel to Britain in the fall.

    There seems to be this fear that ‘catering’ to American tastes would water down or devalue the British programs…

    I understand that, and it does seem like a fair concern… in general. But what about *Doctor Who* suggests that *anything* about it has been touched by that problem?

  • dawn

    as an avid american fan, who will soon have to forbid herself to read anything about her favorite show for a month or so, it was, actually, Christopher Eccleston who first drew my interest in all things Doctor related. I didn’t find him sexy. I found him intriguing. I found the delicate chemistry between the doctor and rose fascinating. In fact, when i first saw Tennant in the role I was angry and confused. You see, though I have vague memories of the show from when I was a child, I didn’t know about the changing of actors. And although I find Tennant dreamy, and oh is he dreamy, i couldn’t accept him as the doctor until I learned the story behind the change. And it wasn’t until Tennant’s frenetic technobabble and, dare I say it, his hope, broke through my perception, that I finally truly saw him in the role and accepted him.

    so. honestly. from a lovely woman living in the whirlpool of middle america. I don’t care what the next doctor looks like as long as he is still my doctor.

    and i seriously can’t wait to see Hamlet in the fall.

  • Martin

    I’m going to say that it’s just general smouldering hatred for America. Which, given that it’s The Guardian, a paper that has an almost pathological hatred for George Bush (and by some crazy extension, the rest of the US), is very probable.

    Which makes him a jerk. Actually, it makes him a smug jerk. And as someone that happens to be located in the same country as him, I apologise.

  • By all accounts, Jon Pertwee was quite a hit with the ladies in his day; I know of two women who found him one of the biggest heartrobs on TV.

    We should make our own minds up who is “sexy”, not leave it up to magazines and newspapers :)

  • Ryan

    I have to agree with Dawn in that it was Eccleston who got me interested in Doctor Who, with the sort of suppressed insanity he brought to the role, and in his surprisingly convincing rapport with Billie Piper as Rose.

    Then Billie Piper carried it for a while, and now I must admit (I am in the minority) I do not really care for Tennant in the role, and neither of the companions since Rose have been that interesting either. I must say, I’m rather looking forward to a new Doctor/companion soon.

    Anyway, I don’t think Tennant specifically appeals to Americans in any way…or at least I’m not sure why he would compared to anybody else.

    Now…if they made Patrick Stewart the doctor…then there might be a valid fear that they are pandering to the overseas audience, lol.

  • (Other) Dawn

    The Guardian – maybe they only published the comment to annoy DT as he reads it (according to Derren Brown’s show anyway!)

    I doubt that he’s been cast in the role purely for an overseas audience…. He was cast because he was absolutely perfect!!!!

  • Don’t let it bother you – it’s just online national chauvinism, viewable every day on thousands of discussion boards. YouTube and IMDb are crawling with it. It travels the other way too, like when the Drudge Report links to a British newspaper story and suddenly there’s a flood of comments about how us limeys all have terrible teeth and would be speaking German if it weren’t for the Americans.

  • MaryAnn

    a paper that has an almost pathological hatred for George Bush

    Well, that goes for some of us Americans, too. :->

    I don’t think Tennant specifically appeals to Americans in any way…or at least I’m not sure why he would compared to anybody else.

    Yeah, exactly. In fact, he’s probably exactly the opposite of what the producers should have chosen if they wanted to appeal to a mainstream American audience. He acts like he’s older than 12, for one.

    Jon Pertwee was quite a hit with the ladies in his day

    I’m not at all embarrassed to say that Pertwee was totally hot as the Doctor. :->

  • I, too, must agree with Dawn, as long has he’s my Doctor, I don’t really care what he looks like. I’m just glad he’s back!!!

    And I can guarantee my 11 year old son doesn’t care what the Doctor looks like. As long as he’s travelling space and time and thwarting the bad guys, he’s cool!

    And what exactly is unpalletable/quaint? I know a lot of women who find Tennant too skinny, or “looks too gay”, or some such nonsense. I’ve never been the type of gal to fall head over heels for the typical “heartthrob”. Though I find Brad Pitt handsome, it was Ed Norton in Fight Club that won me over. I liked Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber over Bruce Willis’ John McClain. I loved Alan Rickman’s Sherrif over the stinky Kevin Costner Robin. I could go on…

  • “Why would anyone wish for a new actor in the role that Americans would not like? Is there some sort of bizarre conception among British fans that either Eccleston or Tennant were picked for the role because they would somehow appeal to Americans… and if so, what drugs are those people on?”

    Here’s the deal, as I see it … there are traditionalists and there are those of us who have come to the show recently. They clash. A lot.

    And I think there’s a conflation of the renewed popularity of the show with some “Americanization” aspects of the production.

    Certainly, the old Doctor Who would not have hit the way RTD’s incarnation has here in the States, there’s a certain level of production value that is equated with a US audience accepting a show.

    These people also have to realize that all Doctors 9 and higher are the leads in a weekly action comedy, and if that means the current version of “John Pertwee” can’t cut it in the running scenes, that’s the way it is.

    I was at a convention recently and watched a couple episodes from the Tom Baker era, and frankly, if I didn’t have such an interest in the legacy aspects I would have bolted after the opening credits.

    I know I’ll get a lot of crap for these comments. Go ahead, I can take it.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I think we’re all missing the simplest reason for this: that the Guardian blogs generally attract spiteful, insecure, mean-spirited reactionary pricks who think it’s clever in and of itself to tear things down and are the exact mirror image of the FreeRepublic.com loons they hate so much. I’ve read enough of these comments sections to say this with authority. God knows why.

  • Martin

    “Well, that goes for some of us Americans, too. :->”

    But you don’t assume that because he’s an asshole you’re all inbred rednecks too, though.

    At least I hope not. ;)

    As Der Bruno Stroszek said, The Guardian attracts such people. It’s partisan politics at it’s worst: “We” are right, “They” are wrong and therefore it’s completely justified to treat “Them” as we see fit.

    If I hadn’t been in a discussion where someone seriously suggested the abolition of the right wing (to protect democracy, no less), I wouldn’t believe it.

    Anyway, Dr Who.

    So close now, I can almost taste that reset button…

  • UK Who

    I thnk its super that you guys love the show. I’ve got a 4 & 7 year old unable to get to sleep tonight with the anticipation of tomorrows finale. Though I’m already preparing for the Post Who Chasm.
    I just hope come the regeneration (whenever that may be, it isn’t one of the many sub-rate drama actors we have here- namely the much ove rated James Nesbitt).

  • javs

    What I offer here is an involved yet detached look at Doctor Who’s catch-phrases. Perhaps time, further study, and more reflection will either modify or enrich the analysis offered here, but Doctor Who turns its back on our most heartfelt pleas for mercy. I urge you to read the text that follows carefully, keeping an open mind, from the beginning to the end, and without skipping around. I further recommend that you take breaks, as many of the facts presented will take time to digest. On a closing note, I hope that this letter, while incomplete, informal, and having no authority except its own inner strength and conviction, has clearly demonstrated to you that since their emergence on the stage of history, peevish slanderers have been a parasitic growth on the stem of true citizens.

  • @javs: Whaaa?

  • like, oh I dunno, Kate Winslet as the Doctor might be nice… ;)

    It’s a shame you didn’t push harder for that option, Paul W. After all, the new guy is nice but he’s not Kate Winslet.

  • Frankie

    I’m British (and proud), and to be honest, I LOVE that there are people in other countries, paticularly in America where there is so much other television they can watch, that they are fans of some of our TV shows, especially Doctor Who which my parents watched when THEY were little.

    When I hear of American Doctor Who fans, it gives me a little bubble of pride inside, to think that you’d take an interest in a TV show from your cold, rainy, across-the-pond neighbour, so to be honest I LOVE the fact that you are a Doctor Who fan.

  • Anne-Kari

    @Frankie, and all the other Brit Whovians: You would be AMAZED at the number of Doctor Who fans here in the US. I’m talking millions. And that’s just the official ratings.

    I’m a fairly recent convert, in that my First Doctor was Eccleston. But there is no zealot like a convert, as they say!

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