Doctor Who
"Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!" So concludes the first exchange between feisty Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and her new acquaintance, the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). Although Rose doesn't know what this cockney dude has to do with the sudden rash of killer mannequins roving around the basement of a Harrods-type department store, at least she could take solace in knowing that this man saved her from their murderous clutches. Yep, Whovians, the Doctor is back on American TV after a 10-year hiatus, and he's sporting a leather jacket and plenty of 'tude. Say, can anyone remember the other Doctor who began his stint battling the Autons? (Answer later.) The ho-hum plot — the Autons want to wipe out the human race, again — served as salad dressing for the episode's real function, which was to reintroduce us to our favorite Time Lord. Veteran Whovians and novices learned the following: Gallifrey went up in flames due to a civil war (although it remains to be seen if the Master and the Rani are still about); the Doctor is still half-human (the continuity of the 1996 Paul McGann turkey still applies); the sonic screwdriver is as indispensable as ever; Rose ranks with Jamie, Leela and Ace as the Doctor's toughest companion; conspiracy theorists are on to the Doctor (if only Clive had pictures of the Doctor's other selves, the joke would've been perfect). Anyone remotely familiar with Who knows how cheap it used to look (part of its charm, actually), but now the Beeb has gotten wise and produced it on film, which only enhances the show's signal strengths — its strong characters and resourceful storytelling. (Before I forget, the answer to the trivia question: Jon Pertwee.) The throwaway moments were the choicest — the Doctor leafing through the magazine; battling the animated plastic arm as Rose prattles in the foreground; Rose's flirtatious mum. They perfectly balanced the fantastic, even absurdist nature of the adventures. This was even more evident in the second episode, a tale worthy of the late Douglas Adams. Not only did we learn that the TARDIS (love that retro blue police box!) alters brain waves so as to facilitate communication with other species, but we found that the Doctor could alter Rose's cell phone so she could call her mum from five million years into the future! Someone slow down the spinning of my head. OK, so I'm not wild that humanity will eventually wind up as a hide that needs moistening (I call it the Katherine Helmond-circa-Brazil theory of evolution), but at least I won't be around for it. I will, however, be around for Doctor Who for as long as Sci Fi continues to air it, and I hope that will be for a very long time. Welcome back, Doc!