Movies and TV
The Americanization of Doctor Who - For Better or Worse?

Josh Kesnik | 1 Jul 2015 12:00
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Doctor Who has certainly risen in popularity over these past couple of years. Even before its resurrection, fans everywhere could speak fondly of the hours they've spent watching the notorious Doctor, an alien who has had many faces and many personalities traveling through time and space with his different companions by his side. However, despite the show's new popularity found in the reboot, some major fans who have been watching since the beginning seem to think there's something rather off. It would seem it is not just the Doctor who has changed, but rather the whole style of the show altogether. It is a style change called "Americanization," and for a British television series, quite the transition. But before diving into how Doctor Who has changed, what exactly is the difference between American and British television?

Doctor Who

British television has always had a knack for certain types of dramas. A good example would be period pieces like Downton Abbey and remakes of novels by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. Only recently has America been able to compete with them by coming out with Mad Men. There's something about creating a setting that British television has done so well, and the process essentially requires more logical than emotional intuition. The setting is so complex that it may be the reason why the creators then decide to make shows with protagonists as likable as possible, such as Sergeant Catherine Cawood from Happy Valley, instead of the variety of amoral characters American television creates, including Don Draper from Mad Men or Walter White from Breaking Bad. This way, viewers don't have to worry about whether or not they care about the characters and can instead pay attention to the plot. The details are what make British television shine, as well making sure the characters know what they're talking about in their respective situations. It's almost as though the protagonist is the side character and the setting is the true lead. Back in 1963, Doctor Who was one in the same - a "Doctor" going out to find adventure and understanding in different parts of time and space and bringing along whoever he can find.

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Originally almost an after school special, Doctor Who was always about the learning experience. Each episode was its own story, and each story had its own authenticity to it. Since the reboot, a lot of the newer episodes have been steering away from the more scientific, historical, and thought-provoking concepts and instead have moved toward more fantastical stories with recurring moral devices. It's not that the audiences have become less involved in the series, it's simply about the show branching out further to more audiences. In order to do that, the plots must become something viewers are accustomed to and relatable to their experiences. British television tends to not do the best job at this. Traditional British television could even be argued to be more technical than American television. One good comparison is the differences between the British series The Thick of It and the American series Parks and Recreation. Both are political mockumentaries in their respected sorts, but The Thick of It has the British mentality of keeping the focus on the plotline (in this case the government) while Parks and Recreation tends to move towards character focus and their interactions with one another.

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