williamallenpepper

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OLD SCI-FI NEVER DIES

I follow William Shatner on Twitter (@WilliamShatner).

Shut up. I follow Patrick Stewart too.

I like Star Trek. Captains Kirk (Shatner) and Picard (Stewart) were larger than life, occasionally hammy (in Shatner’s case OFTEN hammy), manly men making the constellations nervous.

I also like Doctor Who, it’s another show with a strong, do-gooder lead flitting about the universe saving humans and aliens from the enemy of the week.

Doctor Who celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its televisions debut in November 2013. Star Trek will see the fiftieth anniversary of its television debut in 2016.

These are both old franchises. There is much to love. That’s obviously why they are both closing on a half century of entertainment. One notable thing about that though. Star Trek has been around all those decades, but NOT with the same characters, or even same show. There have been something like five different TV editions (classic Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise), six films featuring the original Trek crew, four featuring the Next Generation crew, and two films that were “reboots” using the characters (though not the actors) from the original series.

The original “classic” Doctor Who ran on BBC TV more or less continuously from 1963 to 1989, took a break until a TV movie in 1996 and then returned to stay (so far) in 2005. It has never been a feature film (unless you count a couple Peter Cushing “Doctor Who” films in the 1960s which aren’t really considered canon).

So they are old in very different ways. Star Trek is a universe of people fighting their own battles and having their own adventures. Five different captains, five different ships, five different crews. Although the Doctor has regenerated ten times (the eleventh to come to Christmas) to be played by new actors with new faces and personalities, the show has always been about this one dude with one ship (The TARDIS) doing his thing. For fifty years.

There’s a running gag in Shatner’s Twitter feed talking about how he’ll never appear on Doctor Who because Steven Moffat (show runner for Doctor Who) doesn’t want him. This stems from a rumor that Shatner might one day appear on Doctor Who as The Doctor’s long-time, arch-nemesis The Master. Moffat’s response to that was basically that Shatner is Kirk and making him The Master would be too confusing.

Funny, sure (if you’re a geeky fan of both franchises), but there’s also some truth to it. While both Star Trek and Doctor Who share a hopeful outlook humanity’s potential and heed Bill & Ted’s credo to “be excellent to each other”, they are pretty different animals. Star Trek is straight-up sci-fi. The futuristic stuff on display is grounded, at least to some extent, in scientific reality and/or plausibility.

Doctor Who, on the other hand, doesn’t give a shit about science. It is straight up science-fantasy Where Star Trek will offer you real-sounding, science-babble about whipping around the sun or piercing warp bubbles or whatever to achieve time travel, Doctor Who just says, “Screw it. There’s a bunch of wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff. That’s just how it works. Moving on to the next plot point.” Except for the “screw it” part, that is literally how the tenth Doctor explained the space-time continuum in perhaps the quintessential “new” Who episode “Blink”, which is the one you should show your spouses if you want to convince them to love this show as much as you do.

IDW Publishing ran a limited, eight-issues series that had the Doctor and his companions crossing over from their universe in the TARDIS to the bridge of the Enterprise in the Star Trek universe where they fought side-by-side with Starfleet against the Trek foe the Borg who were now allied with Who nemesis the Cybermen. It was fun seeing the two franchises together -sort of like a mash up of your different action figure sets on the living room floor when you’re a kid.

But still, the series somehow diminished both universes a little. The Enterprise crew came off a little more stiff and coldly military than they normally are and the Doctor and his companions came off somehow more comedic and less heroic.

So maybe there’s room for these two franchises to co-exist, as I hope they do for the next fifty years. I’m not going anywhere.

But I think I will watch them on separate nights.

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