Silicon Valley Comic Con 2018

Call the Doctor

Doctor Who's David Tennant and Freema Agyeman materialize at SVCC

Intro | Call the Doctor | Cosplay Queen | Trouble Women | The Little Gentleman | Star Struck | The Prophet of Steampunk

David Tennant

A little what, where, when and why about Doctor Who: the BBC show has bridged the space age with the digital age, having run—with one long hiatus—from 1963 to today. The British watch The Doctor from the nursery to hospice. Coming to SVCC is actor David Tennant, the 10th incarnation of the mysterious Time Lord, as well as Freema Agyeman, who played The Doctor's witty travelling companion, Martha.

The two co-starred in the single finest episode of the show, director Hettie MacDonald and writer Steven Moffat's 2007's "Blink." Carey Mulligan co-stars as photographer Sally Sparrow, who discovers an abandoned house on the outskirts of London infested with Weeping Angels.

Perhaps he requires an introduction, this last survivor of the planet Gallifrey, a chrononaut on permanent vacation. The Doctor is a skin-shedder—the current Doctor is a woman, Jodie Whittaker. Whatever the appearance, this Time Lord lives in his sentient TARDIS, a time-space ship disguised as a vintage London police call box. It's much bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. The whirring and sighing of the TARDIS is The Doctor's herald—a noise once affectingly described as "that sound that brings hope to all who hear it."

As for the Weeping Angels—hereafter to be referred to as "those terrifying hell-creatures"—they're ancient beings who appear to be stone cemetery statues. Even as they hide their blank eyes with their hands, in a peekaboo gesture of sobbing, these time vampires advance on a victim too quickly to be seen. They are masters of the horror-movie pop-up. They bare their fangs in a paralytic rictus, drain your potential future energy, and punt you out of your timeline decades back into the past, to live out the rest of your life in exile.

The Doctor has his share of nemeses. The clanking, eviscerating Cybermen. Those no-neck little monsters, the Sontarans. Most infamous of them all, those fascist ambulatory trash-cans known as the Daleks, howling "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" like a raging Nazi with a cancer-kazoo clamped to his throat. None are worse than the Weeping Angels. They are death itself, transforming living people into memories, into piles of old photos and letters that are left behind.

The somberness of this sometimes-silly TV show is the acknowledgement that death can't be triumphed over, only defied. If E.T. had shown up on Doctor Who, he'd still be dead today. "I am sorry, I am very, very sorry…": When The Doctor tells you this, don't buy any green bananas.

Mulligan is at her best in the scene by the deathbed of Billy, who was kicked decades into the past by the Angels, on the very night he met her. Sally and Billy encounter each other one more time, after all those years, when Billy (Louis Mahoney) is old and dying: "It was raining when we met."

"It's the same rain," Sally responds.

These temporal accidents occasion The Doctor's famous description of space-time as not shaped the way we see it, as a compass whose needle points always to the future. Rather, it's a globe of "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff." You'd have be David Tennant to get away with a line like that, and the endearing eccentricity Tennant brought to the Doctor was essential to the show's appeal … such as the way he wears reading glasses when making his trans-time messages to Sally.

Tease out the inner meaning of "Blink," and perhaps it encourages death-defiance by living in deep study of cult materials and unblinking concentration on everyday life. With its emphasis on peaceful expertise instead of firepower, Doctor Who led TV fantasy away from stories where the characters are trapped in an alien zoo, or fighting 12-eyed beasts in an arena. "Blink" has been called "Doctor Lite" by the fans because The Doctor is in such a small part of it. Here Tennant demonstrates the sort of massive fantasy-hero presence that allows him to come in for 15 minutes and save the day, and perhaps the universe.

David Tennant & Freema Agyeman
Apr 7-8, Various Times
Silicon Valley Comic Con, San Jose

Cosplay Queen