Dr. Whodunit best?

Considering how long Dr. Who has been around (almost fifty years!), I can’t believe I just heard the name for the first time about a week ago. Even though I’ve gotten a little taste of the story through four different media forms, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hear/see/play more. Although I believe each form was entertaining in its own way, I did have a least favorite. The audio drama “Human Resources” by Eddie Robson was unfortunately the one I couldn’t get into as well as the others. Whether it was because I’d just gotten out of two early morning science classes and the lights were dimmed, or just the medium with which the story was told, I’m not sure. I think I’d be willing to try and listen to it again. However, even if I gave it a shot, I think it’d still be my least favorite of the four. I’m a visual learner, and take much more out of things that I can actually see, which is why audio form isn’t really my thing. I like the idea of closing my eyes and trying to visualize it in my mind as the story plays out, but it only takes one little thought to distract me long enough to miss what’s going on. The voices were a little difficult to distinguish, but I did like how they incorporated sound effects to aid in storytelling process. In comparison to the other three forms, though, I felt like the audio medium just couldn’t have the same effects.

The episode, comic strip, and video game allowed the audience to see the characters, setting, and action, which I think develops the story more. For example, I was exploring some websites to get more background history on the story throughout the decades to see how it’s changed, and one thing I found interesting was how the fashion of Dr. Who’s outfits morphed with each new Doctor. Aspects like this need a visual medium that audiences can see, which is another reason I think the audio medium is lacking. The only story I think audio forms should tell are ones that develop the plot further, which can be expressed through dialogue. Any action stories, or ones that need visual clues, such as in “Blink”, should be captured in film or even comic form. The video game was enjoyable because it’s interactive, and thus keeps your attention and involvement constantly; however, I also don’t know how well a story can develop in such a medium. Yes, it has a storyline, but I didn’t feel like I was getting to know the characters better, or that I was even helping them tell the story, since, let’s face it, I wasn’t the best gamer.

In order for a story to be coherent and transcend multiple media platforms, I think the type of narrative should be similar to Dr. Who. The time travel aspect allows for non-sequential stories to develop, yet still keep within the larger narrative. It’s difficult, though, because to jump around to different media, there has to be some continuation of story, but then you run into the problem of people missing one of the media, and then they might be confused. I think, though, that if the story is fairly well developed, and their characters’ “inner life” (as described in Making Comics by Scott McCloud) is well defined, then the different media authors can effectively continue the story.

In the four media platforms of Dr. Who we looked at, there were a few aspects that remained present in each one. In accordance with Lance Parkin’s essay, “Truths Universally Acknowledged: How the “rules” of Dr. Who Affect the Writing”, the Doctor is still a time traveler using the TARDIS, which is an old blue police box, and has one of the same enemies, the Daleks. In addition, the Doctor has a companion in each story, usually a woman. From the four stories we watched, it was apparent that the Doctor’s character is consistently portrayed as an intelligent, friendly, and caring man, and his companions or friends he meets along the way all seem very loyal to him. Matt Hills’ article, “Absent Epic, Implied Story Arcs, and Variation on a Narrative Theme: Doctor Who (2005-2008) as Cult/Mainstream Television“, also mentions how even through the evolution of different actors as the Doctor, there’s a sort of “sameness” to his character.

Hills also describes how even though there are some stand-alone stories, there are still larger story arcs, and parallels to keep the stories connected. I like that there’s still a bit of humor in each one as well, even though there’s typically some sort of life-threatening obstacle they’re trying to overcome, it’s never too serious or scary throughout. Each form of media that elaborates on the Doctor Who story, seems to follow the same underlying qualities, such as the Doctor will travel through time with a companion and together they’ll work to defeat some enemy. Luckily, it can also incorporate new things as time goes on, playing off of current events, and evolving this simple plot to reflect the changes in time. Even with the new types of stories portrayed, the authors seem to have done well keeping the characters’ traits similar, and the basic underlying story themes similar.

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