I was a big fan of Doctor Who when I was a kid. When I say “big fan,” I don’t mean that I really liked the show. I mean that I had a subscription to the Whovian Times. I built a scale model TARDIS. I went to conventions. In costume. What can I say? I was 10, and didn’t know how shame worked. Adolescence is a pretty effective when it comes to teaching that particular trait, though, and after learning to be embarrassed by owning autographed photos of Patrick Troughton and Peter Davison, I eventually learned to not care either way. It helped that KOPB stopped carrying it. Years later, you’d think that I would have fully grown out of the quintessentially kitschy British science fiction show, but like a dog and a bell, the news that the BBC was reviving the show after fifteen years off the air (unless you count the awful TV movie) had me twitching with anticipation, and the news that no one in the US was airing the show had me reaching for — ahem — alternative distribution channels.

It’s profoundly weird to watch a revival of a show that went off the air fifteen years ago, and was more than a quarter of a century old when that happened. The opening titles look like a Winamp plug-in gone wrong, until you realize that the original titles are where all those demo and visualizer programmers got the idea for the effect in the first place. The new arrangement of the theme song is more orchestral, but still retains the melody from Delia Derbyshire’s synthesized masterpiece and still makes me quiver with joy (see above, re: dogs and bells). The outside of the TARDIS is unchanged, and even more anachronistic than ever (police call boxes were already being phased out in 1963, when the show premiered, the day after JFK was assassinated (yes, I still have tidbits of trivia floating around in my head; no, I’m not proud)). The interior is still dominated by the incomprehensible control console, but is very different than the simple white room of old; I’m not fond of it so far, but maybe it’ll grow on me.

What I am unreservedly fond of are the actors. Christopher Eccleston plays the Doctor just a little manic, cracking jokes and going out of his way to attract trouble, yet with a pot full of anger and grief bubbling below the surface, presumably related to the unspecified tragedy in his past that various characters keep obliquely referring to. It’s a shame that he’s already announced that he won’t be back for a second season, but apparently Billie Piper will be back as Rose Tyler, and that’s a good thing. Like the best of the Doctor’s companions, she serves as much as a foil for the Doctor as a weekly damsel-in-distress, never afraid to talk back or call him out when he’s being unreasonable. The two of them play wonderfully well together, and generate more sexual tension than I can ever remember in a Doctor/companion pairing; seriously, they make the Fourth Doctor and Romana II look like Tony and Angela.

It’s interesting to see the changes that have been made, mostly in response to the fact that television is structured differently than it was back in the olden days. The special effects are still kind of cheesy, but they’re CG now, and you kind of get the impression that some of the cheesiness is intentional. The show has previouslies and nexttimes now, and instead of every story being a multi-episode arc, episodes are standalone, with some vague overarching arcs to tie things together. And no longer does every being in the known universe speak proper BBC English: the Doctor himself has a distinctly Mancunian accent (“lots of planets have a North!”), and the third episode is located in Cardiff (albeit in 1869).

I could go on and on, but I can feel myself descending deeper into geeky fanboyishness, and we all know how dangerous that can be. To sum up, the new Doctor Who is good for the following reasons: the Doctor looks hella fine in a leather jacket, Rose looks even finer in a Victorian dress, the acting is good enough to cover for the sketchy plotting, and the first episode features Autons! And if you don’t know what Autons are, well, you probably went to better parties than me in middle school.