April 27, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation

Today's movie: Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation, 1978 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because like with many other old '70s television shows recently, Netflix has been busily digitizing as many episodes as possible of the long-running British science-fiction show Doctor Who; and this includes the massive 26-part year-long Key To Time series from the "Tom Baker years," the six-arc storyline that many fans consider the best thing to come from the best years of the show's entire original run. Because I too was a Doctor Who dork during the Tom Baker years, so thought it'd be a fun exercise in nostalgia to re-watch the entire series again, just like I did when they first came out (albeit delayed a few years in my case, because of the deal PBS had with the BBC back then).

The reality: So do you know what the best thing is about Netflix digitizing all these dozens and dozens of old crappy semi-forgotten television shows from the '60s, '70s and '80s? It's that you can get your nostalgia fix for these shows simply by sitting down and watching only a couple of episodes, without having to load up your DVD queue with all those endless series of discs, or God forbid spend several hundred dollars to actually own the box set itself. In fact, I've become convinced that these expensive box sets of crappy old TV shows will eventually become one of the biggest symbols in the future of the runaway consumerism in the '90s and '00s that nearly ruined this country; just think of all the thousands and thousands of people who spent $300 to own, say, the entire run of Charles in Charge, just to watch three episodes and then never touch the thing again. That's a hundred dollars per episode to watch Charles in Charge; sheesh, no wonder the bottom is falling out of our economy these days, as it becomes clearer and clearer exactly what kind of shell game this reliance on empty consumerism to fuel an entire national economy actually is.

And so it is as well with the Tom-Baker-era Doctor Who; that although it was quite the nostalgic treat to watch the two-hour Ribos Operation the other day (collecting up the first four episodes of the massive year-long multi-arc story), I found myself at the end shaking my head and saying to myself, "That was fun, but I can't watch another 22 episodes of this schlock. I just can't." And that's always the problem with nostalgia, of course, and why we call it "nostalgia" in the first place instead of just "pleasant memories;" because by its very definition, stuff we're nostalgic for doesn't hold up nearly as well when consumed again in the cold light of the present day, and that in many ways nostalgic material actually deserves to stay in the hazy past where it became nostalgic in our minds to begin with. Although I enjoyed reliving my old junior-high and high-school days for a couple of hours last weekend, thinking about all the friendships I made back then through Doctor Who and all the conventions we used to attend, I have to admit that I was shocked by just how poor the actual quality of the show was back then, especially when compared to the modern episodes with their high-def cameras and Joss-Whedon-style script quality. Thank God I didn't have to spend three hundred dollars to come to this conclusion.

If I had watched it when it first came out: I would've become obsessed with how to secure my own twenty-foot-long scarf, and become the hit of the con-circuit too.

Strangest piece of trivia: It was this particular run of episodes that inspired the re-building of the Doctor's popular robot dog "K-9," after complaints from the Beeb that the machine's loud rumbling was playing havoc with the show's soundtrack.

Worth your time? If you're a fellow Tom Baker enthusiast from all those years ago, by all means. If not, stay far away.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:09 PM, April 27, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |