This blog logged its 100,000th visit last night, according to Sitemeter. The reader was based in Auckland, New Zealand, and surfed here from Paul Scoones' blog, A Life More or Less Ordinary. I've known Paul for at least 20 years. He started New Zealand's first Doctor Who fanzine, TSV, and he's one of the people who kept faith with the science fiction while it was off-air for the largest part of 16 years. I was one too, writing for TSV and later getting the chance to write officially licensed Doctor Who novels and audio dramas.
Nowadays Doctor Who is a smash hit TV show, just as it was in the mid-1960s. Most every kid in Britain knows the show, the TARDIS, the Daleks and all about the sonic screwdriver. Last year's Christmas special got some 13 million viewers [thanks in no small part to a guest appearance by Kylie Minogue], figures the show hasn't enjoyed since the ITV strike in the 1970s when UK viewers were left with a choice between BBC1 and BBC2. There's a fourth series on the way, three more specials in 2009 and no doubt more to follow after that. It's a pop culture phenom once more.
Doctor Who's also generating spin-offs. Autumn saw The Sarah Jane Adventures, an excellent show for younger audiences starring Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor's former companion, Sarah Jane Smith. And last night a more adult spin-off, Torchwood, returned for its second series. The first run of Torchwood felt like something of a mixed bag to me, with an inconsistency of tone and hard to like characterisations. Judging by last night's effort, the show's makers have recognised those flaws.
There was a lighter feel, and plenty of sly digs at the first series' lesser tropes. The Torchwood team actually worked as a team instead of bickering, and the trailer of forthcoming attractions for later in the new series promised plenty of excitement. All in all, a strong return that built on past strengths and overcome previous weaknesses. Last year I found it hard to muster much enthusiasm for Torchwood. Looks like I'll be making more of an effort this time.