Friday, April 16, 2010

Characters Who Change (or Regenerate) Throughout Time

Thanks to everyone who commented on my Dr Who post last week! I was pleased we had so many people who read this blog and are big Who fans. With that being said, I decided to write another post relating to Dr Who, but this one actually had to do with character development. If you don't watch the show, stick around. It's not just about Dr Who, but characters in general.

When I first learned about the world of Dr Who, I was shocked that the main characters change so often. For those of you who don't watch the show, throughout the years (1963-89 and 2005-present) 11 people have played the main character, the Doctor. That's a LOT of people playing the same character when you really think about it. Each actor brings their own take on the famous Doctor, making each one unique in his own way. The show explains the change seamlessly because the Doctor can regenerate. He is supposed to be the same man inside, with all the memories of the past doctors, but just have a different appearance. That being said, as I mentioned, each actor brings their own ideas to playing him, as I would expect them to.

This got me to thinking. Why is it accepted? Yes, the plot stays steady, the lore and world don't change (except with small plot changes that build the world each episode). That's all good, but don't people tune into a TV show each week because they have an attachment to the characters? I know I do. Once a character becomes unlikeable or even a little boring, I stop watching. Maybe that is why it is such a success, because the Doctor gets a refresher every few years.

Growing up on American TV, I always felt like an actor change meant the death of the show. Think about it, each time you heard the voice over come on as a new actor you had never seen before on the show enters the scene, you would hear "The part of ____ is now played by ____". Instantly, you knew the show wouldn't last. It's like the same curse of characters having babies on shows. It's like the last ditch effort to save it. One of my favorite shows, Mad About You, is a great example. They had a baby, because honestly, what else was left for Jaime and Paul Buchman to do? A year or two later, the show was off the air. I honestly think the only time actor changes on US TV (and I say US TV, because really that's all I can relate to) can be pulled of smoothly is on soap operas. It's expected. The same soap operas have been on since before I was born (but that's for another post).

I guess my point is, why do we accept it on Dr Who? It would be like a main character changing major aspects of themselves (their looks, and lets be honest, a lot of their personality) in our favorite book series'. Would you still read Harry Potter if he acted a different way and looked different from book to book? He wouldn't be the same character we all know and love.

On that note, how about his friends? We all love Ron and Hermione. What if all of the sudden, he got a new set of friends in each book, just as the Doctor changes out companions almost every season? Would the world of Harry Potter feel as familiar and comforting? I don't think so.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts, even if you don't watch Dr. Who. Do you watch a TV Show because you fall in love with an actor/character, or do you watch for the package, the world, lore, etc?


Leona said...

OOOH, good thought process. I will have to think on it. However, I had to post so you would know I read it LOL

One thought, Rose seems to be THE companion. It was a common thread, the sub-subplot. Maybe, that's how he got away with having different companions... Just a thought.

Tracy Belsher said...

Very cool post. Remember, there was a cast change in Harry Potter (unfortunately due to that rotten bugger called Death). It took me a bit of adjusting to the new Dumbledore - but I appreciate the work of both actors and when re-watching the films, I barely notice.

I guess this proves that a well developed character will resound with readers/viewers no matter who "acts" the part.

I haven't followed Who, but Mad About You - yes, the baby factor made me stop watching. Same with Shrek that case, the many, many babies.

That's because it's the characters journey, their struggle, the climb that hooks readers/viewers. The closure of a happy Hollywood ending (quirky flawed guy gets quirky flawed girl - make sickly cute baby - cue sunset) is finite.

You can only pick the story up a few years later when their kids encounter their own quirky love interests.