'Who' Is the Best Show on TV?

Today's cuppa: Yorkshire Gold tea (sipped outdoors this morning, watching a hummingbird at the feeder)

Confession time: I've been watching "Doctor Who" since I was a kid, starting with Tom Baker, the fourth actor to play the role (tall, big nose, curly hair, floppy hat, long scarf). I used to belong to a "Doctor Who" fan club, which met monthly in a public library. As a matter of fact, I met my mentor in all things tea, the estimable Tia Cupps, at said "Doctor Who" fan club. So when I talk about "Doctor Who," I know whereof I speak.

At the risk of hyperbole, let me say that, by virtue of its longevity, consistency and boundless imagination, the BBC's "Doctor Who" is the greatest TV show ever. It's now in its fifth decade, has produced over 750 episodes and in on its 10th actor playing the enigmatic, two-hearted alien Time Lord known only as the Doctor (when he's fatally wounded, he regenerates in a new body -- perhaps the single most useful plot twist in TV history).

The current incarnation, starring the quicksilver David Tennant, just finished its most recent season Friday night on Sci Fi Channel -- if you want to catch up, BBC America airs the show one season behind Sci Fi -- and "Journey's End" was a whopper.David_02

Click on the first and third links in the paragraph above for a review and description of the episode (as with all "Doctor Who" episodes,it's complicated), but in brief, it encapsulates everything that has kept this series going for lo these many years.

It was epic; it was deeply personal; it was about the end of everything; it was about the beginning of everything; it was about heroes, martyrs, saints and sinners (and some who were more than one of the above); it was about love; it was about hate; it was about self-discovery; it was about fate; it was about free will; it was about worlds mended and hearts broken.

Perhaps because "Doctor Who" spent decades with low budgets and cheesy special effects, it has always relied on performances and writing to carry the day. In reviving the franchise four seasons ago, show-runner Russell T. Davies -- now replaced with Steven Moffat of "Coupling" fame, but his first season won't air until 2010, partly because Tennant is rocking "Hamlet" in London -- picked up that torch and sprinted with it. "Doctor Who" is at once about the grandest themes possible and about the smallest human moments.

And despite positively prodigious amounts of technobabble, it never loses its heart (even the Doctor's spaceship, the TARDIS, has a heart of its own).

It's also profoundly optimistic about the human race. In "Journey's End," all of existence is saved because the immense knowledge and wisdom of a Time Lord -- a universe-spanning, omnipotent race of which the Doctor is the last -- was wedded temporarily to the ingenuity of a human being.

"Doctor Who" will frequently make you laugh, and it will occasionally make you cry.

So, go tune in, get a DVD or download an episode and come on the ride. It's always a good time to know "Who."