British fantasy/sci-fi has easily become one of my favorite genres. For some reason they seem to be quirkier, cleverer, more long-lasting than many of their America counterparts (at least on broadcast TV). It’s unfortunate really, because the genre is a way of exploring humanity by taking it to its extremes. Anyway, if you enjoy Doctor Who (as you should), there tons of other shows you should be watching.
First, a quick explanation about Doctor Who: The show follows the Doctor, supposedly the last of his kind, the Time Lords, as he travels through time and space along with a companion or two. He fights alien creatures, protects Earth, and changes time for the better (when possible). Always with a joke. This is the most basic explanation of course, because the show gets infinitely more complicated from there.
Torchwood– this is one of the more obvious shows to watch if you like Doctor Who and if you watch one you have likely seen the other. It’s a spin off following Captain Jack Harkness, introduced in the first season of the 2005 reboot as he runs a branch of Torchwood, an organization established in Doctor Who to help protect the Earth from aliens. Jack is fun and easy to follow in much the same way as the doctor is, with the added bonus that he never changes his face. (John Barrowman is thought to be the British Neil Patrick Harris–he can sing, dance, act, he’s an out gay actor, etc.) This series is also meant to be getting something of a reboot to make it a bit more international-friendly.
The Sarah Jane Adventures– this is another obvious choice for those who follow Doctor Who, though it is geared more towards children, with mostly kids as the main characters in addition to Sarah Jane (a former companion to the doctor) herself. (There is said to be a spin off of this as well, Sarah Jane’s Alien Files, but I’m not clear on how this show would actually work.)
Moving beyond Doctor Who’s world, there is still a great deal of British TV to check out-
Merlin– easily my favorite non-Doctor Who show from England, this show follows Merlin as a child as he learns about his magic and helps ensure Arthur’s safe rise to the throne. Uther is king at the moment and has outlawed magic with the punishment of death, so Merlin must save Arthur in secret to avoid detection. This is a clever rewriting of who Morgan Le Fay (Morgana in the series) and Guinievere, as well as the Knights of the Round Table are. I like that the show went the less obvious route, focusing more on Merlin than on Arthur himself. Behind every great king is…a manservant?
Being Human– this show has actually just been picked up by Syfy, so it will be coming to America quite soon. It is about a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who are trying to come to terms with their…conditions and find their places in the human world. This isn’t my favorite of British series, but it is still interesting and deals particularly with some fascinating issues.
Misfits– Five teens are sentenced to community service for their various wrongdoings when a freak storm hits and they get special abilities. This is a bizarre coming of age story for the group, where they are forced to learn to use their powers and on occasion kill with them to protect themselves. Easily one of the grittiest of shows I’ve seen, it would not likely be allowed on broadcast TV in the US.
Primeval– Nick Cutter and his team of scientists investigate creatures that come through time-space rifts and threaten lives. I haven’t seen this one yet (it’s on my list), but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. There is news of a spin off to be geared towards a more international audience.
The Deep– another one I haven’t seen but am looking forward to, this show is about a crew aboard a research submarine that gets stranded thousands of feet below the water. This one is a bit like Stargate Universe, follow a bunch of people whose personalities clash but must pull together to get back home. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is interesting that Minnie Driver is the lead.
This one doesn’t fall into the genre at all, but I wanted to include it for the sake of Doctor Who fans. If you liked Rose Tyler a lot, you can follow the actress, Billie Piper in her newer show, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like, following her as Belle as she tries to make money by being a call girl (because she just likes sex and that’s what she’s most qualified for) while keeping her occupation a secret from family and friends. As I said, this is an entirely different world, but still an interesting show. (And just how it sounds, there is a lot of sex in it.)