Doctor Who – This is one of my favorite television shows ever. There’s definitely not a monster every single week, but there are a lot of monsters. Any kind of monster can conceivably show up at any time, sometimes a guy in a lizard suit, sometimes a giant blob the size of the Sun, sometimes maniacal robots that literally want to KILL ALL HUMANS!
This show is not for everyone – it is cheerfully ridiculous one moment, and then takes itself very seriously the next. You really have to let it do what it wants to do, and just shrug off the occasional episode you don’t like.
The Doctor is a time traveler and he rocks around in the TARDIS, which looks like a blue phone booth on the outside, but inside is the size of a small warehouse. In the TARDIS, the Doctor can go anywhere in space and time.
He likes Earth but he’s not from here. He comes from Gallifrey (I think), and he’s nine hundred years old. His race mastered time travel, and then had a war all across time with the Daleks – they’re the robots who want to KILL ALL HUMANS!
I think they are actually cyborgs; there are gross little blob dudes inside them with tentacles and a big googly eye. This show feels free to go south by the way, with the disturbing grossness, anytime at all and without warning.
So anyway, the show can be set in the thriving city of Pompeii one week, and then on a train with ten strangers riding across a distant planet made of diamonds the next and then on a cruise ship a hundred thousand years in the future, when the human race lives on a million worlds.
Now they’ve got a decent budget, too – they make this stuff look pretty good sometimes.
Sometimes. Other times, there are dudes in hilarious suits running around, and you just have to be patient. When the effects or the writing fail you, I hereby encourage you to use your imagination to fix it.
Also, they keep rebooting the show by having The Doctor “regenerate” into a different actor. And they keep finding actors with different takes on it, rewiring the whole show.
Torchwood – This show is a spinoff of Doctor Who, and you can tell because its name is an anagram for “Doctor Who.” This one is chock full of monsters, too.
Doctor Who is so inexpressibly popular in the U.K. that there were actually two spinoffs. One is The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is geared more for children. Doctor Who can get fairly disturbing, so Sarah Jane is only a half hour and they keep kids in mind. I’m not crazy about that one, but I’m glad it’s there.
Because it allows them to make Doctor Who without really worrying about alienating little kids or their parents, which equals cooler monsters, more exciting stories, more peril, etc.
But they do reign themselves in on Doctor Who, and that’s what Torchwood is all about.
Monsters. There’s an actual pterodactyl flying around in the vast, underground command center – but it’s very definitely for folks who like to be disturbed. The storylines are very adult and often sexual and the violence can be extremely graphic and disturbing.
But I love it. Sometimes, due to my sissified nature, I have to stop watching episodes. There was one in which nothing supernatural at all was going on – it was just a couple of regular, human serial killers – and among the most disgusting hours of television I’ve ever seen.
But other times, it’s all about monsters. Also, I forgot to tell you that Captain Jack Harkness is in charge at Torchwood, and he’s immortal. He’s not a vampire or anything, he’s a human from Doctor Who, and for perfectly good reasons he’s indestructible now.
The premise of Torchwood is that there is a giant rift in the universe right beneath Cardiff, Wales. That’s why The Doctor started hanging out there – his TARDIS refuels from the rift – and that’s why he keeps coming back. Anyway, the rift is the reason that monsters and aliens are always turning up in the U.K. on the show.
So Torchwood is a Men In Black/X-Files kind of thing. They watch over the rift and deal with the time traveling monsters which come through it.
One time it was a giant, ash gray demon, like a thousand feet tall, and just having his shadow fall on you would kill you. They showed the thing stomping around Cardiff – pretty cool, and definitely a monster.
In comparison, I can’t think of a single American monster show unless the monsters are vampires – strikes me as cheating after Twilight. LOST ought to count as one, since it had a Smoke Monster in it, and since that’s one of the reasons I started watching it.
If there are some monster shows out there I’m missing, by all means let me know.