It's About Time for a Time Lord

This isn't about bashing SciFi Channel; I'll be the first to cheer them for turning a remake of a beloved but lightweight genre classic into a relevant, powerful political drama. So cheers for their successes—it still doesn't excuse them for such a gaffe as taking nearly a year to pick up the BBC's new series of Doctor Who.

Britain's beloved sci-fi icon—a time-traveling extraterrestrial who, along with various human sidekicks, travels back and forth through history saving the world from all manner of alien riffraff—has delighted fans the world over for decades. Except in 2005, when, after a 16-year absence (not counting a made-for-TV movie and various radio dramas), the Doctor returned to television . . . everywhere but in the U.S. of A. We remained the only major English-speaking territory not to pick up the new series, much to the chagrin of Yank fans. Finally, earlier this year, SciFi stepped up to the plate—trumping BBC America, who by all rights should have nabbed it when they had the chance—and thank heavens, because the new Who is a real gas.

In the hands of Queer As Folk creator Russell T. Davies, the show consciously updates itself for a 21st Century audience with mixed but always interesting results: the wonderful Christopher Eccleston brings a daft, lighthearted yet powerful presence to the Doctor, arguably the best take on the character since the great Tom Baker in the '70s. Former U.K. teen pop star Billie Piper is Rose, the young Londoner who becomes the Doctor's latest companion. And after this week's opener, look forward to writer Steven Moffat's stunning World War II-set two-parter; fab guest turns from Simon Callow, Penelope Wilton and Simon Pegg; and the return of the Doctor's arch-enemies, the Daleks.

Doctor Who airs on the SciFi Channel. Fri., 9 p.m.

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