2727: Runtime

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At least there's a general understanding all around that Doctor Who is its own thing.
Title text: At least there's a general understanding all around that Doctor Who is its own thing.


The comic presents two separate conversations, which boil down to the same premise and yet differing conclusions. In one, a particular TV show is being watched, in the other a film franchise.

While it is finding its feet, a new season of a television show (perhaps commissioned, on the back of some perceived interest in the story it will tell, for a dozen or so episodes of around 50 minutes - i.e. about ten hours) is not necessarily going to get everything right in the writing style, the slant it puts on the subject matter, the cast of characters or other production values. Or at least not for mass appeal to the everyman, for whom Cueball is the archetypal representative. Nevertheless, many series do get further seasons and greatly improve. White Hat (the optimist, and clearly won over by the production) is on the way to successfully convincing Cueball to view a particular series, or perhaps to continue to watch it after becoming jaded by its early failure to live up to its hype. It sounds reasonable to Cueball, just from his friend's recommendation, to get over the hump and appreciate it "when it gets good".

A series of films, however, is seemingly a different matter. By substituting 10+ hours of filmed-for-television with something more cinematic, the prospect of getting over a similar 'hump' in a long-running set of sequels. While the total runtime of movies varies, and the total runtime of television seasons varies even more, Randall estimates that 8 films and a season of television will both run between 10 and 15 hours.

There are legitimate reasons why people might treat these situations differently:

  • A television series that gets good can be expected to run for at least five seasons, whereas nine movies is already quite long for a movie series. The ratio of 'good' to 'bad' content is likely to be much better for a television series.
  • Watching a television series is generally more convenient than watching multiple films. While streaming has lowered the barrier to watching movies, each one still requires a continuous block of time and attention (usually between 90 and 120 minutes). TV episodes historically ran from 23 to 46 minutes, and still generally run less than an hour each. This makes it easier to fit the content into a busy schedule.
  • The longer run-time of a movie generally means that a film series will focus on one specific plotline in each entry, whereas televised series are or can be more episodic (the characters are involved in a different situation each time) and can also interweave plotlines throughout individual episodes or episode arcs, so that less time per episode is spent on plots viewers dislike.
  • In the US, a film typically begins shooting from a completed script with only minor revisions conducted once filming starts; whereas in television, writers are usually engaged throughout most of a series' season and can more quickly change unpopular elements in future episodes.

The mention of “after the first 8 movies” might be a reference to the long-running Fast and the Furious franchise, which now has 9 movies (plus a couple of spin-offs) at the time of this comic’s publication. The more recent movies are well-reviewed (rated “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes), even though the first four were widely panned by critics. Someone like Randall, who may have ignored the franchise when it first came out in 2001, may be wondering if he should watch the more recent ones that critics generally like; and, if so, does he need to catch up on the initial movies first?

The title text talks of the long-running British TV series that is Doctor Who. The original Doctor Who, running from 1963-1989 was typically low budget, for its time and locality, though initially considered cutting edge in many ways. Compared to more modern classics, and especially Hollywood sci-fi, it would be noticeably not as good. The revived series (2005-present) has a much higher production budget and is typically much more aligned to modern viewers, who may willfully ignore or not even know of the older episodes. Someone just starting to watching Doctor Who sequentially from the very first season (broadcast in 1963) would have to watch hundreds of episodes (26 'seasons', by some counts) before the series "gets good" to modern eyes, if the "good" point is the 2005 series revival, or even quite a few to reach any given key point in the original run. Thus Doctor Who is considered to be its own thing, and unlike other shows where the fans recommend you suffer through a poor first season to enjoy improvement in subsequent seasons, Whovians might recommend potential new fans to begin with the 2005 reboot (technically the 27th season), which was produced to appeal to all new-comers without even necessarily any cultural knowledge of what had been broadcast up until the long hiatus a decade and a half before.

It is vague about Randall's precise opinion, but even the most dedicated fan would acknowledge that it has had a varying quality/charm/consistency/etc, according to one's personal tastes for such things. Comparing the original run (pre-Millenium, featuring seven key actors sequentially taking on the title role over more than four decades, and another for a standalone TV-movie) with the revived series (continuing the pattern with a similar number of additional title-actors in just half the time), and any number of 'show-runners' (producers, main writers, etc) is one possible point of contention, probably more suited to British viewers. Possibly, in Randall's case, it is just the (perceived) ups and downs in the more recent era, which has been more consistently screened in the US.


[Two situations are depicted between White Hat and Cueball.]
[Situation 1:]
White Hat: You should keep watching! After the first season it gets really good.
Cueball: Oh yeah, I've heard that!
[Situation 2:]
White Hat: You should keep watching! After the first 8 movies, they get really good.
Cueball: Haha, what? I'm not going to sit through eight bad movies!
[Caption below the panel:]
It's weird how it's way more normal and socially acceptable to suggest someone spend 10-15 hours watching something when it's TV rather than movies.

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It has to be said that a first season of a series generally will be written as a whole season (give or take any pilot/feature-length-special that may be the heralding first episode). Whereas film sequences don't tend to be purposefully made/anticipated together (notable exceptions: Back To The Futures 2 & 3, the LOTR and (later) Hobbit trilogies, various sub-sets of Star Wars (the prequel and sequel trilogies, certainly, the OT's second and third conclusions to the story started with Ep4)). Sometimes it runs well enough to get up into high numbers of at least sufficiently similar-yet-innovating releases that satisfy the theme (the Fast And Furiouses... the whole Bond œuvre..?), though sometimes it might stutter (Highlander 2!) and may or may not actually recover. Either way, it risks becoming a made-for-TV-movie sinkhole (as Disney knows well enough), unless it was always intended to reproduce some previously successful serialisation (Tolkein's stuff, as already alluded to; J.K. Rowling's surprisingly popular product). I think, therefore that Cueball is right to more dread the effort of dealing with some multi-sequel monstrocity of a film-canon, compared to whatever degree of First Season Disservice he has suffered or heard that he must suffer before the kinks are properly ironed out in seasons 2-6. (Then it goes funny for 7, 8 and most of 9, until the story arc evolves into something that gets it to series 20 before a bit of cancel/uncancel shenanigans plague the production, spin-offs (including a prequel series and/or an animated version) take over the franchise and relegate the old stars to cameo-actors, the franchise then gets a Series: The Movie! which either does surprisingly well or surprisingly manages to upset the whole diverse fanbase in loads of differing ways... or some variation on all that.)
...but, anyway, it's not surprising. Yet it does probably qualify as an interesting point that fully deserves to be highlit or else we might never have thought of it for ousrselves, in as many words. 03:55, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

I don't think 8 moves are of about equal length to 1 season. I picked 8 random movies from the list of movies I'm planning to watch and it totaled 18¼ hours. Then looked at some series first seasons. The Mandalorian is 5½ hours, Wednesday is 6 hours, Friends is 6¼ hours, even an outlier like Dragon Ball Z is only 10½ hours. The premise of the comic probably still stands though, but can be explained by the fact that with a series it also gives the promise of more hours of good material. With movies if the first 8 are bad there might not be many good ones after that. Tharkon (talk) 04:13, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

They could be talking about a long film franchise like 007. The first eight movies total 964 minutes (roughly 16 hours). For reference, Star Trek Discovery Season 1 is 669 minutes long. It's not that far off. 16:11, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
You picked some BAD examples, though... AFAIK, Mandalorian and Wednesday are straight-to-streaming shows. STS, specialty channel, and non-North American shows (British, Australian) have particularly short seasons of 6, 8, or 10 episodes. A standard season is between 22 and 26 episodes at the very outside, usually around 24. Also, such discussions don't generally happen about half hour sitcoms & cartoons like Friends or Dragon Ball Z, most shows are hour shows (44 minutes without ads instead of 22). Quick and dirty math - rounding to 20 and 40 minute episodes, or 3 per hour and 3 per 2 hours - means you picked a weirdly short season of Friends of 18.75 episodes, their 26 episode seasons (as I recall they tended to hit 26) would be nearly 9 hours usually. Hour-long shows, using the average 24 episodes, is 16 hours. A usual average movie length these days is 2h per (used to be 1.5 until I'd say the late 90s, movies could be as short as 1:15 and rarely hit 2, but SO MANY long movies in recent decades) means 8 movies ALSO averages about 16. The math works out if you use standard, middle of the road examples - no long movies like Titanic or short seasons like streaming shows. NiceGuy1 (talk) 07:26, 21 January 2023 (UTC)
It's not just about the length, although yes, it's rare for movie series to have more than 8 movies. It's about continuity. Movies tend to be relatively stand-alone (although there are counterexamples, like LOTR) so watching 8 of them just to "get" the 9th is rarely needed. Meanwhile, with series, you usually NEED to watch the first season - or at least big part of it - to get the basic premise of the show. It's more likely you get away with skipping second one, if it actually gets better in third or fourth season (like ST:DS9, although you probably can just watch first four episodes then skip rest of first season and whole second and not miss much). -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:31, 21 January 2023 (UTC)
The thing is, movies aren't designed as serial (the first movie doesn't assume there will be a second), but there DOES tend to be some continuity, where the events of the previous movie(s) are still "canon", and most sequels will count on it. Aliens starts with Ripley being in the escape pod from the end of Alien, the events of the movie spring from her being in stasis in that pod for so long, and seeing the first movie lets the viewer know how and why that happened. For such reasons, there are many people like myself who prefer only to see movies in order (I was curious about Glass, so I went through some effort to see Split first, only to be irritated that it's secretly a sequel to a much earlier movie Unbreakable, so since then I've been TRYING to find a way to watch them in order. Still never seen Glass). The main series of movies I can think of that long is Fast & Furious (there's James Bond, but that doesn't count, those started based on books, where they knew full well there were more books), and yeah, people SHOULD see the first one first, to learn the relationships between everybody, how Paul Walker (I forget his character's name right now) got involved, etc. Watching all the movies gives the viewer the significance of things. I think it was Fast Five which had Han give some nods to the earlier Tokyo Drift, which viewers wouldn't catch or understand if they hadn't seen it (which is WHY I watch movies in order, and find it annoying when idiots suggest you can skip, no problem. I ended up seeing Blade Runner 2049 before the original because some dimwits insisted they weren't related, when it's an unmistakable sequel!). This applies just as much to seasons of TV series, each season (usually) counts on previous events from previous seasons. Ignoring the past is considered continuity errors. NiceGuy1 (talk) 22:44, 26 January 2023 (UTC)

The runtime of most movies is O(n), but the runtime of some TV shows is O(n log n) because you have to go back for context. 04:24, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

I was surprised nobody noticed or made mention that with Doctor Who you CAN'T watch from the true beginning (not really) because of all the lost episodes from the 60s and 70s! So I added that to the explanation. I've collected every episode, but for those lost ones all I have is that they have the audio and some pictures so someone made a slideshow as a replacement, or they have the audio and someone animated a replacement (many of these replacements are shorter than an episode, though). And sometimes it isn't even full stories missing - as nearly every story spanned multiple episodes - so LOTS of stories aren't complete. So nobody can TRULY watch every episode from the beginning any more (I've done my best and got to season 3 before I couldn't find time any more). NiceGuy1 (talk) 08:07, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

Is "The original Doctor Who, running from 1963-1989 was extremely low budget, and is generally considered to be not as good as the revived series (2005-present), which has a much higher production budget and is typically much more popular with modern viewers (who mainly ignore the older episodes)" actually true? Most of the discussion I've seen is not particularly kind to the revival relative to the heyday of the third through seventh doctors. It seems like someone just made this up to fit the comic's underlying narrative. An actual citation is actually needed. I would suggest in this case that being its own thing means that the quality varies from writer to writer more than from year to year. 08:21, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

Without having read your comment, I made changes there that might help. But, really, the joke is not about Doctor Who (outside of the title text)v, and while there is much useful info to impart, the point is that it just isn't covered by the comparison and might even need to begiven a Trivia-like add-on for the detail, and leave the main bit as a "it's complicated!" to not distract..? ;)

I think the title text is less about the number of seasons of Doctor Who and more about the fact that people tend to suggest you start with the 9th Doctor. In other words, they're suggesting you skip the first 8 Doctors. Mrgvsv (talk) 15:22, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

I don't know anyone who thinks the revival has been better than the Pertwee and Baker years. Since 2018 there's been no respect for continuity or canon, just one long retcon festival. It's not a story, it's a set of shorts with a theme. Not that the original was too great with continuity to begin with, of course. 19:45, 21 January 2023 (UTC)
Horses for courses. I don't rate much of Nine's tenure (except as a useful re-emergence of the franchise), and the structure of the stories had changed (gone with the serials, apart from a few multi-episode stories, and of course the integration of series-arcs; then the awkward reliance on only a Christmas/New Year episode-or-two without even proper free reign in a mini-season or longer), but Classic was Executively Meddled With in its own ways more suited for the time and there was enough fan-grief at the time for all of that, and confusion by the more casual viewers.
Yes, perhaps a bit too much introverted navel-gazing and unsubtle nod-nod-wink-wink to the perceived obessesives. Some of the writers may be a bit too much fans themselves. And yet others just plan reckless and not as solidly faithful as we might wish them to be to our own personal headcanon.
But that's not unique to Who. And I can't judge the series's merit only on my enjoyment. There's far more than that to the successful commercial continuation. And this is a discussion that could really alienate those we might hope to appreciate the 'real' series, whatever that is. 20:35, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

I interpreted the title text as saying that, although Doctor Who would by any reasonable metric (consistency of writing, consistency of worldbuilding, how compelling and/or realistic and/or complex villains are, plausibility, philosophical resonance, CGI, etc.) be rated as 'bad' or 'unlikely to be good' in almost any season, it is nonetheless good for the vast majority of it. But I don't want to put that in unless somebody else reads it that way too. 15:57, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

To some extent I agree. I've heard enough times "You've never watched DW? I think you'd enjoy Blink..." (or "The Girl In The Fireplace", or "A Good Man Goes To War" or "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" or "The Five Doctors" or... ...whatever the speaker thinks will appeal to the curiosity and/or particular interests of their Who-curious but surprisingly still 'cherry' partner in conversation).
There are some episodes/serials/entire seasons that I'd not suggest as an intro, but An Unearthly Child is valid, as is Rose (consigning the whole available run of of Classic and especially the TV-Movie to "maybe later, just to get an idea"). But there are clunkers (or "hilarious in hindsight", like the rather less impressive 'preview' of the London Olympics in Fear Her) that I'd say to watch along the way through a series but not try to make too much judgement of as you advance onwards to other intresting points (Army Of Ghost, etc) or episodes which actually need quite a bit of prior knowledge to appreciate (Turn Left).
But this is going to be a subjective deal between the existing fan and the 'potential new recruit' that I can only really generalise about. And likely mystify some others as to my choice of examples and attitudes towards them! 19:41, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

Why does it say there are seven Doctor actors (plus one announced) and the 8th already announced in new Who? 8 is accounted for in the movie mention, so it’s 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and “war”, making 6, with Ncuti Gatwa as the announced 7th. Tennant reprising his role doesn’t count as another actor, so it doesn’t add to the count of actors. 20:42, 21 January 2023 (UTC)

Could they have been counting the Fugitive Doctor? 22:04, 21 January 2023 (UTC)
That's consistent (assuming you accept War Doctor as valid, squeezed into the number-sequence as a retrofit incarnation). In fact moreso, as War didn't like to be identified as Doctor, but Fugitive did (when applicable). But also, at a push, David Morrissey, Toby Jones and even Catherine Tate could (for differing reasons) be included. Tentatively, also Tom Baker. Never mind David Bradley or Richard E. Grant as, amongst others, '(p)replacements' to the standard set of One to Thirteen, seen in the post-Eight era although if you include Bradley then, at the very least, Richard Hurndall needs adding to the pre-Eight set as well.
Then there are the Doctor actors from The Curse Of Fatal Death, should you legitimately find a place to include those of them not already mentioned. ;) 16:41, 22 January 2023 (UTC)
Made the issue moot by making it less numerically exact. Also proofed the article against needing editing in the next year or three when Fifteen is current, or even succeeded by a Sixteen. (Could be more than the ~four year average, or less, but it'll be maybe only half a dozen episodes a year, if we're lucky. Possibly less. Even with seasonal specials.) 13:08, 23 January 2023 (UTC)
Ahh Dr Who Numbering ... with 7 Timeless children, 8 Mobius Dr's, Fugative, 15 numbered, War, Two incarnations of 10, 14 being the same as 10, The Curator, The Meta-Crisis Dr, Forced Regeneration 13, Master-Doctor, The Valeyard, The Curator, ....etc .. anything with 50+ years of Lore most of it made up as they went along gets very complex .. 16:46, 23 January 2023 (UTC)

Dr Who classic series is praised for it's stories, and Acting, but it is old enough that CGI didn't exist originally, and Special effects when they arrived were too expensive for it's small budget - It is often recommended to stsrt with New Who and go back to the Classic series if you want to - the remaining Classic series is a whopping 21 days 22 hours and 30 minutes runtime, so it good you don't need to 12:36, 23 January 2023 (UTC)

I'd mention another example. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Most fans will agree that the first two seasons are weak, and I concur (even though it's one of my favourite shows). So you need to watch 20+26 episodes x 45 minutes to get to the good stuff. But "the good stuff" is 5 more seasons so the prize you get for watching the first two seasons is suibstantial...

Good lord. Everybody in the UK knows - even if they won't admit it - that Doctor Who was upturned dustbins studded with grapefruit, a police box shaped thing that (ahem) couldn't turn back into the right form because of a (ahem) malfunction. The TARDIS was a phone booth. Because that was easy, and "Oops, it can't stop looking like this easily recognisable blue rectangle, that's a shame!" is easy. Easy and cheap. Cheap cheap cheap. Cheap and ridiculous.
Hiding behind the sofa as kids because cybermen are terrifying if you're a kid (even if they're just grey coveralls and bits of tubing) makes it culturally iconic, and so does Tom Baker's eccentricity/scarf. But so does anything that strikes a chord! If you're in a country where there are 3 (OK, eventually 4) TV channels, and two of them are publicly funded (and that's where Doctor Who is made!), the bar is very, very low. It wasn't great. It was iconic, but it was cheap crap nonsense.
Eccleston is not everyone's cup of tea when it comes to Who, but at least he (and everybody else involved) ushered in a new era with modern production values. What a time to be a kid.
What...you do know it's KIDS' show, right? That's why the scripts are so seemingly weak.
Did that memo not leave the UK?
Oh my... -- Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 00:55, 28 January 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nice diatribe. Yes, the 'phone booth' was originally supposed to be an "invisible sphere", within which the crew would have vanished from shot (think Al and his time-chamber door in Quantum Leap? At least from Sam's sole perspective..) before it (timewise-)vanished as well, but it would have been hard to film convincingly. Given that Police Phone Boxes were pretty much on their way out even back in Hartnell's day (it was 'not out of place' in a scrapyard, as one of the last acts of the Chameleon Circuit apart from some sporadic fixes years later, and nu-Who seems to have relied upon the Perception Filter and occasional "entirely made invisible" trick and given up on any reason to fix it) I think that was an inspired/lucky choice, beyond what they knew they were actually doing at the time. You can make a glorious new 'thing' such as the H.G.Wells-style time-machine (a kind of steamless-Steampunk brass chair-with-controls-and-weird-perpendicular-wheel), fashion something whose mystery is held within a handy portable future-styled casing that might as well be objet trouvé (the Matter Paddle from Red Dwarf looks like a repainted version of something that would be a Bop-It, these days, and just 'happened' to have exactly as many handholds to it as Dwarf crew) or consciously use an existing past idea of the future of transport and zhoosh it up (the DeLorean!). Writing the TARDIS as a Policebox was a hit in so many different ways, and outlasted most people knowing what a real one was with no real problems... The Metropolitan Police couldn't even get the copyright on the imagery of the thing, when they tried!
(I expect you meant the Daleks were dustbins with melons on, though the similarity between a cylindrical bin and the truncated polygonal pyramid 'skirt' of a Dalek-casing upon which are those bumps is very, very approximate. Some say that pepperpots played a part in the design, but that's officially denied. I've personally had icecream-packaging that seems quite like a Dalek - without actually being a copy - but this was in the '70s so it might have been a "copyish but not actually a copy, you can't touch us for it!' by the icecream company.)
Scarves (or lapel-vegetation, or the Whomobile, or the...) didn't start with #4. ITV shows were just as 'cheap' (if anything, whoever your ITV provider was at the time, Grenada/Central/Anglian/etc) probably had to be more creative with their divided budgets (c.f. Morecambe And Wise's stints on and off the BBC).
Kids' shows... Meh. Not like there wasn't a My Little Pony fanaticism for a good long decade or so, that seemed to go well beyond 'conciously ironic', right? Defining purely by the expected/intended audience is something best left to be gotten wrong by the Marketing Department.
And the show has stopped being its original "educational and informing" concept (alternating a historic-era visit, then a future setting to expound something scientific, to please the kind of teachers that the first adult Companions were for precisely the need of Mr./Ms. Exposition (later often the Watson/Explain-It-To-Me-Holmes character) to act as proxy/relay to the viewers) pretty much let go after the first series (US:season), at which point it became a child-friendly (but not child-coddling) "sci-fi orientated dramatic entertainment show".
But anybody who has any interest at all in the details probably knows much of this (except that I happened to eat Two-Ball Screwballs in the '70s, as most fans would be rightfully ignorant of my own personal particular icecream preferences from five decades back, and I'd be worried if it was actually widely known!), and the kind of viewer who might otherwise be told to "watch from <this point>, at least up to <that point>, before you give up on my recommendation" wouldn't get any benefit out of being either informed or misinformed about any of these fundemental qualities of production lore... So this is just my response to you, and nobody else needs to have read this far... <checks left and right> ...ah good, it looks like it's just us. As long as nobody else comes along later and has to read the unstructured rush of opinion that gushed out of both our variously twisted egos. 04:18, 28 January 2023 (UTC)

Dr Who is about someone travelling in time, so it doesn't matter where you start, or what order you watch them in. 09:45, 8 February 2023 (UTC)

Why not watch only the River Song episodes? In River Song order! (I think that'd start with The Rebel Flesh, technically, and it'd end with the Library/Forests double.) 17:31, 8 February 2023 (UTC)
Not 'The Name of the Doctor' 11:05, 27 February 2023 (UTC)