Five years ago an animator and puppeteer named Alisa Stern of New York City was working in an animation studio where her coworkers were big fans of Doctor Who. The constant talk and clips that were shared around the office intrigued her, and she's been a dedicated fan of The Doctor ever since. Matt Smith is her favorite New Who Time Lord, Peter Davison is her pick of the 20th century Doctors.
"I love the show because of the sense of history and myth, and the broadness of the stories and characters," said Stern via e-mail. "There's nothing else like it."
Unlike other fans, though, she's begun contributing to the Who legacy herself with a series of amazing Rankin/Bass-esque puppet short films that rank among some of the most awesome fan works ever seen. They're executed with a marvelous minimalist style that easily tops the more "kid-friendly" official releases such as the animated specials Dreamland and The Infinite Quest. (Seriously, they are terrible.)
The Puppet Doctor features the Eleventh Doctor receiving a mysterious summons and being whisked off in his TARDIS to a new adventure. In a bit of foreshadowing for the recently announced return of David Tennant to the show for the 50th anniversary, he inadvertently meets the Tenth Doctor on an alien planet, only for him to be whisked away in mysterious light.
The Puppet Doctor has no lines, just small narrated segments by English composer Scott Ampleford, who also provides the music for the series. Clocking in at less than three minutes each, they are a wonderful, comic-strip length-run of videos that are perfect for little children who may not have the attention span for a full-length episode. My three-year-old daughter in particular loves them, and is eagerly awaiting the fourth installment, due in a month's time.
In addition to the main story line, Stern produced a fantastic Christmas special in true New Who tradition where the Doctor saves NYC from an infestation of sentient snow. Incredibly, she once again outguessed the show itself by beginning work on it weeks before details of 2012's "The Snowmen" were revealed. The snow in "How the Puppet Doctor Saved Christmas" is far friendlier than the murderous Great Intelligence, and The Doctor finds a home for the tiny alien flakes in the form of a fez-wearing and grateful snowman.Flashback Doctor Who: 5 Men Who Were Almost The Doctor
Thus far, BBC America has tacitly endorsed Stern's remarkable work, linking to it through their Web site. There's been no word from across the pond on what BBC headquarters thinks of the series, though we hope that it may one day receive their full support. Currently, Stern has teamed with Nerdist to continue to produce the series, and has a small crew for design and animation work while she produces, directs, writes, makes the puppets and handles most of the digital animation. Animator Rachel Gitlevich did almost all the stop-motion animation in the latest two episodes.
The Doctor Puppet is, simply put, the most adorable thing in the Who community. Here's hoping to see more of Stern's work with an official stamp of approval from the show itself, possibly as a DVD release. Personally, I would love to see her take a shot at re-creating some of the lost episodes, as is being done through animation with "The Tenth Planet" and "The Moonbase" in the next year.
"I've seen some of those clips," said Stern. "They look good! Of course, I think puppets would be a fun way to bring any of the lost episodes to life, but any sort of animation makes me happy."
Thinking of getting married and want to add some Time Lord touches? Try the The Buyer's Guide to Doctor Who Wedding Accessories. You can also look at where The Doctor's been hiding in the gaming world with the Top 10 Doctor Who Video Game Easter Eggs.
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