Legends of Tomorrow Wants to Be Doctor Who, and Is All the Better for It
Last year Legends of Tomorrow was a bit of a redheaded stepchild on The CW. It never quite grew out of the the shadows of its sibling shows Arrow and The Flash, from whom it borrowed most of its cast. The show’s own new characters were dull and frustrating, its villain was uninspiring, and it never really seemed to realise the full potential of a show about time-travelling superheroes. Something needed to change with season two, and judging by the first episode, the showrunners must have looked outside for inspiration — to Doctor Who.
Legends has always borrowed lightly from the BBC’s flagship sci-fi spectacle of course — not least in casting former Who companion Arthur Darvill as the spectacularly named team leader Rip Hunter — but already this feels different. For starters, there’s the classic Who schtick of dropping in on real-life famous figures to find they might not be all they’re cracked up to be. In this case, that’s Albert Einstein, revealed here to be a bit of a womanizer.
Then there’s the decision to briefly drop in on a variety of different time periods for the sake of a few brief moments of time travel humour. This episode alone features the present day, 1942, 17th Century France, the Jurassic period, the Middle Ages, and witch trial-era Salem, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m forgetting a couple. The result is that the episode feels light, breezy, and above all fun, a formula that Doctor Who has nailed over the last few years. After all, what’s the point of sending a group of superheroes to travel through space and time if you’re not going to have a little fun with it?
There’s yet more Doctor Who influence in the way the story looks set to play out across the remainder of the season. Tasked now with protecting the time continuum, the Legends will be looking out for anomalies — like a nuke going off in 1942 New York — before chasing them down and righting wrongs etc. This is essentially how Doctor Who works too, and it offers a great excuse to visit a variety of different settings, have a bit of fun with them, and move onto the next. It’s a great way to avoid getting too bogged down in big story arcs, instead keeping the focus firmly on each episode’s new, hopefully ridiculous, adventure.
If you’re one of the many people that checked out of Legends of Tomorrow somewhere in the middle of its stodgy first season, now would be a good time to revisit. Season one’s arc is basically done and dusted, taking with it the show’s more boring characters, so there’s not too much to catch up on plot-wise. And with the promise of golden era superhero staples like the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Doom cropping up this year, there’s plenty to look forward to.
Let me put it this way: what other show can you name that features a team of time-travelling superheroes who have to dress as musketeers, punch Nazis, and escape a T-rex, all in a single episode?