I first came across Doctor Who in the early 80s, as most of my generation did, on PBS. There was this tall goofy looking guy (Tom Baker) with big hair, and an even bigger scarf talking about Daleks and jelly babies with a robot dog in tow called K-9, who travelled around in a rectangular blue box (what the hell is a police box, I remember thinking) and got up to some exciting adventures and he always seemed to use his wits to resolve a situation as opposed to violence.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love a big loud action movie, but the idea that one can think one’s way out of trouble simply by using one’s intelligence, being smart and clever… that’s a powerful message. The idea, one I saw paralleled in my love of Star Trek, that appearances can be deceiving, that everyone has a right the right to live, even if you’re a right bastard, stuff like that shapes minds.
I was quite intrigued.
Until the week I tuned in, and was stunned to see some other person in the role of the Doctor. This didn’t make any sense to me. And why the hell was he wearing celery on his lapel?
I didn’t know anything about regenerations at the time, and now I’ve seen too many go by!
I turned it off.
That wasn’t Doctor Who, what the hell had happened to this odd little show I had discovered?
At a library book sale, I came across a Doctor Who annual (I think that’s what it was), long since gone, perhaps in the same place all those lost socks from dryers go… And inside, there were all these different stories, and they had 4 other Doctors in it besides the one I knew. Reading the stories, I started to realize they were all the same person, that he somehow changed from time to time.
Ohhhh! It was starting to click in my young brain.
At that point though, my own travels in time and space continued, and I found myself in a tropical paradise that when I arrived didn’t even have a television channel, though that was quickly amended when the 1984 Summer Olympics came along. They broadcast those, and then disappeared for a while. Eventually ZBM, Bermuda’s premiere television station took to the air. Some families had satellite dishes to get channels from State-side, and the rest of the world, of you could buy a little tiny, unobtrusive dish and get TBS out of Atlanta.
No Doctor Who.
Occasionally I would come across a book in one of the shops, or the CFS Bermuda library, and I would try to read it. But it would be talking about characters that I didn’t know, companions I’d never heard of.
I was intrigued by the world, but couldn’t find a way into it.
Then it just seemed to vanish from existence, until I started to see adverts on the Fox channel in 1996 for a new Doctor Who tv movie in an effort to possibly re-launch the series. I knew enough now to be excited by the idea of new Doctor Who!
I quite liked Paul McGann as the Doctor, though even I knew there was no way he could be half-human on his mother’s side. Perhaps it was just an honorary thing…
And Eric Roberts as the Master… didn’t work for me, but hey, for a less than shining moment, Doctor Who was back, and it rekindled my interest again…
Until that fateful day, on March 26, 2005 when Russell T. Davies brought the Doctor back! And BOOM! Within moments of the opening sequence I was enraptured with the fun of the show, the new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston and his companion Rose (Billie Piper).
He was perfect, and he had some amazing companions and great stories, one of the best was Steven Moffat’s Blink, featuring the awesome Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow.
Rose left us, Martha (Freema Agyeman) left, Donna Noble (Catherine Tate)… the Doctor’s best friend… had to be left behind to save her life, while her grandad Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) got to see him a couple of more times, and was there at the heartbreaking moment, when Number 10 regenerates into Number 11 (Matt Smith), all I have to hear is someone knock four times and my throat tightens right up.
I was dubious about Matt’s Doctor at first, and while I waited for his first full episode, The Eleventh Hour, which also featured Moffat taking over as showrunner from Davies, I started working my way backwards through the Doctors, through Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker. I’m currently working on the Jon Pertwee adventures, and then it will be Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell.
Created by Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson and C.E. Webber, Doctor Who sprang to life on November 23, 1963, 50 years ago today. The first episode, An Unearthly Child, featuring an eccentric old man (William Hartnell) and his grand-daughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford). While America was reeling from the assassination of Kennedy, while The Beatles invasion was on the horizon of 1964, this show popped up. Initially, and arguably still positioned as, a children’s show, or at least a family show, the Doctor has traveled between dimensions, to countless worlds, and countless aliens (all of whom sound shockingly English – thank goodness for the TARDIS translating them for us!).
He has shown that every one is important… he’s never met anyone who wasn’t, that within each and every one of us lay the seeds to be Fantastic!
Has shown us how to take down a government with just six words, and sometimes with heartbreaking sadness and loneliness says things like…
“Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.”
It’s also taught me to some times just jump in and go for it (not as often as I’d like, I’m still learning) with a hearty yell of “Geronimo!” or “Allons-y!”
Happy Birthday Doctor.
And what have you got for us next?