Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Doctor Who

It's 48 years since the first broadcast of Doctor Who today. But you all know that don't you. I recommend you all dig out a copy of 'An Unearthly Child' and watch the first part. If you don't have it, borrow it. It truely is a remarkable piece of television. I think it would be a remarkable piece of television regardless of the longevity of Doctor Who. Seriously. It's only 25-ish minutes long. A mere blip.

I completed my Starburst column draft on Tom Baker over the weekend and sent it off to the very lovely Jamie Beckwith (of Terrible Zodin fanzine fame) to proof read. In that column I explain a little of why Tom Baker is my Doctor so I will not dwell on that here.

What I thought I'd do, briefly is try and explain why I love Doctor Who enough that I'll bang on about it at any opportunity. Why I'm addicted to & a little in love with a children's television series.

In truth part of it is nostalgia. Doctor Who is the television equivalent of comfort food, at least to me. If I'm down, there are Doctor Who stories that will cheer me up however ridiculous and cheap looking they are now (or even then) - I'm looking at you 'The Horns of Nimon'. It works because it makes me feel like a kid again when I didn't have to worry about pay cheques, bills, work or any of that serious adult stuff. When it was me, my little brother and my Mum & Dad all together in front of the television. When I could be safely terrified by melty faced villains from the future; shape-shifting glowing things; glidy pepper pots with harsh electronic voices and all manner of the worst the universe had to offer.

That's part of it.

Another part of it is that it was fun and clever. The Doctor wasn't some gun wielding thug. The Doctor won by being cleverer than the people he was up against and he never gave up. Even when he looked beaten (or zapped or gassed or...) For a serious child the Doctor was a figure of anarchic joy doing a serious thing in an unserious manner. Defending space & time from the humourless and heartless with just his friends, his brains and a bit of luck.

Then there was the social stuff. As I got older I realised that there were people that loved Doctor Who as much as I did. There was Rick - then Richard - at school. He and I would share dodgy C60 audios of lost episodes so full of hiss you'd think they were recorded at a snake convention. Or ninth generation copies of old Pertwee stories that someone, somewhere had taped off of Australian television and that now were virtually unwatchable but we still watched them. And talked about them. A lot.

And it has been the same since, although with added alcohol. Wherever two or three are gathered together then talk may be of the UNIT dating controversy or why the Master is an idiot. Yes, it is rather bizarre that we can mine an old television programme for so much conversation and that we try to fill in the gaps where the production teams haven't told us or that we write our own stories but - and forgive the pun - who cares. We do it because we like doing it and for some of us - the RTDs, the Moffs and even David Tennant - it has become their job. Doctor Who made people want to be writers and actors. Through the Target novelisations it made us readers and opened the doors to other writing, other books.

There are other things I love about Doctor Who: the fact that it demonstrates that imagination is more important than money; that the Universe is a big and miraculous place; the arguements about continuity that matter even though they don't matter at all; the gadgets; the wonderful idea of the TARDIS in and of itself but in the end I like it because it is entertaining television. It's fun.

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