Friday, November 22, 2013

The Night Before a Whovian Christmas

I was at the first day of the BBC's Official Doctor Who Convention at Excel today. And whilst it came with a lot of queuing it was a brilliant day. The culmination for me of the run up to tomorrow's Day of the Doctor.

I've become increasingly excited as we've crept towards the 23rd November, possibly to the annoyance of all my non-Doctor Who fan friends and family. There's been Paul McGann's return and regeneration. There's been last night's rather fantastic An Adventure in Space and Time, which I'm afraid to say had me blubbing away through the last ten minutes or so. There's been trailers. There's been programmes on radio and television. There's been posters. There's been newspaper reports and (more) rumours of Missing Episodes. It's been brilliant.

It's like Christmas.

Before Christmas. We've still got that Christmas Special and regeneration to come. The Eleventh Doctor's time is almost up. The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, sits waiting in the wings. Doctor Who carries onwards and upwards.

The international nature of Doctor Who fandom was bought home to me today too. Is there a country where the Doctor doesn't have a fanbase these days? Probably but it's a rather giddy experience meeting German Doctor Who fans. Or sitting next to Russian fans. Or realising that The Day of the Doctor is being shown live in 84 countries. It'll be in cinemas. It'll be in 3D.

As an old school fan. As someone who remembers how oddly Doctor Who fans were perceived in the late 1980s and 1990s. As someone who remembers how unloved it was by the BBC and how badly those making it were treated as they were starved of support and funds. As someone who watch Season 24 and still came back for Season 25 to be rewarded with the simply magnificent Remembrance of the Daleks. As all those things (and more) this validation of the greatness of Doctor Who feels both wonderful and uncomfortable.

On the one hand I want to stand on the rooftops and shout 'SEE I WAS RIGHT' but I don't need to. The BBC is doing that for me. Steven Moffat is doing it. On the other I feel as dazed and confused as someone who watches their lower division football team climb up to the top of the Premier League. Where were you when we were shit? Where were you all when I needed you?

Then I remember it doesn't matter. You're here now. Welcome to the party. There's drinks and nibbles. There's fun and games. There's arguments but most of them don't matter. It's just a joy to be here.

I've been watching Doctor Who for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of life are tied up with my earliest memories of Doctor Who.

Like Nick Hornby's Arsenal fixation I sometimes wonder if Doctor Who has come to mean too much.

That a lot of my politics comes not from the works of Marx or Benn but from Doctor Who sometimes embarrasses me a little. That Rose Tyler's 'Chip Shop Speech' about the Doctor is how I wish I could behave when it comes to politics : "You don't just give up. You don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say "no"! You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away!" That's my definition of political courage.

Is it bad that I set my moral compass with the assistance of a fictional character in an almost 50 year old children's programme? Possibly but I don't care. Or most of the time I don't.

I've spent a lot of time and money on Doctor Who since watching - and probably not understanding much about them - back in 1975/1976. I've met a lot of good people as a result and I've been vastly entertained. I've written about it, talked about it and dreamt about it. I've seen - or listened to - every episode.

I love the discussions, the obscure theories and the rumours. I love the fact that the old series could pop a rubbish monster into a story and still produce something magnificent: I'm looking at you Skarasen and Magma Beast and plastic Kinda snake. I love the intelligence of it and the silliness. I love The Web Planet, The Horns of Nimon and The Happiness Patrol. I think the first episode of An Unearthly Child is one of the finest pieces of television ever made. Full stop.

I love Hartnell's grumpy grandfather, Troughton's interfering explorer and Pertwee's neck rubbing James Bond. I adore Tom Baker. I loved rediscovering the unshowy brilliance of Davison. I love Colin Baker's bombast and McCoy's devious angel. I love McGann's coolness. I love that Davison, Colin Baker, McCoy and McGann have been given a second lease of life by Big Finish and given a chance to show what they could have done if the BBC had cared. I like Eccleston's seriousness and Tennant's joy de vive. I love Matt Smith's alienness.

I know, in the end, it is just a television programme but it's the best bloody television programme ever made.

Here's to another fifty years.

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