Friday, October 2, 2015

Big Announcements and Cynicism

See that picture. Yep, that's me. Taken in 1991-2. Ish.

When the BBC announced last night that there was a new spin-off series of Doctor Who, set in and around Coal Hill School, I have to admit my reaction to the 'big announcement' was underwhelming. The BBC had teased their big announcement earlier in the day having failed to learn that Doctor Who fans are more than capable of imaging better, bigger announcements than the BBC. So when it was 'just' a spin-off and not a Missing Episodes announcement or a new companion or something else that we'd hoped it might be it kind of landed with a disappointing splat.*

That's when I thought of that me. The one up there with the ridiculous glasses and half-arsed beard. The one who couldn't look more like a student if he tried.

That me** was a massive Doctor Who fan. Obviously. But this was the early 1990s. Doctor Who had died with a whimper in 1989. Being a Doctor Who fan in the 1990s in the UK wasn't always fun. Geeks hadn't taken over the world then. Being a Doctor Who fan in the 1990s required a certain amount of faith and a willingness to be called a 'sad twat' by complete strangers who saw you reading Doctor Who New Adventures on trains. Doctor Who wasn't a glowing part of the BBC schedules then. It was an embarrassment.

Only DWM and the New Adventures kept Doctor Who alive.

It wasn't necessarily a lonely place to be. The Lancaster and Morecambe Doctor Who Society introduced me to a number of other fans. I persuaded a random group of my fellow students to watch 'Terror of the Zygons' on the Media Departments*** video and they enjoyed it, even if the special effects were roundly mocked.

It seemed to be a very male place then. I don't think I met a female Doctor Who fan for years, although I knew there were some. I just never seemed to meet them. Now Doctor Who fandom feels more balanced. I can listen to the Verity podcast, which is hosted/presented/podded by a group of women. Not a male voice to be heard there. I couldn't have imaging that possibility in 1991. Well, I could have done but it would have felt very odd.

So if you'd taken that me aside, say on a quiet Sunday afternoon over a bowl of chilli and a pint in the John O'Gaunt and said that you'd popped back from 2015 and that you had some news for me I'd have probably choked on my pint of Thwaites.

The conversation would go something like this:

Me (44) : I'm from 2015. (Don't ask) Doctor Who has been back for 10 years. The BBC treats it with respect. It's become an international hit. When you go to Forbidden Planet there will be American fans there. And Italians. And Russians. And French. And...well...everyone. It's on a Saturday night. There's been two spin-off series already. One of which had Sarah Jane Smith in it! People seem to have fallen in love with Doctor Who again.

Me (21) : What? Really.

Me (44) : Yep. Oh that'd had one go at it before. In 1996. Paul McGann. But it didn't quite work.

Me (21) : O. Anything else.

Me (44) : Last night the BBC announced another spin-off. Set in Coal Hill School. Aimed at teenagers but still it's another spin-off.

Me (21) : Wow.

Me; (44) : Well, not really. We were expecting a Big Announcement about Missing Episodes or a new companion or something bigger than we got so we were mostly a bit disappointed with that.

Me (21) : What? Disappointed! DISAPPOINTED!! What the...[RANT continues]

So to cut this blog short I wanted to remind myself how lucky we are. It might not be the return of 97 missing episodes but it is a new spin-off. A sign of faith in the Doctor Who 'brand' by the BBC - even if I have suspicions about there being no (or limited amounts) of actual Doctor Who. But it's a good thing.

I should remember the 21 year old me and stop being so cynical.

*Like the Dalek mutant Tom Baker slaps against the sand in Destiny of the Daleks
**I was 21. I was in Lancaster.
***For younger readers I should explain that when I was at University we had to use a shared TV and Video, which you borrowed from the Media Department. I know. I used to have to write everything in long hand too. I'm SO OLD.