GE2015 minus 42: who? oh, you…

Posted: 26 March 2015 in general election 2015, media, personal
Tags: , ,

I did say at the beginning of this run of blog entries counting down to the general election on 7th May that although most of the entries would be about the runup to the election, that there’d be some less politically based posts. This is the first.

Ten years ago. What were you doing ten years ago today? If you’d asked me a week ago the same question, I could probably only have answered by looking up my blog entries at the time. Sure, I was employed by a company as their director of finance, and enjoyed the job. Laura and I were still together – for a few months anyway – and our son Philip was not quite ten years’ old yet.

A week from now, the same applied. Not sure exactly what I’d have been doing at this precise moment on 2nd April 2005. But right now? At this time on 26th March, I was absorbing the pleasure of having just watched, with my lad, the first episode of Christopher Eccleston’s run as The Doctor.

As Mitch Benn (about more of whom in a moment) has pointed out, it’s weird to think that at ten years, Doctor Who – in its new, er-hem, incarnation – has outlasted many other television serials, let alone other science fiction television serials. Battlestar Galactica? Four seasons and 75 episodes. Longest of the Stargate franchise (save the first)? Five seasons, 100 episodes. Doctor Who, from 2005 to date: 116 episodes. And if you include the original run, we’re at over 800 episodes, with 253 separate stories.

It’d be easy to say I’ve had a complicated relationship with Doctor Who. Easy, but untrue; I’ve always had a very good relationship with Doctor Who; I’ve watched it when I wanted to, and stopped watching when I wanted that as well. I don’t really remember Patrick Troughton in the role; I was only seven when he handed over the reigns to Jon Pertwee, and I’ve faint memories of Pertwee’s first episodes. The autons – or rather the plastic dummies that walked and shot people at that – scared the hell out of me. But I was lucky on three fronts. 

First off, and most importantly, as a young child, I watched it with my big brother. Mike was a huge fan of the show, though not as big a fan as I turned out to be, and I have dim memories of watching the show cuddled up to my five-years-older-than-me brother. So, although they were scary, they weren’t too scary. I think the only disagreement we had about the show was that he regarded Jon Pertwee as an interloper, as he’d grown up watching Patrick Troughton play The Doctor. (Not for the first time, I’m terribly sorry that I never got to introduce Mike to Neil Gaiman. I think they’d have liked each other a lot.)

Secondly, just as I was beginning to think that this Doctor Who thing was something special, they introduced The Master. Roger Delgado was a stranger to me, but instantly he grabbed the screen and made it his own. Of course, Delgado had been around for ages, appearing on television shows that I was too young to watch, although I later remember him in a rather good guest appearance in The Zoo Gang, another favourite of mine. But having an arch-enemy was great for me. There was a baddie, and out and out baddie. Yay.

The third stroke of luck I had was to fall ill. No, nothing overly serious: a bad dose of mumps. But it confined me to bed for a while and a neighbour, knowing I liked Doctor Who, bought me some novels that had just been published. These three:

     

And I devoured them. I’ve still very fond memories of them them and still remember individual bits of each. My favourite, however, was the first. The other two may have been novels about The Doctor, but as far as I was concerned, the first – written in the first person, from Ian Chesterton’s point of view – was THE Doctor Who novel. The definite article, as the Fourth Doctor might – and did – say. 

I read. And I read. And I read some more. I watched companions come and go, monsters come and go… and come back again. And I saw Jon Pertwee’s Doctor regenerate into Tom Baker’s Doctor, and then I saw him regenerate into Peter Davison’s Doctor, and then I saw… well, I didn’t really. I kind of lost interest towards the end of Peter Davison’s run, and when I dropped back in a little while later, when Colin Baker helmed the TARDIS… well, I wasn’t impressed. Now, decades later, I’m quite prepared to agree with Mitch Benn that Colin Baker wasn’t the worst Doctor; he was just the unluckiest. I kind of missed out on Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor first time around, and I regret it enormously as the character probably went on a longer journey within that regeneration than within any up until that point.

The Doctor Who telemovie in 1996? Again, an unlucky outing for Paul McGann. Superb actor, with a bad script that made little sense. I was so pleased that circumstances in 2013 allowed him to appear onscreen for only the second time, and in that 6 minutes he made up for everything. just flat out superb, and it didn’t surprise me at all that many called for some episodes featuring The Eight Doctor. 

And so… 26th March 2005… 7pm. And showrunner Russell Davies delivered in spades. This was a Doctor that I recognised, fun, dangerous, wild and silly. And utterly, utterly different. And utterly, utterly the same.

And despite some dodgy episodes since then, every regeneration has ‘worked’; every actor inhabiting the role has unquestionably made it their own.

Of course, the show is about time. Well, no it isn’t; it uses time to tell stories. And that’s good enough for me. It usually has been, and long may it continue. Happy 10th Birthday, nuWho.

Meanwhile, I’ve waffled on for too long. In the days leading up to the first episode of the relaunch, Mitch Benn had a very special message for friends and family…

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