Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Happy 48th Anniversary, Doctor Who

“Doctor Who” has been one of the most important parts of my life ever since I was old enough to focus on the television set. Growing up, it was MY time…MY 25 minutes a week – much to the consternation of parents and teachers. I always remember my English teacher wearily telling me that my stories would be so much better “if a Police Box didn’t keep turning up in the middle of them…” – but hey, what did he know?

As a child, “Doctor Who” was a stepping stone. “Pyramids of Mars” for example, had me reading up about Egyptian Mythology; I started reading “Sherlock Holmes” after watching “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. I’m sure it’s very similar for children today. “Doctor Who” opens the mind to concepts and ideas you don’t get in any other show – cracks in time, paradoxes on an epic scale – the show takes it all in its stride. It’s the only show where you can have an historical adventure one week and a futuristic one the next. Or how about a political story? Or a dark fairytale? You name it – “Doctor Who” can most definitely pull it off.

However, the most important part of “Doctor Who” is the character of the Doctor himself. He’s the reassuring and trustworthy presence at the centre of the maelstrom. No matter how scary or terrifying it gets…the Doctor will fix it. For children, it’s like a safe way of being scared. For those of us who have watched the show for decades, the Doctor is an old, greatly loved and cherished, friend – one who has stood by you through thick and thin: when things are going to hell in a handcart, you just put on a few episodes and invariably end up with a smile on your face.

“Doctor Who” is never stale or stagnant. It embraces change – which is part of the reason for its success. Lead actors, producers, writers, directors – all change with varying degrees of regularity. We all have our favourites, we all argue amongst ourselves about everything from episode numbers and whether something is considered “canon” to best Doctor, villain etc. I always think that “Doctor Who” fandom is very much like the Ogg family in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels – they fight amongst themselves but should someone from outside the family have a go then the entire clan descends upon the poor unfortunate soul with all guns blazing (sound familiar?).

Fans DO tend to have it a bit easier now though. Those Classic fans amongst us well remember the days with little to no merchandise and no videos or dvds (miss an episode and that was well and truly it). I remember a thunderstorm cut our power JUST before episode 3 of “Frontios” was due to air. I was practically orbiting the ceiling when my dad simply led me out to the garage. He hooked up the small black and white portable tv to his car battery and we stood there, freezing cold with the wind blowing a hooly, watching the episode.

Being a fan isn’t about how much money you have or what conventions you can attend. It’s not about how much merchandise you have or how long you’ve been watching the show. It’s about love – and how far you’re willing to go to fuel the obsession. If you could bottle the obsessive energy of “Doctor Who” fans you could probably power a manned mission to Mars with ease.

I’m extremely glad and proud to be a “Doctor Who” fan – I’ve made a lot of very good friends in this fandom – and “Doctor Who” has always been a joy, delight and comfort. So thank you to everyone who has ever been involved with this show – no matter how small the contribution, it is so very much appreciated.