If I haven’t mentioned it yet, my timing has been somewhat suspect on a few things. I really got into supporting Liverpool Football Club just when they stopped winning League titles. I also got into having AC Milan as my Italian team and then they decided not to be that good anymore.
So it should come as no surprise that I started getting into Dr. Who in the early 1990’s. I have vague recollections of bumping into the occasional Sylvester McCoy episode during an advert of Coronation Street. I recall the odd occasion coming across it in Peter Davison’s era. There might have been maybe one or two times I saw a programme with that Colin Baker fella in it. Yet these were not occasions when I would stop and pay attention to what the programme was about.
So, I actually came into Dr. Who by reading some of the novels (from the classic era, very few New Adventures) in my local library. I discovered later that these were novelisations of episodes. I can’t remember the novels now, because the interest into the novels soon turned to interest in non-fiction descriptions of the programme, especially from a writer called Peter Haining.
It was fun getting insight on the actors and the different focus the programme had from the 1960’s til the time it was taken off the screen. This is where I came across the fact that I was very late in getting into it as it had been taken off the screens. I mean, it was unlikely it would ever come on the screen again.
Even in those pre-Internet days – and I didn’t have access to video recorders – it was still fascinating reading about this intriguing character. First there was a grumpy old man, then an impish, mischievous accidental meddler, followed by an action-hero of the mature variety. From there he was a wide-grinning curly-haired joker followed by a soft and vulnerable cricketing type, before a larger brash well-meaning bounder gave way to a mercurial truly mysterious man who was Time Lord.
Good stories, but a far more captivating central character. On the one hand he wasn’t a very deep character, on the other hand he certainly was complex. I preferred him all the more when it was emphasised his alien nature.
By 1996 with news of a TV movie potentially re-launching the television series, I was as excited as any fan. Finally after nine years of being off screen where I turned from someone who couldn’t care less to someone very much interested in the character, here I was going to get a taste of it for real.
I do remember being taken with the novelty of having the Doctor on the television and actually seeing him regenerate. That carried my interest for the rest of the episode. What has also got to be said though, was I wasn’t surprised when nothing else happened from there.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long after that when the Internet era came along (for me), and I could subscribe to certain web-sites and get reviews on episodes. Honestly, in the latter 90’s and early 00’s my interest in the character waned whilst my time was taken up with other things. I’d occasionally read this or that about him, but I wasn’t a die-hard fan who had to get everything Dr. Who related.
When 2005 came around and I came across the programme, it was a good time for me. I recall watching that first episode called Rose with my brother when he lived in Guildford. Someone recently said that if you watch the last Sylvester McCoy episode and then this episode you can tell it’s the same programme. Sure some of the basic standards had risen, but I can see the point.
What I love about the programme from that time in the early 90’s is what was maintained in the new series. That was a commitment to portraying a fascinating central character. I don’t think Eccleston did enough in the only season to place himself as a very good Doctor, but evidently he did enough to keep the programme on the air and pave the way for Tennant and Smith to excel.
They have indeed excelled thanks to the supervision of very good television writer-producers like Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. I keep watching it because it still tells a good story. It still has an intriguing central character.
Unique characteristics like the regeneration thing and the diversity of personalities that have makes the one renegade Time Lord worth me watching. The stories that it tells even from perspectives I disagree with also show the power that something that is ‘entertainment’ can subtly convey to those who watch it. A programme like Doctor Who is permission to explore such a range of creative expressions it far outstrips any of its rivals on television. The loyal fandom is also something that is compelling and the ability to hear different views on both old and new Doctor could keep me entertained for hours and hours.
The bottom line about why I like it is this – I like a good story. In its ups and downs the television programme that started in November 1963 told and continues to tell a good story. I hope it continues to do so for years to come.
C. L. J. Dryden