The Doctor and Me

Where I Come From

I grew up with Doctor Who.

I’m just old enough to remember the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, but my doctor is undoubtedly Tom Baker. I remember his first story, battling a giant robot while he was still weak from regenerating, and I watched almost all of the episodes as they were broadcast. I was very sad if I missed an episode for any reason, and the summers seemed weirdly empty without a Doctor Who episode to watch in the evening after playing outside for the day*.

I didn’t care for Doctor #5, Pater Davison, so much and I really disliked Colin Baker’s turn as the sixth Doctor, hence I drifted away. I did enjoy Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor – I thought his blend of battiness and barely concealed menace was perfect for the character – but I was not really all that surprised when the show was halted at the end of the 1989 series.

Still, I am a fan – not to the same extent as for Star Trek, say, but I very much enjoyed the show when it was on. I even watched the Paul McGann TV movie.

A New Beginning

I was very pleased to learn that the Doctor was to return, but since by that time I was both living in the States and not subscribing to cable I completely avoided seeing any of the stories until 2010: I was treated to the Christmas special when we were visiting Britain for Christmas that year, and although I was not immediately transfixed (it was quite hectically edited, and that particular episode is really extremely silly) I could only applaud Matt Smith’s doctor for his gawky alienness.

But still, I hadn’t seen any of the Eccleston or Tennant episodes, and when people dropped terms like Bad Wolf or the Silence or the weeping angels I had no context to join in.

I started watching the first of the new season episodes a few months ago as a way of dealing with the late working I was doing – one episode at at time while I was waiting for a build to finish or while I was chewing through some repetitive testing – but I hadn’t got very far. I had just crept through the Ecclestons (so I knew what Bad Wolf was, for example) and watched a couple of the Tennants.

Then at the beginning of June I was ill. Not my usual “I’ll just work at home so no one else catches this” kind of ill; this was completely debilitating stomach flu, where I was running a fever for three days and unable to do much apart from sit in front of the telly****.

A perfect time, in fact, to catch up on my Doctor Who.

It is amazing how much binge watching you can manage when all you can do is huddle under a blanket and stare at the screen.

So much wonder.

The New Doctors

The new doctors are mostly good, I think. I’m a little sad that Ecclestone only did the one season, but still – the feeling of delight in the new that he conveyed was glorious, even gluttonous: a greedy kid in the biggest sweet shop ever. The writing was a bit uneven at the beginning and the effects were, um, a little unconvincing but the stories were as enthralling as ever.

Tennant was brilliant in the role – I can certainly see why some think he’s the best, even while he can never outshine Tom Baker in my estimation – and the sheer optimism of the stories was infectious. It reminded me of the profoundly optimistic premise of Star Trek more than anything else.

The Matt Smith stories are a bit more confused, but then Smith’s Doctor is often confused and confusing: the Ponds are great, of course, as is River Song, but the rebuild of the world so that the Doctor still has a place in it was both ingenious and irritating.

Throughout all of these I do very much like the theme that the Doctor needs to travel with a companion to keep him grounded: to remind him of what it is he needs to fight for, rather than just wandering for the sake of it.

What’s Next

I’m just getting into the Clara episodes: I’ve seen two versions of her and will watch the first of the contemporary Claras next time I play a show.

No spoliers, please.

[*] one of the truly weird things about moving to the States has been dealing with the practice of showing reruns** of episodes from earlier in the season when there are still new episodes to be shown. This was not how things were done in the 70s and 80s on British television, and so the time slot for Doctor Who would often be filled with a repeat for another programme entirely***.

[**] or repeats, as they are in British.

[***] which even in those days would usually be Dad’s Army.

[****] a level of complete shutdown I have not suffered in a quarter century.

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