Sunday, 19 October 2014

Who he?

I've discovered that one of the few benefits that comes with being clapped out... I mean, of more mature years... is that I have been fortunate enough to experience a lot of things for a lot longer than my younger friends. A major claim to 'fame' along those lines is that I am old enough to remember the first Doctor Who, never mind all the ones who have followed since. I even remember when police boxes just like the Tardis really were to be found on a lot of streets,,,

To be fair, I only remember William Hartnell as a rather creepy old man (I was pre-school age when it started, after all) although I recall very clearly my fascination with his successor's recorder. For me, then, Patrick Troughton was the first doctor I have crystal-clear memories of. It was during the late sixties that I also recall my first real fear of anything fictional - the daleks and the cybermen.

The Daleks, those loveable (ahem) salt shakers, were downright creepy to a sub-ten year old but my father assured me that we were safe from them since even I had a talent they couldn't match - I could climb the stairs. The Cybermen, though, were an entirely different kettle of aluminium foil - those buggers could break through the toughest wall (always assuming it was made of cardboard - and who was to say my bedroom walls weren't?).

I admit it. I know how much of a cliche it sounds, but I genuinely and actually hid behind the sofa during more than one episode.

The transition between the second and third doctors was initially a huge disappointment - I'd become used to Patrick Troughton guarding me. Plus, I knew Jon Pertwee from his radio show, The Navy Lark, which was to my pre-teen mind like a cross between the Goons and Carry On. Surely a comedic actor was not right for such a guardian of the universe? MrTroughton saving the day at the end of each of the admittedly short series, and the whole concept of regeneration was, well,

wrong, of course. Jon Pertwee's flamboyant and rather weird character had me hooked very quickly - even if I thought his vintage car was naff. I became a teenager during his reign, newly confident that he could protect us from a the terrors of the universe. Especially the ones in such obviously rubber costumes (and no, I do NOT have an ongoing fascination for adults in rubber costumes). (Much).

But then came Tom Baker and his scarf. And his assistants (you must remember I was early teens when he started). The concept of 'Whovians' hadn't been born then (unless they can time travel for real), but that was probably just as well since I would have been one of the first members - and was limited by the concept of pocket money. The quirkiness and calm of his predecessors disappeared faster than a dalek on acid and I avidly followed Mr Baker's adventures all through my latter teen years. Such was his power, I even watched him more or less as much as his companions (K9 never appealed much anyway).

I was fortunate enough to find myself standing right in front of Tom Baker a few years later, in a hostelry in darkest Kent (a little more scary than some of the planets he visited), and I was enchanted by the big man's dazzling character - all teeth and bonhomie. It's probably just as well I didn't meet him while he was actually playing the Doctor or the embarrassment levels of my adulation might have become too much to bear in later life. There again, I guess I might have got Leela's phone number...

But then tragedy occurred, and when I was barely twenty Peter Davison appeared. In retrospect he was a great Doctor but I was both too preoccupied with being twenty and I had grown through my teens with Tom Baker - Mr Davison just didn't do it for me.

My love affair of the programme took a back seat to more fascinating pastimes (mostly women and motorcycles), and even a return to a Baker (Colin in 1984) held little interest for me. That I married for the first time later that year was neither here nor there despite the passing resemblance my new in-laws shared with one or two of the Doctor's foes.

Syvester McCoy's appearance three years later almost passed me by - whether we were all used to better effects by then or whether I had simply grown up (as opposed to grown up simply), I have no idea, but Doctor Who seemed far more like a children's programme than it had been when I was a child...

It ended before I was thirty and I didn't mourn its passing. I'd grown out of silly scarves by then, and was too busy regenerating myself (not a euphemism, I assure you). Naturally I watched the mini-series with Paul McGann in the lead role in 1996,just in case the Doc had grown up - but (sorry) it didn't do anything for me. I assumed the Time Lord was dead and buried as a TV spectacle.

But then... almost ten years (and a wife or two) passed and with a tremendous fanfare, the BBC told us that the Doctor would be reappearing. I was, along with many of the older generations, a tad sceptical. I seem to recall the word 'bollocks' being used occasionally, but then I noticed who was leading the operation and who would be the new doctor (the ninth, no less) and his companion. Russell T Davies had created some memorable and darkly amusing TV, Christopher Eccleston had portrayed some compelling dark characters and Billie Piper... well, she'd had a UK Hit and had married Chris Evans... perhaps it might be intriguing, after all.

It launched a shade under ten years ago and I was astonished. There was much less cardboard and rubber, for a start and with a Doctor who was quirky and darkly funny. Rose Tyler was just the right side of perpetually screaming, and the effects, script and supporting casts were stunningly good. And the bloody Daleks could climb stairs!

I fell in love with the programme all over again, but within a year we were all told that a new Doctor would already be making a regenerative appearance. My initial disappointment turned to something closer to joy when David Tennant (who I had always assumed would sound ever-so Scottish) took over the role.Not since Tom Baker had I enjoyed the character quite so much, and weekend plans had to change to ensure I didn't miss any episodes.

Billie Piper's farewell as Rose Tyler was great drama, no matter how sad. But then, of course, came Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and Freema Agyenan as Martha Jones (I'll ignore Kylie if it's all the same to you).

We also saw Bernard Cribbins in a compelling role - and perhaps I was among the very few who realised that, as a young man, Bernard Cribbins had been inadvertently roped into a dalek-led plot in a film adaptation with Peter Cushing as the eccentric Doctor...

Of course, all good things come to pass and Matt Smith took over from David Tennant but, for me at least, never with the same Doctory-ness.

I was, of course, naturally somewhat sceptical about a twelfth Doctor, although pleasantly surprised when it was announced that Peter Capaldi would be assuming the role. I'd known him most recently for the series The Thick Of It where as Malcolm Tucker he couldn't complete a sentence without swearing. Just what would be said when he saw his first Dalek I could only gleefully imagine (f*****g pepper pot was my favourite), and just how darkly quirky would he be?

My verdict, for what it's worth, is that he makes a quite brilliant Doctor. A shade darker than his predecessors, more than a shade more Scottish. Where David Tennant was, for me, the new face of the Doctor, then Peter Capaldi is the old face - and I'm not just talking ages here. I like this guy as my Doctor.

And I am still not a Whovian, I promise, but I do NOT hide behind sofas anymore.


No comments:

Post a Comment