Ages and ages ago, like most of my 8th grade peer group, I’d stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights (or I’d videotape the episodes) and watch this British sci-fi show called Doctor Who.
Being a British show, and being sequestered to late nights on our local PBS station made it hard to find out much about this show–its history, how far behind we in the states were (one season, until the BBC started exporting earlier episodes of the show), etcetera. In fact, we were being fed shows featuring the fourth incarnation of the lead character: “Doctor Who,” a Gallifreyan “time lord” who travelled through time in a “Police Box” and could regenerate into a different body when the old one had worn out or was dying. This would be like trying to join the TV series “Dallas” right after J.R. Ewing had been shot.
Except it wasn’t quite like that.
Each episode was kind of a stand-alone item, with common threads like the Doctor’s history and his travelling companions running through the episodes to maintain some sort of cohesion from one episode to the next.
Eventually, I found a few books on the series. I’d discovered just how long it had been on–nearly 20 years to that point–how many Doctors had gone before, who they were, and what their stories were like. But that didn’t come until later.
And then the fourth Doctor regenerated. He regenerated into “my Doctor.” Every “Whovian” has their Doctor–the one they associate most closely and dearly with the role. The fifth Doctor was mine: he was young, fun, and the show brought a new-found modernness to it. And then came the 20th anniversary episode: “The Five Doctors,” featuring, as you could guess, the five Doctors in one episode (well, three really, as the actor who played the first had died and was replaced by a look-alike, but he was active in the episode; and the actor who played the fourth Doctor didn’t want to come back to the role at the time because he didn’t want to be typecast). My friend group was thrilled: all five Doctors! In one episode! What a great idea for the show!
This was 1983. It wasn’t until a few years later that I’d discovered there had been a “Three Doctors” episode.
We all graduated from high school. But I still watched Doctor Who. And so it was a big deal when Doctor Who celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special episode…Well, not terribly special like “The Five Doctors”, but it was “special.” The show had become bloated, costing the BBC too much money, and not attracting the ratings and foreign purchases they’d been hoping for.
They put the show on “hiatus” in 1989.
Oh, I was fan through some of those years, even dressing the role, somewhat regrettably. But I enjoyed watching it and still retain some of those old stories.
It’s all come back lately. See, in 2005, the BBC revived the show, and my entire family has become huge fans. So after Patrick and I got home from the Gopher football game on Saturday, we watched the new big special episode: the 50th anniversary episode.
“My Doctor” wasn’t in it, really–there was a fuzzy shot of him that I’m pretty sure was pulled from one of his original episodes, in fact there seemed to be those from several of them. But it all fit in the episode and helped make it a great episode that really seemed to move the story forward while honoring the past.
And this time, Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, agreed to be in the show.
I don’t know if I’m as huge a fan as I once was. I mean, I enjoy following it, but for some reason, I just haven’t been as excited about the shows as my family and have actually missed a few over the last few seasons, and can’t recite the plot points as well as Patrick can. But I can say that I do kind of enjoy being asked about the old shows…
You know. The ones from 30 years ago.
See you tomorrow.