The Doctor and I

The first time I watched Doctor Who was … well, I don’t remember the first time I watched Doctor Who. What I can say with some confidence is that it was probably a happenstance, some otherwise irrelevant day back around 1980 or so where somehow the TV got left on PBS, which as far as I knew at the time was the exclusive domain of shows like 321 Contact, The Electric Company and Sesame Street. And, the exposure was almost certainly accidental, but there it would have been in all its grainy, campy bombast.

I’m pretty sure the first time the TARDIS made its iconic TARDISy sound -- which I'm willing to bet you are most likely now hearing in your head -- or the Doctor comically offered someone a Jelly Baby, I was hooked for life. And, while I don’t recall the first time I watched the show, I do remember countless viewings since, and now here some thirty years later it’s still my old friend on the television.

Even now, watching the trials, travels and travails of the Doctor and his misfit band of colleagues, compatriots and companions makes me feel strangely and unexpectedly like a child. Granted, it’s apparently a child that has an unnatural penchant for alliteration, but a child all the same. The same way that the right concoction of aromas can send you spiraling across a rift in time to your grandmother's kitchen, so too do the notes of the theme song and the stories of the Lord of Time effect the same within me.

And I guess I know, at least in part, what that means. Doctor Who is my all time favorite television show.

News of Mary Tamm’s recent death, along with the passing of Elizabeth Sladen earlier in the year, both of whom played companions to the Doctor in the early 80s, has been sadder for me than the death of other celebrities who were in the twilight of their careers. Usually I hear news of some relatively famous actor’s death, think, ‘oh he or she was good in that one movie,’ and then don’t remember they died again until the In Memorium segment of the Oscars. But, somehow Ms. Sladon’s death keeps coming up to me in one context or another, and each time there is a wave of melancholy and loss.

Sarah Jane Smith, Harry, Leela, Romana -- versions one and two -- K-9, hell even Nyssa and Adric, are more familiar and relatable to me than most of my second cousins. Tom Baker, the fourth to play the Doctor, was my Doctor for a very long time, I suppose because he himself was the Doctor for so long. And, he came along at a hard part of my childhood, at a time where I didn’t feel like I had a lot of friends and what I was looking for was safe harbor in a universe that welcomed me. A lot of people have or had imaginary friends, and in a way the Doctor was mine.

I remember attending some kind of Doctor Who event held at a local library when I was around ten, a small gathering mini-convention with people wearing ridiculous scarfs, booths selling books and figurines, and even a group episode viewing. Genesis of the Daleks, I think. There were no celebrities there, no representatives of the show, no official backing that I can recall all these years later, but this was one of my first experiences of feeling part of a shared community and how powerful a feeling that can be. It was validation that the show could be important to me, because it was important to a lot of people.

Now, the show comfortably retains and even grows its status as a phenomenon, and I love it as much as I ever have. I love its blatant flaws, its idealistic optimism, its plot holes, its fearlessness and all the quirks that define the ultimate quirky show. The rules that apply to all other forms of television for me, the constraints and demands that chart a course to Quality Television (in capital letters), are irrelevant and thrown out the window for the stories of the Doctor. I am able to enjoy things with Doctor Who that I can’t fathom enjoying in other shows. I don’t know if that’s because it has a special charm that shields it from the things that drag other shows down, or whether I just have a soft spot that blinds me. And, honestly, I don’t care either way. I’m just glad the story exists.

There is no grand point to be made here. It would be true enough to say this article could be reduced down to “Hey, I really like Doctor Who.” That is, after all, a true statement. But, there’s a reason this show has been on the air now for almost a half century. It is a show that, for a variety of reasons, ends up meaning something bigger to people. To some it speaks to us at a core level, provides some quality that we need. It’s a kind of television that doesn’t come around often, like Star Trek or Firefly, a tale that speaks to people in a very specific, oddly personal way.

I am comfortable taking a moment to celebrate that, because there are so many distractions, so many transitory media experiences that don’t come close, it’s worth pointing out those that do. So, as the latest trailer for the latest season makes its way around the internet, and my mind spins its annual web of anticipation, I guess I just wanted to take a moment and say: Hey, I really like Doctor Who.

Comments

I really like Doctor Who too.

I've never seen an episode.

I suspect I would greatly enjoy it, but, much like decades-long running comic books, I have no idea where to jump in and start.

I didn't get onboard until Eccleston and I don't feel like I'm missing much from not having watched the earlier stuff, so that seems a reasonable hopping on point.

Stele wrote:

I've never seen an episode.

I suspect I would greatly enjoy it, but, much like decades-long running comic books, I have no idea where to jump in and start. :?

It's not like comic books. It hasn't been running continuously. It's more like Star Trek and The Next Generation.

Original series ran from 1963-1989. Then the new series started in 2005.

You can safely start watching from the beginning of the new series - it's a good bet that the lion's share of its viewers did exactly that.

Stele wrote:

I've never seen an episode.

I suspect I would greatly enjoy it, but, much like decades-long running comic books, I have no idea where to jump in and start. :?

I had watched a few episodes as a kid, but this summer I decided to start watching the relaunch series (starting in 2005 I believe). I recommend starting there.

On another note, wouldn't it be amazing if Tell Tale were to make a Doctor Who adventure game?

Hm. Apparently the '05 season and the 5 that follow it are on Amazon Prime Instant. Maybe I will do that then.

Stele wrote:

I've never seen an episode.

I suspect I would greatly enjoy it, but, much like decades-long running comic books, I have no idea where to jump in and start. :?

juv3nal wrote:

I didn't get onboard until Eccleston and I don't feel like I'm missing much from not having watched the earlier stuff, so that seems a reasonable hopping on point.

Same here, and I concur that it's the perfect place to start. Since the show had been off the air for over a decade, it represents something of a reset button. It still exists in the same continuity as the old show, but aside from perhaps the first episode or two where you are learning the rules of the Doctor Who universe, you'll never feel like the show expects you to know anything that came before.

Hey, I really like Doctor Who too.

For many of the same reasons you mention. Takes me back to long Saturday afternoons collapsed in a bean bag on the basement floor spiraling across space and time for 2-3 hours at a sitting. I thought the British must have a lot of love for long sci-fi shows, and I still remember the shock when I realized, years later, that they were originally half hour serials later stitched together for US television.

My favorite doctor is an unusual choice among fans: Peter Davison. His were the first episodes I ever saw... plus, he wore a celery stalk on his jacket. Yes, celery.

I'm a new Whovian, but I looove Doctor Who. I've tried to watch some of the classics and it's...different...

Amen, brother.

I think a lot of Americans (and maybe other non-UK folks) who watched the original series before it was cancelled have a different appreciation of the show than that of the British. Instead of airing in the family hours in half-hour chunks, we often saw 90-minute-plus marathons of whole serials late (for us kids) at night on a Friday or Saturday. We never saw it on the cover of TV Guide, and it wasn't something our parents watched when they were kids. It was personal, and new, and deeply weird. And awesome.

For me, Doctor Who kindled an interest in all British TV of the time, with their dull two-camera shooting and filmed outdoor shots and emphasis on dialog and acting. I loved that stuff, but none of them more than Doctor Who. Still do, really.

pgroce wrote:

Amen, brother.

I think a lot of Americans (and maybe other non-UK folks) who watched the original series before it was cancelled have a different appreciation of the show than that of the British. Instead of airing in the family hours in half-hour chunks, we often saw 90-minute-plus marathons of whole serials late (for us kids) at night on a Friday or Saturday. We never saw it on the cover of TV Guide, and it wasn't something our parents watched when they were kids. It was personal, and new, and deeply weird. And awesome.

For me, Doctor Who kindled an interest in all British TV of the time, with their dull two-camera shooting and filmed outdoor shots and emphasis on dialog and acting. I loved that stuff, but none of them more than Doctor Who. Still do, really.

This. I found it in college. We were babysitting a drunken party, and one of the guys was going through the channels (this was back when you had to twist a knob for that ). There was this blue wall/box, then a curly head popped out the door and said, "Pardon me, but is this Heathrow?" with this huge, engaging grin. The whole room started laughing, and we ended up watching it through to the end. Then I went and found out what it was and we started watching it on purpose.

It is a show that, for a variety of reasons, ends up meaning something bigger to people. To some it speaks to us at a core level, provides some quality that we need.

The Doctor is the friend (or god) we wish we had: witty, somber, gentle, dangerous, powerful, meek, and most importantly... tangible. He was there in all the important ways for those favored few who got to meet him, though he worked quietly for the good of all.

I believe I like the Doctor because he speaks to what C.S. Lewis described using the German word Sehnsucht - an "inconsolable longing" for something indescribable but essential.

I watched a couple of the old shows back when I was little. It was whichever Dr had the really, really long scarf and umbrella. Never got around to watching the most recent ones. Netflix Canada being the wasteland that it is, I can't watch them that way either.

Once I have finished my half-marathon at the end of September, I may do more research into finding out how to watch the first X seasons since 2005ish.

"In my presence, you are an ant, a termite! Abase yourself, you groveling insect!"

Best line from the entire series.

Not to nit pick or anything but it's Liz Sladen.

*Legion* wrote:
Stele wrote:

I've never seen an episode.

I suspect I would greatly enjoy it, but, much like decades-long running comic books, I have no idea where to jump in and start. :?

It's not like comic books. It hasn't been running continuously. It's more like Star Trek and The Next Generation.

Original series ran from 1963-1989. Then the new series started in 2005.

You can safely start watching from the beginning of the new series - it's a good bet that the lion's share of its viewers did exactly that.

Not only that but other than the occasional two part episodes, you can kinda watch them in any order. That's what my mom does. If she sees an episode playing on BBC America while channel surfing, she'll stop to watch. Every episode for her is either a different doctor or companion. And she really likes Dr Who too. One of the few things we have in common, actually, which makes it more precious to me.

Purely by accident: PBS, 10PM Saturday night, sometime in the early eighties. I'm twelve-ish years old, and tonight, Jon Pertwee is on as the Doctor with Jo Grant and the UNIT gang as his entourage. My mom, brother, and I were riveted from the opening credits. The show was -- and is -- singularly mysterious, witty, cheesy, wondrous, thought-provoking, and delightful. It only grew better with Tom Baker, of course, and somehow remained consistently enjoyable through all of the cast changes. As was said, it was a real boon to see entire four- and six-episode story arcs in one sitting. It felt like each one was a little movie; I couldn't imagine watching it any other way.

Thanks for the flood of positive memories. It probably comes as no surprise that it's been such a memorable part of so many people's lives, but it's nice to be reminded every once in a while.

chaosmos wrote:

My favorite doctor is an unusual choice among fans: Peter Davison. His were the first episodes I ever saw... plus, he wore a celery stalk on his jacket. Yes, celery.

Well how ELSE was he supposed to detect gasses he was allergic to!

Also that gives me the perfect excuse to repost this.

I have to say I grew up in the Peter Davison era myself so he tends to still be the Doctor that my brain defaults to. Although I'm still fond of Tom Baker, most of his stuff I watched years later.

Indignant wrote:

"In my presence, you are an ant, a termite! Abase yourself, you groveling insect!"

Best line from the entire series.

Not to nit pick or anything but it's Liz Sladen.

My favorite (so far) is

Dalek: You are superior in only one respect.
Cyberman: What is that?
Dalek: You are better at dying.

I’m pretty sure the first time the TARDIS made its iconic TARDISy sound -- which I'm willing to be you are most likely now hearing in your head

DING. 100pts.

During my teen years I would watch episodes every weekend on PBS as it was typically preceding my favorite show at the time, Red Dwarf. PBS doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to their scheduling, so each week I was offered a seemingly random set of Doctor and companions. Having never seen a regeneration episode or any episodes that explain it, I was mildly confused by the rotating cast of characters fighting the same monsters each week. For a while I thought the show was about a sentient time machine capturing people and sending them into danger.
I eventually left the nest, forgot about the series and went on with my life, until the new series started and shed all those memories in a new, coherent light. Doctor Who is genuinely my favorite show on the air, and it just keeps getting better.

...and may I burn in the jaws of the Nightmare Child, but Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor.

Random reasons I'm a Whovian:

- Space opera where the protagonist is not just non-military, but anti-military and (inconsistently) anti-violence. But lots of big explosions.
- Unapologetically British.
- 2 (or 3, depending on how you count) stories written by Douglas Adams.
- The TARDIS noise was made by running razor blades up and down the strings of an old piano.
- The theme music had a Theremin. And it's wicked cool. (My favorite is the Davidson - era synth, particularly the end credits. Eccelston-era is OK too; the newest gets the emphasis a little wrong, I think.)
- "Krull!"
- "Doctor, I can't breathe!"
- It doesn't take itself seriously, and has fun
- It takes itself completely seriously: it holds onto themes of eccentricity and adventure and peace and conflict and means every schlocky sentimental words.
- In a strange way, the show got so much better in that dark period between McCoy and Eccleston. I read a handful of the novels, and they were obviously written by other people who had grown up with the Doctor and made him larger and stronger.. and some of that sensibility was carried forward into the new era.

That is all for now.

It has been my favourite show for as long as I can remember.

I was bored in court today, so I drew a TARDIS on the court list.

Double post in memory of The Brigadier.

I grew up watching the Tom Baker (and to a lesser extent the Peter Davison) years on PBS, sporadically. When NuWho hit, I was hooked immediately, and went back and watched much of the earlier stuff. The quality varies from profoundly bad to cheesily awesome, but there's a lot worth watching there. I ended up liking Patrick Troughton's (2nd Doctor) portrayal the most of the old Doctors, which I didn't expect to have happen.

kazar wrote:

On another note, wouldn't it be amazing if Tell Tale were to make a Doctor Who adventure game?

In case you hadn't heard, Martin Wallace (of Age of Steam fame) is making a Doctor Who board game. Could be a good thing for us cardboard lovers (although I am one of the Philistines who have never seen the show, except in parody form in Extras).

I've started watching Doctor Who a few weeks ago and I blazed through 2005-2010 quite fast

Now I'm pacing myself, watching no more than one a day just to make it last

It's probably my favorite show of all time now and I'm glad I got somewhere to say it on here, thanks Sean

Need to catch up? Here you go. Every Doctor Who episode, ever.

There was a period when WGBH (Boston's PBS station) showed the entire run, Hartnell to McCoy. It was glorious.

Like Tanglebones said, the quality varied from really bad, to cheesily awesome. It never was unwatchable though. Most of the time it was riveting.

If you started with Eccleston....I'm sort of torn on whether to say you should go back or not. While the reboot is fairly self contained, it does reference back to the prior run quite heavily.

You wouldn't really know who the Master was, or why the Master was important, if you didn't watch some of the run from Tom Baker on.

More importantly, the whole Dalek/Timewar back story plays itself out across several Doctors, including what happened with the Timelords and Galifrey.

Still, I'm happy that the series is back, and that it's on a par if not surpassing the original, in every way.

Also, the weeping angels are one of the scariest things ever.

Nathaniel wrote:

- The theme music had a Theremin.

Does it? To my recollection, Delia Derbyshire's original recording of Ron Grainer's theme was made on extremely primitive monophonic synth equipment at BBC's Radiophonic Workshop and painstakingly assembled via tape loops (which is why the tempo on everything's a little out of sync on the original - no sequencers!). Subsequent versions were put together similarly with whatever slightly better gear could be had, up through the end of the original run. There's not any version I remember that sounds especially theremin-y - that is, nothing with the very sine-wavey or square-wavey tones and glissando effects typical of most theremins in the lead melody.

If there is, and I've missed it, let me know which version to check out. I'm an half-assed enthusiast who routinely threatens to get one (a real one, mind you not that optical garbage).

Unlike some of you I found Doctor Who through my father. He had Vhs recordings of old episodes that I used to watch when I was a kid. Hell I can even remember him referencing the 1st doctors story arc. I was thrilled to see the new series because I have such a love of the Doctor, and the memories they are associated with. Also in a way, way made feel close to my father again. (He died years ago before the re-boot).