Posting pictures in this blog is basically my excuse to geek out.
Doctor Who, a sci-fi show about a Timelord, travelling the universe in a blue police box that's bigger on the inside, first aired on November 23rd 1963. This Saturday, a special episode will be broadcast to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. And what a fifty years it's been! We've had eleven different Doctors, thanks to the character's ability to regenerate and subtly cheat death. We've had a veritable army of aliens and monsters - Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels, to name just three. We've had an endless parade of companions, from the mild-mannered, to the bolshy and impossible. The show just keeps on going and keeps on growing, with ever more intricate plotlines and an army of devoted fans, desperate to work out what's going to happen next. With TV and radio dedicating special shows to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I felt I had to hop on board and write something that explains why I love the show so much.
It's NOT only because of this guy. He's just a bonus... ;-)
I'll hold my hands up: I'm something of a nuWho fan. By that, I mean that although I can name every actor who has ever played the Doctor and although I've seen a few classic episodes from 1963 onwards (and enjoyed them and fully plan to watch more) as well as Paul McGann's appearance as the Doctor in 1996 (and enjoyed that, too), it wasn't until 2005, having decided - on something of a whim - to settle down in front of the TV and watch the first episode of the brand new series, that I became almost instantly obsessed.
The Doctor was, in my eyes, a passionate, slightly dark but ultimately heroic character, who could turn on a sixpence; he was excitable one minute, intense the next. I never quite knew what he'd do in any given moment and I loved it. I loved his enthusiasm for all things new. I adored his determination to try to do the right thing, however hard it might be. I loved his justifiable anger towards his enemies, yet his compassion for those who needed his help. I found myself wishing that he was real, so I could hop into the TARDIS and go on my very own adventure. Christopher Eccleston, who played the 9th incarnation of the Doctor, had a way about him that made you feel as though no matter what battle was raging, no matter what terrible danger presented itself, he'd keep you safe.
He had cropped hair and a leather jacket, for goodness sake.
I'll level with you. I've had my days when life has gotten me down. When all I can think about is how nice it would be to just go away somewhere, where nobody could possibly find me. To venture into a place that's totally undiscovered and feel like it's just mine. Suddenly, here was a TV show that allowed characters to do just that. Through the Doctor's human companion, Rose, I could imagine a life in which I could explore the entire universe, or go backwards or forwards in time. It was pure, unadulterated escapism. It was - and always has been - a wonderful piece of fantasy. The idea that the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) could just appear and you could go dashing off to fight aliens or explore Victorian London and still be back home in time for tea hit all of my geeky, dreamer buttons in one go.
By the end of the first new series of Doctor Who, I was hooked. I was in for a shock, though. I knew that the Doctor could regenerate - that he could replace all of the cells in his body with fresh ones and change completely, yet somehow still be the same person at heart. But I didn't think he'd be doing it quite so soon. Not when I'd only just fallen for him, with his intense manner and childlike curiosity! But that's exactly what happened, right at the end of that series. As was befitting for an alien with a soft-spot for humankind, the Doctor sacrificed himself to save Rose and as the credits rolled, another man was standing where Christopher Eccleston had been.
He had new teeth.
This was when I learnt an important lesson about loving the show. You fall in love with the Doctor. And you do that for one reason: BECAUSE HE IS AWESOME. He's lived for hundreds of years (I believe he's 1200 now), he's ridiculously intelligent, brilliantly eccentric, hugely compassionate (but you wouldn't want to cross him) and there's certainly never a dull moment when he's around. So of course you fall a little bit in love with him. And then something terrible happens and he has to regenerate. Suddenly he has a new face. A new wardrobe. New personality traits. He's the same man, but... Different. And you hate him a little bit for not being the Doctor you loved so much. You wonder if you'll ever learn to love this new version as much as the old. Time goes on. New adventures happen. The Doctor saves the day again and again. We learn new things about him and yet realise there's much that's still a mystery. We laugh, we cry and suddenly we realise: We're a little bit in love with the Doctor. He's awesome. We want to run away with him in the TARDIS. ...And then something terrible happens and he has to regenerate and the whole process starts again.
This is pretty much my way of admitting that my first word when David Tennant appeared on screen was: "NOOOOOooooOOOOooooOOOOoo!" And then I actually watched him as the Doctor and he was witty and brave and sensitive and clever and full of energy... So much so, that when he regenerated into Matt Smith, all I said was... Well, actually, I don't remember whether I said anything. I was too busy crying my eyes out and wondering how my beloved show would ever survive his loss. I do remember not really giving poor Matt Smith a chance; I was devastated. My Doctor was gone - how dare this floppy haired boy take his place?! And then I watched Matt's Doctor and he was funny, eccentric, bright, thoughtful, emotional and enthusiastic... All of which is why, come Christmas Day, I'll watch Matt Smith regenerate into Peter Capaldi and I'll sob my heart out, wondering HOW Capaldi can possibly take his place?!
Oh, Raggedy Man...
That's the thing. Doctor Who plays with your emotions. It's a show that reels you in and encourages you to form a bond with the characters on screen. If I had a pound for every time I've been reduced to tears whilst watching the show... Well, I could buy that TARDIS onesie I'm after, for a start.
I sobbed when the Doctor and Rose were parted after she became trapped in an alternate universe. My heart broke when the Doctor had to erase Donna's memories of her time with him. I wept like a baby when the tenth Doctor gave his life for Donna's grandfather, Wilf. I cried when a Weeping Angel killed Rory, prompting Amy to make the heartbreaking decision to sacrifice herself rather than live without him. For a show about an alien, Doctor Who doesn't half tackle some very human issues: Love, loss, survival against all odds and the power of friendship, to name but a few.
Perhaps that's what I really love about the show. It may be escapism, it may be fantasy, but there's a big injection of realism in there. It's a show that's not afraid to give you a gut-punch of emotion along with all the aliens and heroics.
And speaking of heroics, the hero of the show is himself flawed. He shows a darker side from time to time. He is haunted by his own past actions - there are some things he can't bring himself to talk about. And he doesn't always get things right. He makes mistakes and in spite of being from the planet Gallifrey, that makes him seem endearingly human. I honestly don't think the show would work as well if the Doctor was perfect. Seeing his flaws, watching him make the wrong choice now and again... That makes him a person we can identify with. If the Doctor isn't perfect, then it's okay that we aren't, either.
He's NOT perfect. He just comes pretty close...
Of course, regardless of his flaws, we always root for the Doctor. We know that he's on the side of good. We know that whatever errors of judgement he makes, whatever he gets completely wrong, he'll always come through in the end. And even when he makes mistakes, we know it's usually not for want of doing all he can for whoever he's trying to save. The Doctor sees the value in everyone (as the 11th said: "I've never met anyone who wasn't important") and he's almost always willing to do his best for those he comes into contact with, whether he's known them for five minutes or five years. His hearts (no, that's not a spelling error, non-Whovian readers) are usually in the right place.
I could go on and on about my love for this character, this show and everything that surrounds it. But I won't. Partly because there are just no words for my devotion to it. And partly because I need to avoid simply posting pictures of Matt Smith and sighing at my laptop screen in a lustful haze.
Instead, I'll leave you with some YouTube clips of a few of my favourite recent moments from the series and I'll raise a bowl of fishfingers and custard (with a packet of Jelly Babies for pudding) and say "here's to the next 50 years." GERONIMO!!
The Eleventh Doctor makes a passionate speech - yes this is a fan video; couldn't find the original!
The Ninth Doctor meets an enemy he thought he'd long defeated.
Alas, I couldn't find this full scene, but here's the tenth Doctor facing his own death.
PS. I'm leaving it at those three, not because I don't have other favourite moments, but because it's a PAIN trying to find them on YouTube and I want to go to sleep and dream of being swept away on a glorious adventure by a mad man with a box.