One of my vivid childhood memories is going to see my family GP, and thinking that I’d seen him on TV before, running around all of space and time in a little blue box. But there he was with his blonde hair, a stethoscope around his neck asking about my recent high temperatures. My GP bore a striking resemblance to Peter Davidson, the 5th Doctor. My real life Doctor was also my TV Doctor.
It blew my mind!
Back then I was never really a full blown fan of Doctor Who, more of an appreciator. I knew about the TARDIS and the Daleks, and understood that at some point Peter Davidson would regenerate in to someone completely different. I didn’t have an overwhelming need to watch the show, but when I watched an episode, it stayed with me. For example, remember those weird glass globes with the electric in them. You touched the globe and the electricity went to your hand? According to a Who episode with Sylvester McCoy that is some kind of weird alien bomb or something. Seeing that stacked on the shelves in Hamleys still makes my 12 year old self question the kind of “toys” they’re selling.
It blew my mind!
It wasn’t until Christopher Eccleston stepped out of the TARDIS I became a true fan. It was mostly down to the return of the Doctor, but it was also a relief from the now standard judge based “talent” shows that continue to blight our televisual viewing. Doctor Who is the perfect vehicle for good old fashioned escapism, while at the same time being, to a certain extent, very realistic. I’m not talking about the aliens, the monsters, the mutants, the demons or any of the other foes the good Doctor squares off against on a weekly basis. I’m talking about the emotions. For a programme based around an alien time traveller, Doctor Who is one of the most human programmes ever made, because it deals with a whole variety of feelings. One episode of Who will give you laughs, scares, tears, anger… Beloved characters, often the Doctors companions have been known to be killed. Good people die no matter what the Doctor does to try and save them. The series covers birth, life and death and everything in between. Pretty heavy when you consider this is “just” a kids show.
It also deals with change. As we gear up for the new series of Doctor Who (19:50, BBC 1, 23rd August) expectation is reaching fever pitch, not just because the Doctor is returning to our screens, but because he’s doing it with a new face. Peter Capaldi will be the joint eldest Time Lord of the entire 50 year + run, putting certainly newer fans of the show in unfamiliar territory. With Eccleston, David Tennant, and previously Matt Smith, the Doctor was relatively young looking and, as my wife would put it, fairly “easy on the eye”. Capaldi, at 56, is bringing a complete change in the look and tone of the show, and everyone wants to know what that means for the show. The Doctor himself is even seem asking in a trailer for the new series “am I a good man?” If he doesn’t know either, we’re in for a heck of a ride. That’s what TV should be about; adventure, escapism, surprise, a rollercoaster of emotions. That’s why, in a constant sea of talent shows, reality shows, fly-on-the-wall shows etc., we need Doctor Who. We need him to take us on a crazy adventure, even if it is just for an hour a week.