I remember sitting at home as a wee bobble heid, watching Doctor Who with my mum and dad. I remember being scared by Scaroth, shocked by Earthshock, and being amazed by my generation’s multidoctor story. So, fast forward thirty years….
Yes, I needed a week to gather myself for this post after The Doctor’s fiftieth anniversary. Excellent job, The Beeb. From Brian Cox’s (not that one) Science Of Doctor Who to the docudrama about the origins of the show, An Adventure In Space And Time, from the return of lovely Paul McGann in mini-episode The Night Of The Doctor to The Day Of The Doctor itself, it was a well-judged week of celebration, made with love. But my celebrations kicked off on a personal note….
Friendoftheblogjohn, one half of the Mutter’s Spiral Podcast — where you can get yer actual Doctor Who insights — put up a post on The Facey Book that (if I may summarise) was a paean to the Time Lord who was there for him when times were tough, and introduced him to his lovely Whovian friends. I was reminded of Toby Hadoke’s Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, in which the narrator amusingly and movingly relates the story of how the Time Lord guided him through a thankless childhood into a richer adulthood. And I too am thankful for my Whovian pals as well as the friendships that have been enriched by the renegade Gallifreyan. By 23 November, I couldn’t have been more excited to sit down in front of an anniversary special in the old house with Paw Broon, while Mrs. Stroke Bloke simulwatched with the aliens.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The episode was crammed with treats for the committed Whovian, from the 1963-style opening credits, right up to the judicious use of NewWho music cues. But also rollicking blockbuster fun for the Not We, from a cute girl on a motorbike to some old handsome Scottish dude in a tight suit. What more could one want? Amiright?
In the early days of Steven Moffat’s run, I was preciously concerned that his Doctor Who was only (only!) going to be a run of fantastic storytelling; not necessarily so much with the layers of meaning. But Moffat has previously opined there’s no point in doing a multi-Doctor story unless you’ve got a story to tell. And from the ingenious method of bringing the Doctors together, to explaining the apparently incongruous appearance of an old companion, to the throwaway line addressing why The Doctor may not remember the details of the story, the show-runner was clearly ready for the story he was born to write. And boy, did he have a multi-layered story. This excellent wired.com article notes that the quote with which Clara opens the episode describes the theme of the special:
As well as all this, Moffat continues his successful job of cleaning up issues arising from the regeneration of the show, gives us the regenerations we missed (if you include Night Of The Doctor), and gives us a new direction for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor to follow.
And the episode had special resonance for Stroke Bloke. I suspect the reason Friendoftheblogjohn and Toby Hadoke are so committed to the show is that The Doctor brings out something that was in them already, whether a resilience, a bravery or a wit. I also loved Day Of The Doctor because it carried the message of that wheezing, groaning sound, that grinding of ancient engines, that “brings hope wherever it goes. To anyone. However lost.” Even Stroke Bloke.
Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor emerged from a ball of fire onto our screens in 2005. He’d had a rough time. I could sympathise. But The Doctor’s return brought me an escape to a world of wonder and possibilities, and a message echoed by the anniversary special. His name was a promise and an inspiration.
Craig Ferguson, another Whovian, summarizes the ethos of Doctor Who as follows: The triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.
And that’s the genius of the show of Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert and Waris Husein and Anthony Coburn and David Whitaker and Donald Cotton and Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks and Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe and Graham Williams and Douglas Adams and Christopher H. Bidmead and Andrew Cartmel and Philip Segal and Russell T. Davis and Steven Moffat. It’s a wide open format, that’s open to anyone. I even used to make up bedtime stories for my daughter, in which she and The Doctor could be brave. Or scientific. Or kind. As Steven Moffat says, when they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun or a heat ray. “They gave his two hearts. And that’s an extraordinary thing. There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like The Doctor.”
I eventually got myself this tattoo of the Time Lord Seal:
At the end of The Day Of The Doctor, it was The Doctor’s companion who gave him the prod he needed to get things right this time. Now The Doctor has a new destination. Where he’s always been going — home. My eyes welled up, of course. They always do, these days.
In The Day Of The Doctor, Clara asks The Doctor:
“Need a moment alone with your painting?”
“How did you know?”
“Those big, sad eyes. I always know.”
And I sat at home, lucky in that, although I’m no Doctor, I have The Doctor to make me better, as well as a companion who always knows what I need, better than I know myself. Lucky because — and here’s the crazy thing — a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous who’s how ever many years old saves real lives. Whether crotchety old William Hartnell as depicted in An Adventure In Space And Time, or this guy, or a guy with a face I remember, just older….
So what is it that brings us Whovians to The Doctor with such an intense gravitational pull? Maybe like Sandshoes and Flappy Hands, Craig Ferguson and Toby Hadoke, and Friendoftheblogjohn — even, in his own small way, the bloke whose head exploded — we’ve all been forged in some sort of fire and come through the other side. Certainly, as I sat in a corner of an Edinburgh neighbourhood that is always Gallifrey, and everything came Full Circle, it was a nice thought to entertain.
Because we can all find our own stories in The Doctor’s if we choose. It’s why this cartoon is funny. The Doctor and his companions can bring out the best in us. What we can aspire to is only limited by our imaginations. I mean, if you think supposed Moffat-inspiration The Time-Traveller’s Wife is a serious examination of the complications of time-travel wrapped up in a silly love story, and not a serious examination of the complications of maintaining love wrapped up in a silly time travel story, you’re effed. But otherwise, bonne chance, bon voyage and…
[apoplectic.me has it’s own pocket universe, at https://tinyletter.com/apoplectic_me. It’s like the licensed audio arm of the blog. (Aside: No it’s not.) It might not all be to your taste, but you might find the occasional Short Cuts or Holy Terror. Sign up! It’s free! Obviously.]