A very important part of my personal cultural history is that I’m a Doctor Who fan. I have been since I was 5, in 1978, and started to watch the series, starting with the first Romana 1 story, The Ribos Operation. And I was utterly hooked. This was the Tom Baker era, and for many years he was “my” Doctor, my favourite, though I watched and enjoyed all of the 80s Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy.
Then the series went off air in 1989, and my fandom slipped. I stopped reading Doctor Who Magazine regularly, and it fell off my radar. And, though I’m really not sure how I managed it, and boggle now looking back, I even missed the 1996 TV movie broadcast on the BBC with Paul McGann in the role.
Fast forward to 26th September 2003, and the announcement that Doctor Who was coming back to TV, under the helm of Russell T Davies. I read that news on Ceefax, and years of suppressed Who fandom hit me like a tidal wave. Suddenly I was a fan rediscovering the show again, buying old DVDs, buying books to read, and even trying Big Finish audios. On our first day in our new house, while my husband helped the removal men, and I stripped old wallpaper from the walls, I listened to The Chimes of Midnight, with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. And boy, wasn’t it good!
And then it came back to TV proper in 2005. I was hopeful that Christopher Eccleston would be good. I was more worried about Billie Piper. Stupid me, I shouldn’t have worried. Both were superb, Billie a very pleasant surprise. I was sad to see Christopher Eccleston leave, but delighted with his replacement, who I’d watched in Casanova. And David Tennant soon became my all-time favourite, ahead of the mighty Tom, with wonderful audio (even if rubbish TV movie) Paul McGann third. And over the years companions came and went, and then there was Matt Smith. And now we have a Twelfth Doctor coming soon, whose casting is so exciting I am still pinching myself, not quite believing it can be true.
For the last few months my husband and I have been doing a weekly anniversary watch, picking a story from each Doctor to watch (or in the Eighth Doctor’s case to listen to – his audios are *much* better than the TV movie was). Here’s what we watched:
- The Edge of Destruction
- The Invasion
- The Sea Devils
- Genesis of the Daleks
- Mawdryn Undead
- The Mark of the Rani
- The Curse of Fenric
- Seasons of Fear
- The Fires of Pompeii
- Vincent and the Doctor
And then on Friday evening we watched a recorded version of An Adventure in Space and Time, the docudrama telling the origin story of Doctor Who. Oh that was glorious. Loved it. And tonight we have the 50th anniversary special to look forward to. I have a small bottle of champagne ready, and my Somerset husband has a bottle of cider ready to open. Bring it on!
And just in case all this isn’t academic enough I recently submitted a proposal to an academic conference to talk about the changing relationship of Doctor Who and its fanzines over nearly 50 years. And I’ve also in the past written a book history piece reflecting on one of my favourite TV stories.
But ultimately today is one of celebration for the fans of a wonderful TV institution. Long may it continue.