Today is a special day.
Forty-four years ago, I started watching a television show that had began two years before I was born. I don’t remember the early days very well. I used to have occasional nightmares of large toy robot following me around an infinite black room. It was twenty years before I fully understood its significance; it was not just a dream but a memory. That memory had a name: The Celestial Toymaker. The show – Doctor Who.
The first Doctor I would call my Doctor (there was more than one) had curly hair and a passion for jelly babies. He bumbled around the universe, always with a companion. I remember desperately wanting to be one of those companions. I devoured any Doctor Who book I could find (I still have a collection of over forty of them from the 80s). Then he regenerated.
A younger Doctor. I was not sure if we would like him. I did. It didn’t take long. (I remember waiting for hours, with one of my school friends, to met Peter Davidson one of his trips to Brisbane, during his era). I didn’t notice the cheap sets and ‘man-in-a-suit’ monsters. The stories made up for it. Other science fiction shows came and went. I lamented the loss of Blake’s 7. Still, the Doctor prevailed. My hero, always there to save the world (or universe).
Another Doctor (who personally I am in denial over) and then came one of my all time favourite Doctors – Sylvester McCoy. A clown on the surface but someone you really wanted on your side and not as a foe. Stories got interesting with hints of his own history and who he may be. Just as I realised how much I would love to write for Doctor Who, it was cancelled. Years of longing and despair ensued.
For years I pined for my Doctors. I drew fan art, signed petitions, wrote letters and many a fan fiction. Finally it returned to ours screens – first as a movie (a bit too ‘car chasey’ for me) and then as the new series.
Again, a Doctor that was not my cup of tea, then two more favourites. Today, we find out there was one we never knew about. Very soon we will have a new Doctor, bringing with him new beginnings and adventures.
And that is what Doctor Who is really all about. Whether I call him a madman in a box, John Smith, The Doctor, The President or The Watcher – whether or not he is actually The Valeyard, is or isn’t related to Rassilon – whether I loved his current incarnation or hated it – that did not matter. In the end it never does. The Doctor is the Doctor.
Though he is an alien with two hearts, in essence he is the epitome of Englishness, the Wartime spirit; when things get rough, stiff upper lip and just do the job. When faced with the destruction of the universe, he rallies to save our pitiful lives. He becomes the War Doctor, willing to sacrifice himself for others. Even when he feels he has lost everything and everyone he loves, he cannot deny the call to help others. He is the hero.
No matter how many times he regenerates. No matter if he is charming or annoying, I will keep watching Doctor Who. When I watch it, I live adventures. I am inspired. I have hope. In a world of negativity, of greed and selfishness, the Doctor is one of my guiding lights. He is my hero.
Maybe that is the ‘secret’ of 50 years of the Doctor? I hope I am still here for the 100th anniversary.