The Doctor and I – My life as a Doctor Who fan
A Role model and my first Doctor (1987-1989)
One of the enduring memories from my childhood was watching the brilliant Ace (Sophie Aldred) whack a Dalek with a baseball bat in the Doctor Who serial Remembrance of the Daleks. I wanted to be her, I wanted to travel in time and space and wear a leather jacket and blow things up and just do wonderful things. Looking back I realise that Ace was the first in a long line of female characters I looked up to and would grow attached to over the 30 plus years of my life. She was important to me and for the few years I got to watch Doctor Who so was the show.
When Sylvester McCoy became The Doctor in 1987 I was just six years old, I wasn’t even 9 by the time his tenure had ended. I had no idea what cancellation of a TV show meant at that age – only that as the months went on it dawned on me that Seven was never come back, Ace was never coming back. The show was gone and as everything is at that age it was unfair and cruel.
This was a time before the Internet, before DVD Boxsets and binge viewing so really after the show was cancelled that was mostly it for me. The BBC did repeat earlier episodes and I remember watching them but Doctor Who kind of went dormant for quite some time. Doctor Who helped shaped my tastes and would always be in my heart if not at the forefront of my cultural obsessions.
The excitement then crushing disappointment (1996 to 2004)
In 1996 I had just turned 15 and Doctor Who was suddenly back. To my teenage delight Paul McGann was the new Doctor – a year or so earlier I had fallen in love with McGann during the first of many viewings of Withnail and I. This was a new Doctor, a sexier Doctor and I was very intrigued. I remember enjoying the Doctor Who Movie a lot – I know looking back it is hardly a masterpiece but it was entertaining something the show should always strive to be. Plus did I mention it had Paul McGann in it? I thought this was a start of a new age. All my feelings for the show had come flooding back. Alas my heart was about to be broken yet again.
Years passed and Doctor Who became a show I remembered fondly but didn’t really see often. I would smile at references to it in other shows especially Vince from Queer As Folk and his obsession with the series (yep should have guessed back then RTD would help revive the show) but that was it really.
Third time’s a charm (2005-present)
Then somehow one Easter weekend in March 2005 the show was back, not just for a one of movie but a full series. I was cautiously optimistic going into the new series. Like many I was wary of Billie Piper due to her unfortunate past as a pop singer. Yet I was very excited by who was playing The Doctor because my entire family was kind of in love with Christopher Eccleston. He was a staple of good drama shows in the 90s (Cracker, Hearts & Minds, Our Friends In The North) and I always enjoyed his performances, so knowing he was taking on the role well I knew even if the show ended up a mess Eccleston would stand out.
As it so happens Nu!Who was actually rather good, Billie instantly won me and the nation over as Rose Tyler and it was impossible not to love the supporting characters like Mickey and Jackie. Even after it was announced Eccleston was leaving I was so in love with the show again that I was confident David Tennant would be a worthy replacement. He was and Doctor Who was back in my life.
Fandom and feeling dissatisfied
Being a Doctor Who fan in the modern era where people voice their concerns loudly and strongly has been a different experience to how watched the show as a child. Yes fights have been raging throughout the show’s history but I had no access to fanzines and no interactions with other fans in my youth.
Now forums and social media are full of debates over companions, and controversies over showrunners. I know there are legitimate concerns and constant disappointments when another white actor gets cast or the companion is one again from present day Britain.I have often felt the same way.
In fact after S7 ended I wasn’t even that excited by the prospect of the 50th anniversary special. Unlike others I didn’t outright hate the current era but whilst I love Matt Smith’s Doctor and the companions he had traveled with I found the stories themselves lacking in something since the end of S5. They felt a bit dull at times and really I continued watching it for the character interactions more than anything else.
In truth I had done something I should have really avoided having had it happen to me in other fandoms – I had read too many opinions, I had let myself be dragged into the debates and I had let the negativity wear me down. Some people are perfectly capable of watching a show and criticizing every aspect of it but I personally can’t do it. In the end it all becomes too tiring and I end up hating everything.
For me some of the sparkle and fun had been lost. I had to step back and so I did for a while.
Falling in love again
Then in September I had an overwhelming desire to rewatch S3 and suddenly all the love I felt for the show came back. I had l forgotten what I cherished about the show to begin with, it was fun, it was about characters I could identify with and care about.
It was about Rose Tyler being a girl from a council estate who got to travel in time a space and help save it more than a few times. It was about Martha Jones knowing all the bones in a hand and travelling the world for a year to deliver a message. It was about Donna Noble being the best temp in Chiswick, a true friend and someone who mattered. It was about Amy Pond and Rory Williams being the family the Doctor needed and fighting against countless deaths and thousands of years apart to grow old together. It was about River Song keeping secrets and being delightfully cheeky. It was about Clara Oswin Oswald being scattered across time, across space and defying all logic. It was about Nine and the burden of the Time War. It was about Ten and the oncoming storm. It was about Eleven and the melancholy of being a 1000 plus years old.
And still after all these years it was Ace hitting a Dalek with a baseball bat.