Sunday, August 2, 2015


Note - The following originally appeared on my website, and in preparation of uploading some original fanfic stories, I am now copying it here for prosperity:

I read my sister’s blog not too long ago about her trip to London back in November for the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who convention. It was quite an amazing experience. The memories of my youth came flooding back – I first remembered the time I had the opportunity to attend a Who convention, oh so long ago, in Baltimore while I was attending Salisbury State University. I don’t remember much about the convention itself – only bits and pieces which include meeting Sophie Aldred (Ace – Companion to the 7th Doctor), and of course Tom Baker – the 4th Doctor, who is “my” doctor as well. I do remember feeling nervous about going since it was the first time I would make a trip to a large metropolitan city and doing it as a lone wolf. I was never one to be much of a city boy, let alone driving to navigate the roads in such, but somehow I made it to the show on time, and eventually made it back to my dorm room on the Maryland peninsula. This would have been right around the time that the show went on “extended” hiatus, which really meant that the BBC had finally killed it off.

The BBC did what no monster, evil genius, nor the Master himself could do in the show’s history. The BBC killed Doctor Who. They had been trying to kill it for years, and unfortunately, Colin Baker, who played the 6th Doctor in a far too short term was one of the early casualties of the battle. People can, and have, tried to come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons why the show, which even at that time in 1989, was the longest running Science-Fiction television programme in history why it met its demise. The true reasons why the BBC wanted rid of it are either unknown, unmentioned, or just lost to the ages of fading memory. Regardless, those in charge finally got their wish.

Doctor Who began its life 7 years before my own. It was there in my formative years, and my earliest television memories include watching an enigmatic character with a wide-brim hat and impossibly long scarf tramp across time and space in a funny looking big blue box, along with other notable shows like the original Star Trek, and the animated runs of G.I. Joe and The Transformers which appeared every weekday after school. Of course, at the time, it was PBS that was hosting reruns of Doctor Who, so it tended to be a few seasons behind the actual run in Britain, and early on, only had the shows featuring the 3rd and 4th Doctors. So it is amusing to me now to remember back to those early days and think that Jon Pertwee (Doctor #3) was actually successor to Tom Baker since PBS began the cycle again with Jon’s premier episode after they had exhausted their current inventory of Tom’s shows available. It was not until some years later, when the Peter Davison episodes finally made their way across the pond that I understood the correct chronology, and gained more of an interest in the character of the Doctor as now I realized there were more versions of him out there.

As the 70’s waned and the next decade took hold, it grew ever more apparent that the Doctor had tremendous international appeal across the globe, and thus more and more episodes were exported from the British Empire (though unfortunately by that time, many of the shows featuring the first three Doctors were destroyed, several dozen of which still remain missing to this day). But what there was became more available, so as I grew and was able to dig deeper and deeper into the lore and information about the programme, I was able to begin to experience each of the incarnations of the wandering Time Lord and found something to like about each one. I eventually became a member of two Doctor Who fan clubs and couldn’t get enough of the show – even going so far as to request my mother knit a scarf that was a replica of the one featured in Tom Baker’s final season as the Doctor, which I still wear every now and again when winter rolls around each year.

It was around this time that I was heading off to University and the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy episodes were making their way onto PBS. Though my favorite Doctor was, and always will be the 4th, I still found the newer replacements just as fun and engaging as those I remembered as a child. And it was for that reason I found it so disheartening to learn that the BBC no longer wanted the programme around, and through the information provided from the fan clubs learned of the turbulent times of the 6th Doctor’s run, and then eventually learned of the second, and final “hiatus” of the show while in my first year of studies at SSU.

For the remainder of my four years at school, I could only satisfy my cravings through the reruns on PBS while ingesting as much information as I could get via the fan clubs and hope beyond hope that the BBC would see reason and return the programme to the airwaves in short order, as I imagine most other fans of the series did at the time. However, as the years went by and the 90’s took full hold, the realization came that Doctor Who would not be coming back. Disappointment set in and as Real Life marched on with the responsibilities of work and relationships with others that did not quite have the interest in Doctor Who that I did, I let my fandom slip away to the memories of time, and moved on to other things.

Then, around late 1995, early 1996, hope glimmered anew as rumors of a television special began to make waves. This would be funded and produced by an American company. Though it had been 7 years since the Doctor’s demise in Britain, the fanbase in the US still remained strong and here was hope that this television special might draw enough of an audience to bring the programme back to life, and at least keep it out of the hands of the BBC to boot. Alas, it was not to be. Though the show itself was enjoyable, and Paul McGann performed capably as the 8th Doctor, I personally felt that too much was crammed into the show to bring in enough new fans to give the kickstart needed for another series. There was too much backstory referred to that would only make sense to long time fans of the show and of course throwing in a regeneration scene to boot would have just caused too much confusion to those coming to know the Doctor for the first time. Whatever the reasons, this became a one-off adventure of the 8th Doctor on television, the remainder of stories featuring him relegated to the ongoing series of novelizations and audio adventures at the time, until the recent webisode featuring his regeneration into the War Doctor (now unofficially the 9th Doctor).

So once again, the Doctor, and any hope of his return, faded to the memory of the ages for another 9 years. Then around 2004/2005 the big news arrived that the Doctor would return in a new series, for realsies this time. The BBC had decided to bring the show back on the air after 16 years of limbo. However, I found I could no longer feel the excitement that the news should have brought, and that I had felt almost a decade before when the Doctor had returned all too briefly. Perhaps it was because I didn’t want to be disappointed again. Perhaps the results of experiencing the runs of the new Star Trek series and movies that just didn’t quite measure up to the 78 episodes of the original run, and of experiencing the disappointment of the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars movies left me jaded in thinking that any new series would just not be able to measure up and capture the unique campiness and quirks of the original run of the show. Mostly, though, perhaps it was the fact that it was the BBC who killed the programme in the first place and I thought that they least of all deserved to have run of the show and any profits that would come of it.

In the end, I guess you could say I had moved on. That relationship was in the past. I now had new interests and a family that occupied my time. It was not until some years later, during David Tennant’s run as the 10th Doctor (now unofficially the 11th) that I actually took the opportunity to watch a couple of the episodes from the first new season just to see what it was all about. I was glad that the show held true to its roots, and though I did not like the TARDIS interior redesign (which was first featured in the ’96 special), found the episodes enjoyable enough to watch. But, in the end, my initial feelings held true. As faithful as the new series remained to the original, it just wasn’t the same. The magic was gone for me, and the new series will never hold the awe and wonderment that the original did. Which brings me back to a statement by Matt Smith (the most recent Doctor to complete his run – 11th or 12th depending on your point of view) that my sister had mentioned in her blog.

He had said something to the effect that the people in their 30’s were robbed of Doctor Who. You could say they were robbed of their childhood. I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not been introduced to the Doctor in my formative years and been a fan of the show up through most of my young adulthood. I would not be the same person I am now. So yes, the BBC robbed millions of people of their childhoods back on that day in 1989 when they decided to end the run of a show that brought joy to many across the globe (and I am sure lined the pockets of the execs at the time to boot). But more than that, all of us who had been fans, young and old, were robbed of one of the most unique, interesting, and captivating science-fiction programmes of all time. Ironic that after 50 years of continuing to be the longest running sci-fi series in history, for about a third of that time, there were no new episodes being produced.

So when I had finished reading the blog, I realized I wished I could have been there as much as my sister wanted me to be there with her at the convention. Despite all the intervening years where I had not watched one single episode of all the hundreds I had videotaped over time, with the exception of the two DVDs my sister had given me for Christmas a few years ago, I wished more than anything I could have been in the room where the panel of the old Doctors was being held, and that I would have been lucky enough to have been selected to ask a question of them. I imagine it would have gone something like this:

“Hello, and thank you all for taking the time to be here. I swam all the way from Trenton, NJ just for this event. (Pause for laughter). Just in case there are those who don’t remember, Trenton was where K-9 was made, and I must say it gave a boy of my young years at the time a thrill to know that my favorite Doctor actually knew where I lived. (Another pause for laughter and applause).

“I just wanted to say, that even though I always think of Tom as “my” Doctor, and he will always hold a place as my favorite among all, that I enjoyed what each and every one of you brought to the role and always looked forward to your next adventure every week. I only regret that we don’t have three equally important gentlemen sitting up there with you so that they can be included with that statement. (pause for more applause). I should also include Mr. McGann as well since I consider him part of the old guard as well, and I think it truly a shame that he, Colin, and Sylvester got the short end of the stick and really did not get the chance to shine as bright during their tenures as the Doctor. (more applause). Like I said, I enjoyed what each and every one of you brought to the show and to the Doctor and wish the two of you, and Paul had more of a chance to complete longer runs in the role.

“But, let me get on with my question as I don’t want to rob anyone else of their opportunity. Thinking back to something I think I recall Peter saying one time in that he regrets not staying on longer as the Doctor (correct me if I am wrong), and with the realization that time marches on and we really only have a limited time on this earth, I would ask each of you, if you had a TARDIS and could go back in time to re-visit your tenure as the Doctor, what would you see as the biggest success or triumph of your run, and what would you see as the biggest regret that you would like to have back and change?”

What I wouldn’t give to be able to hear the answer to both of those questions from each and every one of the gentlemen who played the role from Bill Hartnell up through Paul McGann. And come another 25 years, when we celebrate the programme’s 75th anniversary, to include Chris Eccleston, Dave Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi in that as well. Because, you see, thanks to a little bit of canon introduced during the original run of the show, we know that Time Lords can be granted additional sets of regenerations, so though Capaldi marks the official last form of the Doctor’s original set of 12 regenerations (allowing for 13 different “bodies”), I have no doubt that he will be given a new lease on life and continue on, so long as the BBC doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

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