Today marks the 55th Anniversary of Doctor Who. Throughout the day the writers of BlogtorWho will share their stories of the show. They’ll explain what this simple television programme means to us. How it has shaped our lives. Our favourite moments, stories and characters. Read on to hear all about how one of our writers, Peter, first discovered Doctor Who…
Doctor Who is almost unique really. It’s been running so long that it combines both a nostalgia and an ever-evolving sense of the Now. It can be the quaint old show that gave us ‘The Dominators’, the show of my childhood memories that invites warm memories of Tom Baker running around Paris, and the brilliantly modern show that takes us to Alabama or the Punjab. It’s all this in one, and more.
My first conscious memory of the show was at the tender age of three back in 1977. I suspect I was lured into watching it by having two elder brothers who weren’t going to miss out. It was ‘The Robots of Death’ and I remember firmly being captivated by the design of the Voc robots, and their glowing red eyes as they advanced on our hero, arms outstretched to strangle him. So much so that half formed memories of them haunted my dreams for years. As an adult I came across an army of them on the cover of a VHS tape. I bought it instantly. And that was what first got me back into fandom as an adult. Years later, when BBC Books ran a competition for artists to contribute to Doctor Who: 100 Illustrated Adventures, I knew there was only one story I wanted to represent. It’s still a special feeling to have my art of the Voc robots in a hardback book on my coffee table, even now.
A Fandom Reborn
That reignited fandom burst into a firestorm when the show was revived in 2005. I was a little astonished and unnerved at the time, simply because having had one favourite Doctor, Tom Baker, for three decades it felt almost like a quiet betrayal to find one I liked even better. But the Tenth encapsulated that perfectly Doctorish combination of swagger and self-depreciation that all the best Time Lords share. But he also added a layer of vulnerability and soulfulness few others have come close to matching.
In a way, today isn’t just the 55th Anniversary of Doctor Who. It’s also the 5th Anniversary of the 50th Anniversary. That was a remarkably special time to be a fan. On television ‘The Day of the Doctor’ wasn’t just the indulgent sugar high that all the best anniversary stories have been. It was also a crucially important brick in the palace of the Doctor Who universe, and the Doctor themselves as a character. But there was so much more going on than that. It seemed the world was suddenly full of novels, comics, events and special television programmes celebrating everything that made the show so great.
I have a particular soft spot for ‘Hunters of the Burning Stone’, the Doctor Who Magazine 50th Anniversary comic strip. For me it effortlessly encapsulated the greatness of the 50th Anniversary and who the Doctor is. Teaming the Eleventh Doctor with a perfectly in character Ian and Barbara was a stroke of genius. It also cemented what we all kind of knew all along – that the Doctor may have travelled around the universe before, but meeting Ian and Barbara is what made him THE Doctor.
The Doctor Who Celebration was one of the truly great times to be a fan
The 50th Anniversary also gave us the Doctor Who Celebration at the ExCel in London. Having flown into the UK especially it didn’t disappoint. Costumes, props, a massive number of guests, cosplayers galore, accidentally having breakfast with Carole Ann Ford, shaking Terrance Dicks’ hand, that panel with Tom Baker and the others.
And, of course, the pure thrill of sitting among hundreds of other fans when the words “You know, I really think you might…” played out. I may, just may, have thrown my fedora in the air.
And that’s what Doctor Who is to me.