What Doctor Who means to me

vhsToday marks the completion of the first phase of the blog.  Over the last year-and-a-bit we have written about every episode of Doctor Who, plus all kinds of bonus articles, and tomorrow we move on to pastures new as we start “phase two”.  To wrap up “phase one”, I want to do something that is admittedly a little self-indulgent and try to explain why Doctor Who is so important.  It’s not just an exercise in autobiography.  Some of this might chime in with other people’s experiences of Doctor Who, because I truly believe Doctor Who is of significant cultural importance that transcends all other television shows.

When I was a child I used to watch Doctor Who on television.  I wouldn’t have described myself as a fan.  It was just one of many shows I enjoyed, and I could take it or leave it.  Peter Davison was the Doctor, and I was probably too young to appreciate the show (we’re only talking four or five years old) but a few things stuck in the mind from that point, mainly The Five Doctors, and on a less pleasant note watching my Doctor change to be replaced by a bully in a clown costume.  I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about bullies or clowns, so I stopped watching at that point.  During Season 25 I picked up the series again, probably because the Daleks were in it, and I remember being enthralled by the Kandyman and terrified by the Cybermen and the clowns in the Psychic Circus.  I watched all of Season 26, particularly enjoying The Curse of Fenric, and then Doctor Who wasn’t on any more and that was that.

I can’t say I particularly noticed its absence.  I remember some time in the late 90s finding a copy of a Christmas edition of the Radio Times from the early 90s where I had marked out the shows I wanted to watch and ranked them in order of importance.  I had given a repeat of The Green Death a “three”.  Looking back on that I kicked myself because I hadn’t bothered to watch it and then had to wait for the VHS release, but that sums up Doctor Who for me post-Survival.  Not really high on my list of priorities.  It was just one of many shows I remembered and thought “yeah, that was watchable”.

In 1992 that changed.  It’s funny looking back.  The gap between 1989 and 1992 seems like the blink of an eye now.  These days it seems like we’ve just got one Christmas over and we’re decorating the tree again.  But as a young teenager those years passed slowly and Doctor Who seemed like a very distant hazy memory of childhood by 1992.  One day I was home from school ill, and my mum needed to go into town.  She asked me if I would like her to pick up a video for me to watch, probably expecting me to ask for Asterix or something like that.  I honestly don’t know why it popped into my head, but I asked for a Doctor Who video.  “Anything particular” she asked?  I had a couple of requirements.

  • Something with Daleks… or…
  • Something with lots of Doctors in it… and…
  • I don’t like the one with the curly hair.

I was obviously thinking back to my disgust at the Colin Baker era with that last one, and in my head at that point the Bakers had merged into one.  My mum came back from town with two videos.  Bonus!  They were Death to the Daleks and The Five Doctors.  Those two videos turned me into a Doctor Who fan.

After that I started buying Doctor Who Magazine, my first issue being #186.  There was a competition inside that involved listening to a show on Radio 1 each day for clues.  Somehow Doctor Who felt very alive and current despite not being on television.  I started buying the VHS videos, looking to see what was new each time I went to WHSmith.  I soon became a familiar face on release dates – the staff would expect me to turn up and get the latest.  The most exciting VHS release ever was The Tomb of the Cybermen.  By the time that came out I was aware of its significance.  I rushed home with it and watched it straight away, and was completely mesmerised by it.  Troughton was instantly my favourite Doctor, and has remained so ever since.

Doctor Who means different things to different people, but I think the example the Doctor sets is very important.  Unless a particular writer is getting a script spectacularly wrong, the Doctor is somebody who solves problems using his intelligence, never weapons or his fists.  There are exceptions and I have been tough on them for a reason.  The phrase “never cruel or cowardly” sums up the Doctor beautifully, but there is a lot more to him than that.  I think for these reasons the show has been a big help to people who have been struggling in their lives for various reasons.  Probably the most important has been for children who are being bullied.  They can watch Doctor Who and see a hero who fights against bullies and wins.  They can feel like they are on the right side of things, and perhaps there is hope for the future.  I was lucky enough not to need Doctor Who for those reasons but I have met plenty of fans over the years for whom Doctor Who was a lifeline, a better world to escape to.

Talking of other fans, Doctor Who brings people together.  I started going to conventions in the late 90s and met some great people.  When I decided to put together a website about Doctor Who I ended up in contact with fans from all over the world, and a couple of them have remained friends ever since.  My co-writer on this blog, Mike, and also Mike who has made heroic use of the comments section for just about every article (you don’t have to be called Mike to be a Doctor Who fan, but it helps) are genuinely two of the nicest people I have ever had the privilege to call my friends, and it was Doctor Who that brought us together, many years ago.

I’m going to kick off “phase two” tomorrow by moving away from the world of Doctor Who, but it’s going to keep bringing me back.  There will still be a huge amount of new Doctor Who content on The View from the Junkyard.  But it’s OK to wander off down different routes.  After all, the Doctor teaches us to open our eyes and explore what’s out there.  The Doctor will always bring us back home again.  So tomorrow we start on a new journey.  Let’s see what’s waiting for us in the Valley of the Wind…  RP

The view from across the pond:

When I was at a convention in Chicago many years ago, I had an unpleasant experience.  I was in an elevator with a young lady who was dressed as the Fourth Doctor.  She was wearing a pin from The Five Doctors, including all but Tom Baker’s Doctor.  I commented that it was clever that she was dressed as the missing fifth from her pin.  “Fourth!” she informed me.  “Yes, I know he’s the fourth Doctor.  I just meant of five, if one is missing, a fifth is missing.”  “No,” she tells me, “it’s the fourth.”  After agreeing that “Doctor Who language” was replacing English in her mind, I realized a terrible thing!  That whole William Shatner skit from Saturday Night Live popped into my head and I understood why both Trek and Doctor Who fans were so often ridiculed.  And it really bothered me.  I think those fans are the minority; the ones who can’t tell real from fake, or who choose to live in a made-up place.  I realized that when fans stop acknowledging the real world and live only in the made-up one, that’s a bad thing.  Those fans do exist and they hurt the overall image of what fandom is all about.  We need to take the best of those worlds that we love and find a way to incorporate them into the real world without losing sight of the world around us.  We have to choose to live in a Doctor Who inspired world without giving up our day jobs.  (I dread to think what happens when that young lady eats pizza… does she name each of the 8 slices?  “How many slices will you have: Troughton or Pertwee?”  “No, I’m not that hungry, I’ll just have Hartnell.”)

Amazingly, that interaction opened my eyes and maybe stopped me going down a path like that.  So, in the end, good things come of even bad situations, eh?

Which brings me to what Doctor Who means to me.  I want to be able to take the spirit of the Doctor with me wherever I go and I think that’s how most fans operate too.  That’s because Doctor Who is about ideas.  For me, Doctor Who is largely about hope and friendship and about having fun with life.  Not taking things for granted and always trying to find something fun in everyday encounters is an important aspect of the series.  So, in the spirit of a young lady who unintentionally taught me something important, let’s prove that reality and fiction can coexist, in a numbered way.

Here are some important ideas behind Doctor Who that can be carried into life.  (Feel free to replace the numbers with the names of the Doctors if you need to…)

  1. Learning about one another.  As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves. 
  2. Standing up against injustice.  There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought!
  3. Trying to have fun with life.  A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.
  4. Working out our problems peacefully.  I think we should try much older weapons: Speech, diplomacy, conversation.
  5. Finding beauty in the world.  For some people, small, beautiful events are what life is all about.
  6. Facing the facts, even when they are unhappy.  Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matters disperse, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing is eternal.
  7. Considering our actions.  Every great decision creates ripples, like a huge boulder dropped in a lake. The ripples merge and rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways. The heavier the decision, the larger the waves, the more uncertain the consequences.
  8. Deciphering the universe.  I love humans.  Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there. 
  9. Never giving up, no matter the odds.  Never give up, never give in. 
  10. Appreciating friends (and ourselves).  Rose… before I go, I just wanna tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!
  11. Understanding that you have to make the most of every day.  Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.
  12. Very importantly, it’s about friendship: My friends have always been the best of me.
  13. Helping one another and caring for one another.  I… am… an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army. I never have. Because I’ve got them, always them, because love is not an emotion. Love is a promise. 

I think Capaldi’s final speech was perfect, but I’ve quoted that twice already in the Junkyard, so I’ll leave that one off.

Life is crazy, and fun, and mad, and wonderful.  Sometimes it’s heartbreaking.  Sometimes it’s hilarious.  Overall, I think life is a comedy, which might explain why I don’t spend money to see many in the theater… life provides a free show and it’s so much better!  Doctor Who embodies all that makes life fun and wonderful.  It masks it usually behind science fiction tropes, but ultimately, this madman in a box represents possibilities and wonder and excitement and love and hope.  And we can find that in everyday life.   I just have to think back to how this website started to be amazed at the wonders of life.  So I think life and Doctor Who go hand in hand and it can be summed up this way best by our newest Doctor…

14: Oh, brilliant!

 Thanks for joining us in the Junkyard… see you in phase two.   ML

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Doctor Who, Random Chatter, Science Fiction, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What Doctor Who means to me

  1. Mike Basil says:

    My previously intended comments for this page somehow got zapped and so I’m retyping them, but a little clearer-and-more-to-the-point. First, ML, your points on a Dr. Who-inspired-world, as with an X-Files-inspired world or a Star-Trek-inspired world, are most agreeable. But like with all the SF for our generation that has motivated me throughout my life, it motivates me to see one important thing that both reality and fiction have in common. Namely that there must always be more than we know and especially within ourselves. With X-Files, given how it revitalizes us in this sense, certainly with Linda Moulton Howe’s Earthfiles, and Star Trek, given how it reminds us (either through its troubled incarnations today or through the other shows it’s influenced like Babylon 5, Stargate, The Expanse and Dark Matter) that the future can be optimistically chosen, that speaks to something we all know is already within each of us. It’s the same with Dr. Who, but more on an enigmatic level, which can easily be proven by how the complications it’s always had and may still have to some extent today, which we’ve each often addressed, have never diminished its place in our creative literature.

    Dr. Who has the unique ability to make of it whatever you wish for your own perspective. For me a show that can do that was always remedy given how most other shows throughout my life have for their desensitizing lack of that freedom have been agitating. Dr. Who is a show that taught me how to appreciate both the inspirational positives and the educational negatives that all shows and films are inevitably permitted. It was never perfect and yet it never had to be. Fans just loved for it for a morally valid reason. Because an absolutely perfect has everything said about it with no breathing room for audiences, critics and fans to give their words on. Even if some TV episode or film could be agreeably perfect enough as a classic in any sense, I can still imagine plausible differences for which I might have written for them or at least envisioned in some alternate reality. I’m very partial to the wonders of the multiverse (additionally thanks to Dr. Who’s Inferno and E-Space) and so it’s openly out of individual fascination.

    So my the core of my Whovian fandom is that Dr. Who was the most liberating show for me as an impressionable child. I was always good enough at seeing something on TV, even in a children’s show, that should be done differently or not at all. But with Dr. Who it was miraculously very easy for me to avoid agitations. As an Aspergian who was prone to being bullied, I learned to keep my fandom of Dr. Who restricted to whoever I could find who shared my love for the show. That was how I first joined DWIN, wrote Continuum City, and later on found great SF-fan penpals including both of you. So thank you both for this particularly pivotal page on the View from the Junkyard in completion of its first phase and for sharing your special Whovian perspectives. When we get to the second phase thanks to Jodie’s reign starting this year, it will be more of an impact on all the readers for this site regarding more newer Dr. Who from our reviews.

    Dr. Who begins here in Canada this October on SPACE. Aw, brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your sister says:

    After a long but fun weekend I finally got a chance to read this. Well done. Good luck on phase 2.

    Liked by 1 person

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