2013 was good to me. It has probably been the kindest year in quite some time.
If I had to pick out one thing that dominated my year, it would be Doctor Who. I’m afraid that this post probably won’t mean very much to those of you who are not fans of this epic institution. 2013 was Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary year and perhaps the best year to be a Whovian that there has ever been. I think I picked the perfect moment to properly discover this very British treasure.
I grew up in those dark years where they weren’t making any Doctor Who for the TV
I remember in 2002, I had a small blue handbag that I dubbed my “TARDIS bag” – You could get a lot more in it than its external dimensions implied. Beyond this, my awareness of Doctor Who was a bit thin.
In 2005 I was aware that it was coming back to TV. It sounded like the sort of thing I might like and so I watched it.
As an adult, I’ve never been very good at following anything on the TV. Committing to watching something at the same time every week just doesn’t really work. By the time Christopher Eccleston had regenerated into David Tennant, I had already started missing episodes and thinking I’ll get this on DVD at some point and catch up.
I don’t think I watched any of the 4th Series at all. I was down to catching the Christmas Specials at this point. Matt Smith had been the Doctor for over a year before my friend Ben sat me down and made me watch The Eleventh Hour.
Every time I caught an episode I would think I have to get this on DVD and give it a proper watch through.
It wasn’t until last Christmas, when The Snowmen aired, that I committed properly. I vowed I would have watched every single episode of the new era Doctor Who before the second half of Series 7 was on TV in March 2013. My parents joined me on this crazy quest.
We did it – 93 episodes (and some minisodes) with a couple of weeks to spare. By this point we were pretty obsessed, having devoted the vast majority of evenings to several episodes of Doctor Who for the last 10 weeks or so.
What to do while we waited for the new episodes though?
My Mum had the answer. She ordered “The Beginning” box set from Amazon and so started our next quest…
I was initially very nervous about Classic Who. What if I didn’t like it? What if it was dull? I should have known better. I’m the person that thinks Star Trek has never really bettered Kirk and Spock with their wobbly sets and polystyrene rocks from the 1960s. This sort of TV can’t be about the production values or stunning visuals, the story and the characters have nowhere to hide. It’s just my sort of thing. These series’ wouldn’t have endured if the elements I value most hadn’t been there in abundance.
I experienced utter delight in seeing the TARDIS fitting in so well in 1963, disguised as a Police Public Call Box and then staying that way even when it materialised in the stone age. Seeing a Dalek for the first time – so unchanged from what I was used to seeing half a century later.
It’s Jon Pertwee’s era as the Third Doctor that has stolen my heart most completely. Not only is he fantastic, all velvet, ruffles and indignity at being trapped on Earth, but the ensemble cast that joins him is so strong. I was initially skeptical of Katy Manning’s Jo Grant but she quickly became my favourite companion. Jo never does what the Doctor tells her and rescues him at least as many times as he rescues her. Her departure in The Green Death is also one of the most touching I’ve seen. The Brigadier and his team at UNIT are wonderful. I feel sad that the UNIT we see in the Russell T Davies era of New Who don’t seem to have nearly as much heart or soul, happily this seems to be changing with the recent introduction on Kate Stuart in adventures with the Eleventh Doctor. Robert Delgado’s Master is joyfully cheesy – a brilliant foe for the Doctor – looking like Ming the Merciless but with a better tailor. Having seen Delgado and Pertwee it makes so much more sense when David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, as he dies in his arms, in “Last of the Time Lords”.
But, even several series into Tom Baker’s run, I’m yet to really “get” what people love about the Fourth Doctor so much. He’s perfectly Doctory as Doctors go, but I don’t think he’d make my Top 5. The part of me that knits does admire the Witty Little Knitter who made him that ever-versatile scarf, though.
Looking back it is hard to imagine how I managed to fit in this much viewing as well as organise the Discover Sourcing event and hold down a job!
Saying that, a year of giving Doctor Who the time it deserved (and perhaps a bit more besides), and I still haven’t even seen a single minute of the Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Doctors’ TV appearances, let alone ventured into the world of audio stories or books.
I can say with certainty that I will love Doctor Who for the rest of my days and it will play a significant part in my 2014 too.
I aim to see more of the classic Doctors on screen and discover some of the Eighth Doctor’s audio adventures. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi have in store for us with the adventures of the Twelfth Doctor later in the year.