Beginnings (2)

I had two beginnings. One false start that sent me scurrying for cover, and then the reunion…

My first happened when I was plainly not ready to see Dr Who. It’s actually one of my first memories (other than falling asleep in front of Live Aid and waking up to see that now-famous video to the Cars song…)

I clearly remember seeing a scene from Earthshock – where Cybermen march up a metal staircase. It genuinely frightened me, and I then remember running and wrapping myself in nearby full-length curtain to hide… 15 or so years later, watching it back again while at university, the same feelings flooded back and I felt a chill down my spine.

The second beginning was a trip to a video shop with my dad. I’d begun watching the TV series properly by then (starting with Sylvester McCoy), and I was playing all the requisite playground versions – everyone wanted to be Ace. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter. Ace was clearly cooler. And so I, being smaller than most of my peers, became the Doctor. On the upside, quite clearly, I was better – after all, I had my own Tardis. And everyone else was a girl. Technically. But anyway, I’d become obsessed with the Doctor, and I wanted more.

Somehow (memory is hazy on the exact details of how I managed it), I got my dad to buy me Spearhead From Space. I took it home and devoured it. Again and again. This was a Doctor I didn’t know, I had never seen before, and was totally different to the one I’d met. But this one was dashing, erudite, and was basically a scientist dressed like Adam Adamant. But I took that in my stride. And their special effects were better than the ones on telly (because they didn’t have to go over the top). I loved the story, and was very wary of shop window mannequins for a VERY long time afterwards.

There was something different about all this, though. I immersed myself, but all the while I was picking up the rudimentaries of right and wrong, of the value of life. Of love for others. And after all, while my friends were totally obsessed with football, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for them. They watched 22 men in shorts kick a ball around while I loved cricket and watched an eccentric, clever and funny man help up scantily-clad women while he was saving the earth. Sigh.

Favourite Doctor:

Patrick Troughton. While my first was both McCoy and Pertwee, I suppose, and I always thought Paul McGann was brilliant but never got a fair go… my second (dad-bought) video was The Seeds of Death. And I’ve always had a sweet spot for the “Cosmic Hobo”, so I’ll go with him. Maybe it’s the daft trousers and the blatant darts at comedy. Maybe it was because he died of a heart attack after (allegedly) attempting to seduce another actor’s wife at a Sci-Fi convention. I don’t know. But the Seeds of Death is one of the finest things I’d ever seen, and I’ve always loved the way his doctor dealt with some terrifying monsters (Cybermen, Yeti, Daleks, the Ice Warriors, the Great Intelligence) with fantastic grace and panache (for the time) and still found time to get everyone else’s back up by practicing the Recorder…

Favourite Story:

This is tough! There are a few that really and truly drew me in until I was completely hooked. The Ambassadors of Death, Robots of Death, The Pyramids of Mars, Talons of Weng Chiang, Ghostlight, The Android Invasion, The Daemons.
I’ll plump for The Web of Fear though. Pulsating thriller set in the tunnels of the London Underground, with Yeti stalking, looking for prey. Oh, and green stuff on walls. Always good. Really threatening, close thriller which is captivating just from the soundtrack (only episode 1 still exists on film).

Monster/enemy:

This used to be the easiest answer for me. It was always the Cybermen. Daleks, like Andrew, I thought were dull. Really, really not scary and not too hard to run away from. Cybermen were virtually unbeatable (except of course if you happened to have a wrinkly old woman from the Sixteenth Century who came with her own gold arrows… ahem), and they were determined. And Colin Baker’s brush with them (The Attack of The Cybermen), is an overlooked gem.
But for me, it’s the Master.
There’s a series of encounters with Pertwee’s doctor that are absolutely riveting – The Mind of Evil and the Claws of Axos in particular are brilliantly simple but complex thrillers… but the master always has the advantage over the Doctor that gives way to a fascinating story while the Doctor fights to reel him in. And his return last year with Derek Jacobi and John Simm was just, well, perfect. It was classic Master and bang up to date all at once.

Which companion did you either want to be or fancy:

The years watching old videos made a huge impression on me… Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen)…

I always wanted to be in UNIT. I suppose they count as companions…

What are you looking forward to:

The return of the Sontarans – OK, they look a bit like rubber-moulded humpy-dumpty models in shiny suits, but they’re another one of the old-school monsters who were genuinely interesting to watch. Oh, and UNIT returns in the same episode too!
I’m also looking forward to stories by two particular writers – Gareth Roberts and Stephen Moffat…

Dreading:

I am thoroughly dreading what they’re going to do with the return of Rose…
I’m really beginning to hate the whole romance element of the series. Rose was far enough for me. But then Martha, and now Donna too – falling in love with him. Maybe its naiive to expect that love could be kept out of this, but its making David Tennant’s doctor look like a ladies’ man, when traditionally, I suppose, he’s always been a bit above that.

Comments 2

  1. This is so interesting, Chris. I didn’t enjoy the McCoy years. I liked Sylvester but it didn’t feel like Who to me. Maybe I was at a rebelious age! So I really like it that you were playing Doc Who in the playground just like I did when Tom Baker was on. Yep, I was the Doctor too! I perfected his way of saying ‘WHAT!’ and I have still got the 11 foot scarf I wore which I pestered my mum for. Happy days!

  2. I liked him but I didn’t – if you know what I mean! For a while, it was all I knew, but then I saw Pertwee and Troughton, and I knew that it was better elsewhere. I wanted to play Dr Who, but all my friends knew what the McCoy stuff. So that’s what we went with. I had the grin down…I am ever-so-slightly jealous of the scarf! I had a paltry kind of costume to imitate! It just was not possible to get a tank top with that many question marks on in C&A, I found… Who obsessives tend to hate Michael Grade for cancelling it – but to be honest, I think he half put it out of its misery and half saved it in the long run before it got too interminable…I’m glad he did it because we’d never have had Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston and of course DT doing such brilliant jobs of it.

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