It’s the 26th of March, 2005. There are all these people at my house, and there’s a feeling of thrill. We’re al settling down to watch the first episode of some new TV show. Except it’s not a new TV show, it’s a really old TV show that even my dad remembers, and he’s a hundred or something, so it must be really really old. I don’t know what I’m expecting, really, but there’s a blue countdown clock in the corner so I’m excited. Everyone’s talking, and I shush them. It’s starting.
Forty-five minutes later, I’m in love.
Today, Doctor Who celebrates its forty-ninth anniversary. For that reason, I wanted to share some thoughts about it.
Doctor Who started on the 23rd of November 1963, and ran until 1989, when it was cancelled by the BBC. However, the fan base of the show kept it alive through audio plays, fan films, comics, and all kinds of creative outlets, and in 2005 one of those fans who had started working in TV decided to bring it back. By the end of its original run it had become a kind of joke at the BBC, full of clichéd exchanges, wobbly sets and not many viewers. When Russell T Davies brought it back, though, it was completely revitalised. Suddenly it was something totally new, but with a huge respect to what came before. It attracted old and new fans alike, and is still a flagship program of the BBC seven years on. The Daleks, the TARDIS…they’re all part of the basic culture of Britain now.
Personally, it’s no exaggeration to say that the last seven years have been the most formative of my life, and it’s been a part of that life in a big way. I have so many memories based around it; that first episode, the initial doubt over that new guy who wasn’t the Doctor, the point where I stopped watching as a fan and started as a fan, my first taste of “Classic” Who, the new new Doctor, Christmas, the longest week ever between The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, my first issue of Doctor Who magazine, reading the books, collecting the trading cards…I could go on, but I think you probably get the idea. To say I’m obsessed with this show is perhaps an understatement.
However, the show is still not without criticism. In a perceived hangover from the 1980s, some people still denounce the show as silly stuff for kids, and I’m often asked why I like the show so much. It is a difficult question to answer; not because I don’t have an answer, but because it’s so difficult to pinpoint it as one thing. But I think if I had to choice something, it would all come down to this: the fans.
Next year this show will be fifty years old. That is a huge legacy for a show to have, and it means the influence it’s had on me is felt across the world, by generations of people. Because of that, the fans of this show are like no other; they engage with it in what was originally a totally unheard of way. When the show took its hiatus (to put it nicely), they were the reason nobody forgot about it. They wrote fan productions and stories and books and audio plays and in many ways became the life force of the show itself. If you’re part of a “fandom”, be it on Tumblr or whatever, you owe it all to Doctor Who. Fans of the BBC show Sherlock likes to call themselves part of the “oldest fandom in the world”, seeing as it’s an adaptation of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories from as early as 1887. But I don’t consider that a valid view; Doctor Who started that whole idea off.
And the fans are duly rewarded; those that wrote unofficial novels in the 90s became the ones running the show now. It makes you think…maybe the fans now, with their fanfiction and their .gifs, will be running the show in the next fifty years. And that’s not a flippant comment; I think it’s truly possible that this show could live to be a hundred. And I’ll be with it all the way, because it’s indestructible. When a show has such infinite boundaries like this, nobody will ever be able to stop it. The love I show it, and the love that so many others show it, has made it part of history now, and it will be forever. Series 80, the Twentieth Doctor, 2063…
It’s gonna be so good.