Friday, 13 March 2009

Why I like Doctor Who

Although I don't have a telly these days, when I was younger I watched a lot. And my favourite programme of all was Dr Who. In my opinion the best Doctor Who was Jon Pertwee who brought such action and excitement to the role.

I remember Jon Pertwee was on the phone once to The Master, played by the brilliant Roger Delgado, when The Master tweaked a gadget and Jon Pertwee's phone cable became alive and began to strangle him - complete with sound effects from the BBC Radiophonics Workshop. Of course he escaped but I don't think Tom Baker would have managed it. He was too intellectual for me.

Pertwee's Dr Who was like a time traveling James Bond. He had the the gadgets. Who could ever forget the sonic screwdriver? (I had one of those once but it gave me a nosebleed.) He had a quirky Edwardian car (a Siva Edwardian no less! - see my occasional blogs about Sivas on my Engine Punk blog) that did more than 007's Aston Martin and could call on reinforcements in the shape and form of UNIT if any gargoyles suddenly came to life. Complete this sentence, uttered by the Brigadier during the story entitled The Daemons, "Chap with wings...."

Jon Pertwee was a bit of a dandy as Dr Who but the sheer energy he put into his performances overcame my reservations about this.

But the ultimate Dr Who moment for me predates - as in coming before, not eating - Jon Pertwee's Dr Who.

I have a black a and white memory of a Patrick Troughton episode where The Doctor was unconscious in a sewer beneath London and the cybermen were entering it. The cybermen were second only to the daleks in terms of Dr Who's adversaries and what I found particularly appalling was their unhurried gait. They didn't have to walk quickly because they just knew they were going to get you.

As they nonchalantly made their way towards the unconscious Doctor, I couldn't bear to watch anymore. And yet I had to see what happened next.

Peering through my fingers was not good enough. I tried watching from behind the settee but that didn't work either.

In short, I couldn't be in the same room as the television when that episode was on.

In fact, I couldn't even be in the same house.

My father was digging the garden at the time and as he paused in between spade loads he noticed me outdoors, peering in to the sitting room through the window.

"What are doing out here?" he asked. "I though you were watching Dr Who."

"I am watching Dr Who," I insisted, shading my eyes to minimise the reflection.

I later acquired a Dr Who annual and in an interview with Jon Pertwee he mentioned criticism from parents that Dr Who was too scary. His solution? "There's a button on the set marked off," he said. "If parents are really concerned they should try using it and see how their kids react."

But what Dr Who did best was introduce kids to sci-fi and adventure. I've seen the latest reincarnation but the effects are not quite so quaint as I remember. Maybe today's generation will look back at them and think them charming like I do. The latest Dr Who is still just as much a trouble maker as he ever was - as soon as he turns up you just know there's going to be trouble.

And at long last the BBC have got the marketing right. If Airfix had produced packets of Daleks instead of fighting human figures from historic battles, then I would have spent all my pocket money on them. They are still my favourite "monsters" even today.

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