Doctor Who

With­out doubt, the great­est influ­ence on my child­hood imag­i­na­tion was British sci­ence-fic­tion tele­vi­sion series, Doc­tor Who. Through­out pri­ma­ry school, I faith­ful­ly watched every episode screened dur­ing James Valen­tine’s After­noon Show on the ABC, includ­ing all of Tom Bak­er’s peer­less run as the Fourth Doc­tor, and Sylvester McCoy’s as the Sev­enth. Then, I had the chance to encounter the Fifth (Peter Davi­son) and Sixth (Col­in Bak­er) when the ABC screened their adven­tures at the ungod­ly hour of 4am, inspir­ing my mas­tery of the VHS video timer (look it up, kids), and watched each new episode before school.

I was a strange child. Although I did try, I could­n’t under­stand my class’ obses­sion with Michael Jor­dan, Nike Air and Street Fight­er II, when there was anoth­er episode of Kin­da to be savoured and decod­ed… For­tu­nate­ly, there was a small group of teach­ers and stu­dents at the school who shared my obses­sion, sim­i­lar­ly red-eyed the morn­ing of Adric’s (spoil­ers!) at the hands of the (spoil­ers!) in Earth­shock.

Mean­while, thanks to an expand­ing range of BBC Videos, I was able to acquaint myself with the leg­endary first three Doc­tors (William Hart­nell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Per­twee). Thanks to my rapid­ly expand­ing col­lec­tion of Tar­get Nov­el­i­sa­tions (God bless you, Ter­rance Dicks!), and a pro­lif­er­at­ing col­lec­tion of non-fic­tion books about the series, I knew exact­ly what trea­sures I was look­ing for. Of course, any­thing with the Daleks was a top pri­or­i­ty.

The show expand­ed my vocab­u­lary, inspired an inter­est in his­to­ry and sci­ence, taught me to dress unfash­ion­ably, and to bog­gle my eyes at peo­ple, like Tom Bak­er. I built my own K‑9 out of ice cream con­tain­ers, imag­ined there was a Jagaroth under the house, and was ter­ri­fied dur­ing swim­ming lessons because of the crab robot in Par­adise Tow­ers. In fact, although it looks rather sil­ly now — despite a great script — Par­adise Tow­ers did me loads of dam­age. I was sep­a­rat­ed from my moth­er in K‑Mart Bur­wood after encoun­ter­ing a robot­ic clean­er, and ran for my life. Also, there was that one time my fam­i­ly was locked out­side our house. I was small enough to squeeze through a win­dow to open the door to let every­one in, but was too scared of the Rezzies (elder­ly can­ni­bals) to enter the house alone. Instead, my par­ents had to smash a win­dow! Oh, and I for­got to men­tion, the bath was left run­ning and soon flood­ed the car­pet thanks to my anx­i­eties. See what you did to me, Stephen Wyatt!

Most of the sto­ries I wrote at school and home were about Doc­tor Who, most of the games I played in the gar­den, park, or  beach were about … Doc­tor Who. I was nev­er con­tent to sim­ply swim, I had to become a Sea Dev­il or Marsh­man, ris­ing from the deep. For­tu­nate­ly, my sis­ter and cousins were will­ing accom­plices. Some of the time.

Like the Last Cen­tu­ri­on, I car­ried my love of the show through the wilder­ness years (appro­pri­ate­ly enough a teen at the time), when the BBC no longer made new episodes, despite the false-dawn of the Paul McGann TV Movie. I was no longer mak­ing robots from ice cream con­tain­ers, but the inspi­ra­tion had not fad­ed, and I con­tin­ued to owe a debt to the show in every­thing I wrote. I joined fel­low die-hards in read­ing Vir­gin’s New Adven­tures and lat­er BBC Books’ series of on-going adven­tures, lis­ten­ing to Big Fin­ish audio dra­mas, and attend­ing the occa­sion­al con­ven­tion. I read, and still read, Doc­tor Who Mag­a­zine every month.

One of the high­lights of my year back­pack­ing around Europe in 2005 was spot­ting Rus­sell T. Davies in a W.H. Smith in Man­ches­ter, a week before Christ­mas, and only months after the show’s long-await­ed revival. I was pur­chas­ing a copy of Doc­tor Who Mag­a­zine — what else? — as he wait­ed behind me in the line. I was too star-struck to speak, but as I left the store turned and caught the great man’s eye. And so with wide smile and boom­ing laugh he joined me for a chat, about what a tri­umphant return the show had made with Christo­pher Eccle­ston and Bil­lie Piper in the lead, and what a treat we had in store with David Ten­nant soon to take the TARDIS reins.

Months lat­er, when I final­ly returned home (from Barcelona, as it hap­pens; apt choice, as fans will know), I was pour­ing over a pile of unread DWMs, wait­ing beside my bed, when I stum­bled upon one of Rus­sell T. Davies’ month­ly columns, the open­ing line of which read: “I just met Chris from Syd­ney!” My heart (almost) lit­er­al­ly burst with joy.

I often think of that meet­ing in Man­ches­ter. In my youth­ful exu­ber­ance I nat­u­ral­ly told the great RTD I was a writer (car­ry­ing an ear­ly draft of Empire of the Waves in my back­pack at the time), and what an inspi­ra­tion his work was to me, and he took the time to share some words of wis­dom. Noth­ing heavy-hand­ed, though, just a good-natured warn­ing about the chal­lenges of the writer’s life. (Inci­den­tal­ly, RTD’s book The Writer’s Tale is one of the best books I have read about the sub­ject. Read it!)

Well, it only took me anoth­er ten years … but here I am!

I’m so grate­ful for the return of Doc­tor Who to our screens. Nat­u­ral­ly, it warms the heart of an old fan to have had five incred­i­ble new Doc­tors to appre­ci­ate, but it espe­cial­ly warms the heart to think a new gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren (and future writ­ers) will have their own imag­i­na­tions kin­dled by the adven­tures of the mad man with a box, and by all the won­der­ful men and women who have brought him to life: actors, writ­ers, direc­tors, pro­duc­ers, design­ers. All of ’em.

Hap­py times and places!

Jor­dan Raskopou­los, Ingrid Oliv­er aka Petronel­la Osgood & Christo­pher Richard­son

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