Saturday, 23 November 2013

What the good doctor taught me

This weekend, my favourite TV show of all time - Doctor Who - celebrates 50 years since it was first screened in the UK in glorious black and white.

It's also made me realise that I've probably been watching the show on and off for about 30 of those years.

I can remember watching the 1983 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors at my grandparents house, and then throughout the 1980s from the comfort of the mission brown bean bag in our living room.

I used to write to the ABC begging them to screen episodes.  Thankfully, though probably not because of my letter writing campaigns, the Doctor was a regular feature on our television.   This was probably just as well as for the bulk of the 1980s in regional Australia we only had about three television stations.

It's hard to articulate what captivated me most about the show.  I think escapism was a big part of it.   When you're growing up in Warwick, the ability to escape somewhere else has significant appeal.  

But there was more to it than that.   To me it seemed creative, imaginative and exciting, and I think it may have even inspired my love of travel.

I liked that the Doctor combated evil with his brain, rather than machines guns and brute force.  He was clever, funny, compassionate and always fighting for the underdog.

The 1980s saw me dive headfirst into fandom, subscribing to Doctor Who magazines and fan club newsletters, photocopying favourite pictures and putting them on my wall, reading the novelisations, and even attempting to write a script (it was terrible).

I wanted to wear a scarf (though Australian summers don't really allow for this) and I would shut myself in cupboards pretending they really were bigger on the inside.

Before our family got a video player, I made my grandfather record episodes so that I could watch them when I visited.   And when we finally did get a video player, and they started releasing the early episodes on VHS, I thought life couldn't get any better.

To celebrate its 50th birthday, I'm remembering five funny things Doctor Who has taught me during the years:

1.  Everyone everywhere in the universe speaks English
This is extremely reassuring should I ever develop the ability to travel into space.

2.  If you're trapped or locked in a room or cave, escape through the ventilation shaft
I've seen enough episodes to know there's bound to be one in there somewhere.

3.  A lot of planets look like quarries
It seems mining doesn't just drive the Australian economy, but the universe's as well.

4.  Don't trust big corporations or big computers, they're probably trying to enslave you
A common theme throughout the series is the evil that comes from power-hungry companies and computers.

5.  If you're ever confronted, trapped or threatened, just scream
Don't run away or put up a fight, just stand there and scream.   The Doctor won't be too far away to rescue you.

Doctor Who has changed in so many ways since I first started watching.

For starters, the polystyrene sets and dodgy blue screen effects have been replaced by big-budget location shoots and CGI.  Yet, the show has managed remain true to its origins when an old man and his granddaughter went wandering the universe in the TARDIS.

When you think about it, there probably aren't too many things that can continue to bring fun, imagination and enjoyment into your life 50 years after it started (or 30 years in my case).

As I set my alarm to get up early tomorrow and watch the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, I hope there's a few more years of entertainment and adventure from the Doctor to come.

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