Today is the 47th anniversary of Doctor Who. I know that because it began the day after the shooting of JFK; grainy black and white pictures of a police box in a junkyard. The show we get now feels a long way away from those early days, and although you can sometimes spot William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton in Matt Smith’s performance, the fact is that times have changed and Doctor Who has changed with them.
I’m a Doctor Who fan. I pretty much learned to read ‘proper’ books through the novelisations and my house is full of Daleks and Sonic Screwdrivers. I like scarves and froak coats more than fashion experts would recommend, and I’d much rather people think their way out of problems than use violence. I believe that both fezes and knowing stuff are cool. Yep, I’m a Who fan to the bone.
Don’t ask me who my favourite Doctor is, because I’ll just say all of them, although I think Matt Smith is currently doing a fantastic job and I hope he sticks around for a while. I know who I’d like to see play the role some day (David Hewlett from Stargate: Atlantis), who I’d never want to play the role (David Hasselhoff, who was once rumoured to be up for the part – The Hoff thing is less fun now he’s in on the joke), who I’d like to play a female Doctor (Jessica Hynes from Spaced, but I’m not sure why), who I’d like to see play an American Doctor (Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory), and which bizarre rumoured Doctor I half want to see because of the sheer insane inappropriateness of it all (Jason Statham; yes really). The fact that I have opinions on these makes me very geeky, but hey, I read Doctor Who Magazine and I’m proud of it.
(I also know that they put hidden messages in the magazine’s contents page. Knowing that is kinda cool, like being part of a secret society in possession of secret knowledge.)
The show used to get criticised for being too scary, but I can’t help thinking that’s missing the point; to paraphrase GK Chesterton, Doctor Who doesn’t teach children that there are monsters – they already believe that. What it tells them is that monsters can be beaten. It’s not really a science fiction show, it’s science fantasy, a high-tech fairy tale and the stuff of steampunky urban myths. I think that’s why I like it, other than it being just a very loveable show.
So yeah, happy birthday Doctor Who, and shine on, you crazy diamond. There’s nothing else like it on TV. Or in books. Or in comics, or on radio, or on the internet. I suspect it’s going to be around for a long time yet, in some form or other. That’s a good thing. A song may end, but the story goes on forever.
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