Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Doctor Who

It's the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.  I'm at home not watching the special; we have tickets to see it in the movie theater on Monday.  I may have to go into a social media blackout until then.  I have to say, I'm not nearly as excited about the anniversary as, well, the rest of the internet.  By my judgement I'm not as excited now on the 50th anniversary as I was on the 20th anniversary. For "The Five Doctors" I was at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare for the first Spirit of Light convention.  I guess I am sort of a Doctor Who hipster.  I liked it before it was cool.

The first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw was "The Invisible Enemy," but I only tuned in while flipping, just saw part of it, and really had no idea what I was watching.

A little while later I picked it up again tuning into the second set of three episodes of "The Armageddon Factor."  Not the easiest place to pick up a TV show, the second half of the sixth of a six episode arc.  Doctor Who at this time was running on WTTW in Chicago on Sunday night at 11PM.  I was probably 13 years old and used to watch on my TV in my room, in the dark using an earpiece so my parents wouldn't know I was still up.

I watched through all the e-space episodes and then through to "Logopolis."  After that WTTW rebooted back to "Giant Robot," the start of the Tom Baker episodes.  I think we saw the full Fourth Doctor arc three times before seeing something new - or rather old.  After a couple times through Tom Baker we went back to Jon Pertwee's episodes.

Watching on channel eleven was usually pretty great.  They showed the episodes cut together so a BBC four episode story would run on one night: 11PM to 12:20.  The six parters would be split over two weeks.  The worst was obviously during pledge drives when 11 would become 11:30 would become 12AM and finally the show would start.

At some point I became aware that Doctor Who ran on Milwaukee Public Television on (I don't remember) Friday or Saturday night.  On some occasions if the weather was right I could manually tune my tv and add hangars to my antenna and watch an extra episode.

Eventually we got to see the first Peter Davidson season.  Somewhere around there I also started reading the novelizations, some of shows I'd seen some of show's I hadn't with first and second doctor stories.  I remember really liking "The Keys of Marinus" and really, really liking "Enlightenment."  I also remember getting "The Doctor Who Programme Guide" and finally grasping the full depth of the show.

I was definitely a fan.  My grandmother knitted me a Tom Baker scarf.  I had stacks of VHS tapes with Doctor Who episodes.  At some point I culled the tape collection to be only "firsts and lasts"  the first or last time a companion or villain showed up.  In hind-site that turned out to be a strategically bad decision.  When the BBC got around to issuing the show on video they were like $50 for a single episode.

The high point of my fandom was probably the TARDIS 21 convention (at least I think it was the second con, I guess it could have been the first).  At that show I got to see "Wargames" and "The Three Doctors" from older seasons and then "Resurrection of the Daleks" and "Twin Dilemma."  But the coolest was absolutely "Caves of Androzani" in the middle of the night, on a big screen, with a room full of people as into the show as I was.  That episode probably remains one of my favorites to this day (it's on streaming Netflix - check it out).

It went kinda downhill from there.  Doctor Who did run on WQEX in Pittsburgh when I was in school there. But it ran in episodic format, and after being used to watching omnibus, episodic just isn't the same.  I didn't have the patience for it.  It also ran at like 6PM and at that time I was usually playing Ultimate.  I don't remember having access to the show while I was in New Haven and then we were through Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy and the show was gone.

I'd guess there was nobody more excited than I was when the new series popped up on SciFi, but I guess my 40 year old fanaticism just can't compare to a teenager's.  I liked the episodes through Rose and Jack.  I really loved seeing Sarah Jane Smith again.  A little bit I felt those episodes were aimed at people of my vintage.  The Martha Jones episodes were fun.  "Blink" probably ranks with the best episodes ever.  I was less enamored of the Donna Noble stories, although "Silence of the Library" was special and the River Song thing was pretty cool.  I guess I've been even less excited through the Amy/Rory arc - but I'm hanging in.

Here's hoping "The Day of the Doctor" is as cool as "Caves of Androzani" was all those years ago.

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