The Doctor is Back

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 11:48 a.m.
A new season of Dr. Who started on the Space channel last week, and it makes me happy to see the Time Lord back even though the latest incarnation is so young looking that it makes it difficult to believe that he is thousands of years old and wise in all things. Still, I am willing to cut the new and baby-faced Doctor a lot of slack because I’ve been following Doctor Who for a long time.

I first “met” Dr. Who in Hedon-on-Hull, England in 1979 when I was twenty-four and about to begin my great adventure of crossing Europe. My husband and I had only been married for two years, but we worked and saved money for a European trip. Just before we left, we bought forty acres with friends of ours in the Eastern Townships with the hope that we might live there some day.

During a three-month stay at a long-suffering friend’s house (and I subsequently named my first child after this kind friend), I discovered the joys of British television and there were two very different shows that particularly struck my fancy: Dr. Who and All Creatures Great and Small. Both shows do share one thing in common; they tell stories that take you “somewhere else.” This is obvious with Dr. Who as the stories leap back and forward in time. All Creatures takes place between the 1930s and 1950s in a gentler world where people were more or less polite to one another and courageously struggled to get by on very little. Mrs. Hall, the vets’ housekeeper, would have been outraged at the loose morals and wastefulness of today’s throwaway society.

I am still amazed at how many story lines the Dr. Who script writers can come up with, particularly with villains who look like Hoover vacuum cleaners turned right side-up, the Darliks, and whose main line in every script is “Exterminate. Exterminate.” Since they can only say this in a monotone voice, forgetful and tone-deaf people everywhere would have no trouble with a sing-along-with-the-Darliks album which no doubt would be called, you guessed it, Exterminate.

As actors are prone to coming and going and not wanting to waste their precious talents on being stuck in a childish science fiction show like Dr. Who, the writers came up with the ingenious idea that if Dr. Who was about to die, he would morph into a new person who would continue in the battle to save the universe from evil-doers and megalomaniac robots who also seem to share his abilities to go back and forth in time thus explaining, for example, why aliens might be attacking Earth in the nineteenth century.
The first Doctor Who that I watched in the 1970s was the inimitable Tom Baker who wore a ridiculously long striped wool scarf and was followed by his female companion Ramana and his trusty robot dog, K-9. His huge eyes could say volumes. Peter Davidson, the actor who played Tristan on All Creatures Great and Small, soon followed Baker; my young son and I watched him together and dubbed him the Tristan-Doctor. Until the present actor, Matt Smith took the part, Davidson was the youngest actor to be cast as the Doctor.

Each actor who has played Dr. Who coincides with a different point in my life and every time that a new one takes the part, I am convinced that he just won’t do. I felt exactly that way when David Tennant took over for Christopher Eccleston who quit Dr. Who after only one season, but over the five years that Tennant played the part, I warmed up to him because he was nuts, plain and simple.

The main prerequisite for playing the part is the ability to portray a brilliant maniac which Tennant did so very well. If an actor can do that, and if the writers can keep spinning impossible stories, the die-hard fans like me will watch and keep watching for years to come.



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