Saturday, 23 November 2013

What does Doctor Who Mean to Me?

Unedited, personal accounts of what Doctor Who means to contributors to the show and fans alike...

By Joe Ford 

I was nine years old when I first met the Doctor. I was too young to understand what was going on except that the TV seemed to be alive with the most exciting adventures ever. The Doctor’s best friend was a girl called Ace and she nearly drowned inside a spaceship and not being able to know that she was all right I was in floods of tears of hours. That’s my first abiding memory of the show. Being traumatised by it.

I had a neighbour at the time called Paul who was far more knowledgeable about the show than I was. He was a few years older and had all manner of books and videos and I can remember him taking me through the entire timeline of the show, highlighting the really exciting bits like the birth of the Daleks and the death of Peri. It felt so exciting that there was this entire universe of storytelling opening up for me and I could explore it all. Clearly a TV show that had run this long was going to go on forever and ever…

Oh wait.

It’s cancellation didn’t hit me that badly because I had only just found the series and I felt as if I had so much to catch up on. For me it was a relief to know I had a finite number of stories to explore, that I could catch up.

In the next ten years I absorbed as much as I possibly could, collecting the videos, books and magazine. It was thanks to Doctor Who books (or specifically the eighth Doctor range) that I began reading in a big way. Thanks to the adventures of the Doctor and Fitz I developed a hunger for fiction and discovered the works of Austen, Adams, Christie, Doyle and more.

When my Dad was arrested and my world fell apart, Doctor Who was always there as a safe place to hide in when the world became too much. I can remember Trial of a Time Lord being a particular comfort during this period – fourteen whole episodes of Doctor Who to devour and take my mind away from my woes.

Over time I started to realise there was a whole new world of Doctor Who on the Internet and began writing reviews for the Doctor Who Ratings Guide. They were the enthusiastic ramblings of a teenager in love with the show but I did become one of the sites most prolific contributors, even if some of the pieces I posted make me cringe now (isn’t that always the way!). I discovered the Big Finish audios and the comic strips and they were both another stash of terrific adventures to indulge in whilst real life chugged on.

The Big Finish audio Death in Blackpool means far more to me than many other Doctor Who stories. Four years ago, I suffered a breakdown – not something that everybody would care to admit and certainly not something I could admit at the time. I had all those feelings bottled up tight inside and was suffering with panic attacks, paranoia and all sorts of horrid emotions that were making day-to-day life impossible. Going to work was frightening and coming home was a chore. I couldn’t tell anybody, not even my husband. One morning on the way to work I decided to listen to Death in Blackpool for the first time to try and calm me down on the way to work. I loved the story but I was still all churned up inside. As I listened to the last scene something snapped inside me, I adore Lucie as a character and her tears at the end of the tale released a flood of emotion in me. I cried and I cried and I cried and couldn’t stop. Simon stopped the car and tried to calm me down but couldn’t. I told him what I had been keeping from him for months, everything that I had been going through. It was that day that I started to feel better, the day I got help from my Doctor, my friends and family. I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t stuck this story on that day if I would ever had finally let it all out. A spin off CD of this crazy show allowed me to find some strength in myself that day to tell the world I was hurting.

On the back of that I took a couple of years off work to pull myself together…and that is when I started my review blog, that is the review blog you are reading from right now. It started out as a little thing to fill my time and as the years pressed became a massive undertaking that has allowed me to get I touch with an army of friends who have read and commented and some wonderful dialogue with the contributors of the spin off material. I put my life back together (and better than ever some would say) but suddenly the blog had taken on a life of its own and was to continue regardless of how busy I was.

This crazy, magical, creative television show has been there for me at all the weakest moments of my life, and all the best ones too. It has taken me to the most extraordinary places, allowed me to share the journey with some wonderful characters, taught me a lot about history and science, made me laugh and cry, given me a hunger for reading and listening to audio to a point where I wanted to discuss the work critically, handed me awesome friends and held my hand at every single point of my life. And it is still giving more and more to this day.

Happy birthday Doctor Who. I cannot imagine my life without you.

By Simon Guerrier

What a question! I've spent days puzzling it over. There's the cosy glow of how I first watched it, with my family. There's the raw emotional connection - the terror and excitement of the show. There's all the happy hours spent lost in books and CDs, and creating worlds of my own. Doctor Who taught me to love reading, and to love taking stories apart, and it made me want to write. Through being a Doctor Who fan I've met most of my closest friends and - indirectly - my wife. What it means to me is bound up in so many personal moments and feelings and memories. But most of all, Doctor Who means joy. Terrifying joy.

By Michael Wilberforce

Some might write Doctor Who off as a genre piece, but for me it's about the endless journey. A story that is constantly renewing itself, always delivering new ideas, new characters and new places. When you embrace not just the TV series but the audio universe as well, years can go by before you see or hear the same story again. One day you can be spanning the stars in an epic tale of empires at war, while the next day you can be lost on a misty moor, haunted by spectres in the fog, or fighting off an alien invasion in the sprawling suburbs of London. And, in the midst of all this, you can suddenly be surprised by moments of tender humanity. Doctor Who is also a safe place to escape to. In a universe where terrible things can happen, the Doctor stands as an emblem of hope, a man whose only motivation is to do the right thing, unfettered by the trials and tribulations of a normal everyday life or the puzzling questions of identity that a young person experiences as they grow up. For those reasons, Doctor Who was important to me as a teenager and it remains just as important to me now.

By Dave Hastings

When Doctor Who means to me...? Hmm that's a tough one. There are many avenues that are a consequence of this wonderful and very special show that came into my life for the first time back in the late 80s when I was discovering the creative world of Films & TV around me with my still impressionable mind.

But of them all, few stuck with me like the good Doctor, the 7th in my case. The many tales of the 'little man' with his question mark brolly enthralled me week after week, and I have fond memories of sitting between both my folks on the sofa on an evening watching Dalek explosions and Ice World's, all the way to the shattering of Fenric's chains, and if I could revisit those points now (where is a TARDIS when you need it eh?), I would simply smile, and ultimately realise that this was one of the most defining moments of my life, because it was there, that my personality was ultimately formed, (my inner geek so to speak), which I have carried in my heart ever since (not only by exploring other doctors but other franchise worlds).

Doctor Who helped me deal not only with my own identity, stamping it in the process, but also inspired my own aspirations for the future. It gave me ideas and taught me to remember not to care about what others think, to be happy, to live life to the fullest. Even today, when I'm either lecturing in media or working on a shoot, that same energy, passion and feeling of complete awe I encountered as a nervous 5 year old come hurtling back, reminding me to continue being as creative as possible, as well as to laugh, cry and love in the process.

So, I guess I have the Doctor to thank for that. Happy 50th my old friend and heres to the next adventure.

By Daniel Milco

What does Doctor Who mean to me? It means random, intriguing clips on Blue Peter that became false memories of early stories. It means Bonnie Langford bouncing about in a bubble, which is not a false memory. And it means, more than anything else, the fans. Many of the best people I have met in my life are people I met through Doctor Who fandom. (and tell truth, a few of the absolute worst too - but this holds true for any group, community, or large gathering of people. Everyone can't be perfect.) And yes, if you've been paying attention, that means my first story was Time and the Rani. McCoy is my doctor, but I don't play favourites, and love all the Doctors for different reasons. The stranger in a blue box who takes you away from everything, and shows you the unimaginable. The amazing worlds beyond the door. As far as imagination can go, and then beyond that. A petrified forest of words in a library of flesh-eating shadows in a reality show in space with metal men and clockwork courtesans and Edwardian mummies and underwater vampires and vaguely lewd plant creatures. And that is simply the stories on film. There are the stories on paper, and the ones on tape, and the ones lost to history that live on in memories and old scripts. Fifty years of a man who has been everything at some point, good, bad, ideal, imperfect, superb, inimitable, shaggable, sexless, angry, manic, enraged... but at the end of the day, he's wonderful.

 By David Ewan

What does Dr Who mean to me? Well, it’s impossible to express what it means to me in just one piece of prose, but I will have a stab at explaining some of the reasons why I love it. First, some background. I became a fan at around 6 years of age (I am now 31) in 1988 watching the McCoy era. I have strong memories of the closing scene of part 4 of the Happiness Patrol (guess you are all feeling sorry for me now!), and much of seasons 25 and 26. I remember going to my local Blockbuster in the early 90’s and drooling over the wall of Dr Who videos they had. My father would take me to Woolworths and buy me the latest releases. I recollect my first video being the edited Day of the Daleks and then I had Curse of Fenric (an extended version no less) and Death to the Daleks etc etc etc!!!

In a nutshell, what I love about the show is the way it was much of my childhood. Instead of playing football and following all the drones doing what was expected of them, I played the Doctor, my best mate was my companion and the side window of the school nursery was the Tardis console. In the 90s, Dr Who was seen as a cheap and dead product. In that sense, I felt it was all mine. It was just me and another lad at school who bought DWM, the videos and the books etc. I felt I owned it. I thought it helped give me my identity. It was the world’s best kept secret.

I have wonderful memories of my amazing Dad taking me to the South Bank to see the MOMI Dr Who exhibition and Panoptican 93 and many visits to East Sussex to Burton Books (paperbacks 75P!!!) and the Who shop in East Ham. I sat in Bessie, had a photo with Jon Pertwee, won a copy of the five doctors on VHS at my local library when David Howe visited to host a dr who day there, and I went inside a Dalek. So many great times, so many great experiences. Doctor Who is an old friend.

Why do I love the show? Well, its still the freshest and best idea in TV. The Doctor is a flawed hero, kind and full of wonder. Its magic to a child (and adult). He can be warm and funny, but sinister and distant too. We still don’t know his real name or his background, but we trust him implicitly. What other show has a hero who can be old and wrinkled but is just as credible as a young man. 11 men have played him, but he is definitely the same man. His ship moves through time and space and is a police box that is bigger on the inside that outside. What an amazing idea, even 50 years on. It is so English, so homely and so ours. The spin off media is amazing and I have made so many friends through fandom.

The master casually revealing the valeyard is the doctor mid-sentence, the daleks surrounding Ace in an old London school, the look on tom bakers face when he realizes he has locked the evil inside in the horror of fang rock, the discovery of ancient black and white episodes, the cover of the latest dr who magazine or that trailer for the latest big finish audio. These are just a tiny representation of my doctor who magic moments. So much pleasure. Is there any other TV show which can divide opinion and provoke such venom online. I doubt it. I haven’t the time to say anymore, but this piece represents just a few reasons why I love this show so much.

I hope I have got the point across though!

Here is to another 50 years!

By Bob Furnell

I think why Doctor Who means a lot to me is because it’s like a friend. It’s been there for a long time and been there when I’m feeling happy and when I blue. It’s been there in the good times and in bad. It’s been there to bring me comfort in a world that isn’t always nice. But most of all, it has been because it has always brought a smile to my face when I watch, even when the story in question might not be the greatest. It has been a part of my life for over 30 years now and if I am honest, I can imagine my life without it in it. And isn’t that amazing for one little TV show.

By Gary Prudhoe

Way back in the misty dawn of time (sometime around 1981!) a programme that had been hovering on the peripheries of my life (the theme music amazingly scared the life outta me when I was younger!) and it entered my life quietly and wove it's way into my DNA almost unnoticed. Like many fans I find that the show crops up in my everyday life in unexpected and surprising ways that mean nothing to the not-we out there - one example that springs to mind for me is during my History O Level - the unseen source material we were meant to use our skills and analyse turned out to be based on The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve.... Which brings me to what the programme means to me or more importantly what the show has given me which is a worldwide family that shares my crazed passion for the time traveller from Gallifrey. Sure we may not always see eye to eye and argue over the trivial things but that happens in the greatest of families and I feel amazed to be a part of the best family in the whole Universe.... Here's to the next 50 - Geronimo!!!

By Lisa Bowerman

Back in 1989 - they thought it was all over. The programme was scheduled against Corrie, and put on midweek. But... if I'd thought better of doing a two week job as a furry animal on horseback, back then... I'm really not sure I would have a career today - or met so many of my best friends. And now - here we are celebrating his 50th! The Doctor has simply been running through so many years of my working life, I owe him more than I can say. Happy Anniversary Sir!

By Chris Cane

Doctor Who and Chris Cane have become synonymous to my friends. Whenever they hear the theme, see a Dalek or TARDIS they immediately think of me. For me that's the ultimate compliment (next to being called handsome!!) But where did it all start?

Every Saturday I would go and visit my nan as a very young child. She didn't have a television but her daughter next door did so got to see some of the early stories but the Hartnell memories are vague so it was my nan that introduced me to the show. My earliest memory of Doctor Who was the Dalek Masterplan where these 'Aztec' type people were attempting to immobilise a Dalek by placing rocks around its base.

I have more lucid memories of the first Troughton story, Power of the Daleks as I recall it being bonfire night but I wouldn't go and enjoy the fireworks until I had watched the first episode and was mesmerised by the Daleks at that point and have been ever since. I even have a full sized Dalek in my kitchen!

As I grew older and into my teens I was able to identify with the Doctor more and more. His 'loner' lifestyle and thirst for knowledge and adventure appealed to me and I felt I was able to identify with the character, particularly as I became aware of my sexuality and the struggle I had coming to terms with being gay. Absorbing myself in Doctor Who helped me to come to terms with this and realise that being 'different' was okay.

The TARDIS police box was, for me, a sight of beauty, a place of safety and a passport to excitement and fantasy. I remember living in West London as a kid and seeing Police Boxes scattered about in Hayes and Uxbridge and whenever my dad used to take my nan home from when she then visited us I would always want to go with him just so I could glimpse a TARDIS. To this day, I never know why my dad never stopped by a police box so I could get out and experience its awesomeness close up!

As I enter my fifties, Doctor Who is as important to me now as it was when I was a child. Watching the classic episodes just brings back such happy memories and I never tire of watching my favourite stories, particularly the Hartnell to Tom Baker era. I'm hoping that the rumours regarding the Troughton Dalek missing episodes being found are true as this would be a dream come true!

What is most exciting and what I am most proud of is the revamp the show got in 2005 as it is now 'cool' to be a Doctor Who fan and I love being a part of, and associated with, a show that I have literally grown up with.

What I loved about the Eccleston/Tennant stories was the drama and emotion that Russell T Davies was able to convey and seeing Sarah Jane Smith return was one of the most emotional moments of Doctor Who I have ever watched and I felt like I was seeing an old friend again. I'm also humbled that I was able to meet Elisabeth Sladen and other members of the show.

Do I consider myself a true fan? Yes I do, but if you were to ask me to name every episode in chronological order then I couldn't, or if you were to ask me who wrote what story, then I couldn't but I can tell you that I've never missed an episode and Doctor Who has, and always will be, a part of my life and it heartens me that my family and close friends always think of me when there is a reference to the show.

Here's to the 50th Anniversary Special and to the Doctor Who friends I've made over the past few years.

By Jonathan Morris

Doctor Who makes me happy. The television show, the books, the audios, the magazine, the annuals, all of it. It’s made me laugh, it’s made me cry, it’s broadened my horizons, sparked my imagination and expanded my mind. It made me a reader, it made me a writer. It has led to me meeting the most amazing people, and has enriched my life in innumerable and unexpected ways. Even when Doctor Who isn’t very good it still makes me happier than any other television show, book, film or piece of music. It’s all about being 6 years old and sitting so close to the television set I might fall inside (and secretly hoping that could actually happen). That feeling of excitement is still there. And as I get older and jaded and grown-up and responsible, it’s lovely to have something to get stupidly, run-around-the-sitting-room excited about.

By Nathan Mullins

I remember back when I was four years old crawling down the stairs to my home, slowly pushing the door forward and finding my older brothers sat in front of the television set watching a show I would grow up to adore. They were the first to introduce me to the show, because of course you look up to your brothers from an early age. And from then on, repeats on UK Gold when the show was off air, VHS Video cassettes, and even today - I make my own Doctor Who Fan Films with those who, maybe one day will, as is my dream, go on to make the show itself.

By Paul Greaves

I’m 7 years old. K9 has just had his head knocked off and a large furry spider with Pant-Wettingly-Scary-Glowing-Eyes™ has landed on Romana’s face! From this moment I stopped simply watching Doctor Who with my dad, and became a committed fan. That was the Saturday. On the Monday I pleaded with Mum to check the local second-hand book stalls on the market for Doctor Who books and decided that the following weekend Dad would take me to the local library so I could borrow every Doctor Who book I could get my hands on. I was already getting the Weekly, as my aunt ran a newsagent, but it had just become Doctor Who Magazine so my weekly fix had (frustratingly) turned monthly. Christmas involved the Genesis of the Daleks LP and the following year The Pescatons record and State of Decay cassette were consumed with relish - and then, almost a year on from that spider, I sat transfixed to The Five Faces of Doctor Who. I recorded as much as I could onto cassette to listen to before bed on my little tape player - could there be anything better than this? Little did I know that very soon that wonder of modern technology, the video recorder, would change my TV viewing forever!

Sitting on the stairs, in the living room or in my bedroom, taking every opportunity to immerse myself in Doctor Who, the possibility that a familiar blue box might materialize on my street at any moment and I might be whisked away through time and space was THE most exciting thing I could possibly imagine.

Now I’m 40 and that thrill still hasn’t left me. Every time I get a Target Book off the shelf or watch a Classic Who DVD, my spine tingles as the 7 year old me remembers just how much it meant, how important it was and how completely it changed my life.

Happy Birthday Doctor, with all my love to long ago…

By Daniel Tessier

Just why do I love Doctor Who so much? It's hard to say. There's no one thing about the series that explains it. I discovered it slowly, in pieces over the years, from the barely remembered viewings of the final few seasons of the original run, through the Dalek movie repeats that showed up on the telly, until the movie turned up. Finally, Doctor Who Night in 1999 arrived at just the right time, as a sci-fi hungry fifteen-year-old. Suddenly, I became aware of the sheer enormity of this great, barely glimpsed universe that had existed alongside me all my life. "I through myself into it, discovering as much as I could. Maybe that was what got me - the depth of it all. Years of television episodes, novels, comics, audios... Or maybe it was the monsters. Maybe it was the costumes. Maybe it was the stories. Maybe it was the jokes. Maybe it was the sense of adventure. Or maybe it was the Doctor, never standing still, always moving forward, and never, ever giving up. For the Doctor makes things better, and he never gives up.

By Richard Orr

I find it strange that I adore Doctor Who so much now given that the first episode I ever watched prompted me to declare (at a young age) that I would never watch it again. The episode in question was The Green Death, which was being repeated on BBC2. Me and insects have never and will never see eye to eye but giant maggots on my TV screen was not on.

I was 7 when the death knell rang for The Doctor so until I started buying the DVDs of the 'classic' stories, I didn't really recall many of the stories at all. However I must have caught a glimpse of the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) as this duo would be the cast I remembered growing up when Doctor Who coming back was as likely as Katie Price hitting a note in tune.

These days Doctor Who means an incredible amount to me. I have met some of the nicest cast members from the show, lots of lovely fans (and obviously some not so nice - but the good ones far outweigh the bad), some who I hope will be lifelong friends. The show has given me some incredible experiences and moments I will remember forever (not many people can say they have been inside two working sets for the TARDIS). Doctor Who is a large chunk of my life. No show can make me laugh and cry in equal measure quite as much (a life lesson is to not watch The Angels in Manhattan after a few too many cheeky Vimtos).

I don't like my life would be half as fun as it is if it wasn't for a Doctor Who.

By Steve Cole

Why does Doctor Who mean so much to me? I ask myself this a lot. What went wrong that meant I never grew out of it as all of my friends did? Why did I grow more devoted instead of less, keeping my love for it a secret while learning far more than could possibly be useful...? What made me, in my student years, blow more precious cash on BBC videos than on food? What made me watch days' worth of bleary 15th-generation copies of cheap telly made 20 years ago? What magic was there in the stories, the leads, the direction that fascinated and held the attention even through the middling or downright dire stories? How do you explain the deep down thrill you get from watching Tom Baker smile as he pronounces terrible danger ahead... or from watching rubber monsters advancing on the unwary...

For me, partly it's the connection with the child I used to be - the part that will always be an excited child looking for wonder in the world. But it speaks also to the fond and forgiving adult - that warm smile as you recognise Terry Walsh's wig, or a bad CSO model pass... Perhaps it speaks to the best of us in different ways. We may have to look harder at times for the bits we love, but the fondness remains... At the end of the day, I don't really care why I love Doctor Who - I just do, in all its silly, shabby wonder. I refused to grow out of it, and it helps me refuse to grow old.

Happy Anniversary Doctor

By Scott Handcock

It was a friend of mine - Tim Jones - who brought me into the Doctor Who fold. It was twenty years ago, just as Doctor Who was beginning its thirtieth anniversary celebrations, and a whole flurry of episodes were being repeated on BBC2. I can't remember what it was about the series that appealed to me as a child - it was scheduled alongside arguably more spangly series such as Thunderbirds and Stingray - but somehow, it was Doctor Who that struck a chord with me. Something about the format didn't quite conform, and maybe that resonated? In any case, I was immediately hooked!

I actively embraced the series, and encouraged all those around me that they should watch it. The playground generally disagreed, but that never deterred me. In a way, their disinterest made Doctor Who all the more exclusive. I tried again to involve them when the TV movie came around… then again with Big Finish's audio adventures. And I never, ever gave up on the series, even when it seemed like it might never return.

But then - spoilers - it did, and did so spectacularly. And the most exciting thing in the world was being able to share this series that I had loved in isolation with the masses. I never had time for this notion of 'classic fans' being more legitimate than 'new series' fans. What matters is that suddenly a whole new generation discovered just how incredible the series could be, and why I'd fallen in love with it all those years ago. (I vividly recall the evening World War Two aired, the credits rolled, and my mother tracking me down to tell me 'Doctor Who's really rather great, isn't it?' Yes, mum, you're right. It is…)

So I'm glad it came back, and that I was able to share this magical programme with so many others. I'm also hugely thrilled to have been a part of its production in Cardiff. It was my first job out of university, working on series three of Confidential, where I stayed until the specials. I then helped out Sarah Jane on Bannerman Road, had brief flirtations with Torchwood, and joined the series proper once the Eleventh Doctor was at the helm. I've learned so much because of that programme professionally, I've met so many incredible people, and made so many brilliant friends. Doctor Who was a programme I loved so much as a child, and in a way, it's loved me back. I owe it so, so much, personally and professionally… and I can't wait until the 100th anniversary.

By Jimmy Carrington-Colby

To me, I always wonder if as a child Doctor Who was a curse or a blessing. Being extremely socially maladjusted and in and out of hospital with heart problems as a child liking a long-dead seriously uncool tv show was just another reason for other children to treat me like a leper. Still, I've no idea why, but something utterly fascinated me about Dr Who, the 'indefinable magic' as it's so often called. As I grew into my teens I officially stopped liking Dr Who, I became cooler, made friends. But it was still at the back of my brain almost screaming at me to stop pretending being someone I'm not and embrace being the demented nerd I really was.

As I grew into aldulthood, for whatever reason I lost contact with most of my teenage friends. I started getting socially involved with other Dr Who fans, which again may have been a curse or a blessing... It was eye-opening to discover that a lot of Dr Who fans were not anoraks but rather hard-drinking sex-mad nutjobs. Some of the people I met are now no longer friends but of all the people I still have some of my closest friends and my other half thanks to Who-dom.

Nowadays I still watch the new series, but the chances of me watching any of the older episodes are lower than at any earlier point in my life, save for some stories that are still immensely entertaing to watch whilst drunk with friends. And it's surreal to see my nephews running around pretending to be Daleks in such an unashamed way... Dr Who is suddenly 'cool'.

In short, to me, being a Dr Who fan now probably means being out with friends and making a comment that someone's got an arse like Zoe Herriot, Knickers like Jo Grant or hair like a Drahvin, everyone laughing in an understanding manner, and then getting on with another conversation. It's a shared history that brings us together.

By Andrew Cartmel

There was this odd British import, which appeared erratically in the schedules of CJAY-TV, Channel 7, broadcasting out of Winnipeg, in the frozen wilds of Canada. It was called Doctor Who and starred a sinister gentlemen called William Hartnell and some extraordinary robots called Daleks. The eerie keening of its music and the menacing swirling of its titles must have both terrified and captivated me. But, to tell the truth, all I really remember of that handful of black and white episodes was that indelible moment when they manage to get one of the Daleks open and this squishy black thing crawled out... Memories to treasure.

By Murray Nance

My first memory of Doctor Who was seeing The Ark in Space sometime in the 80’s as a rerun when I was about 5 or 6 years old. For years after, I had recurring nightmares about enormous green Wirrn larvae crawling up the hall to get me. From that moment on, it was with a mixture of terror and fascination that I watched Doctor Who, and I loved every minute of it. When I was 7 in 1987, I started watching the Sylvester McCoy years as they were broadcast and, naturally, I have a real soft spot for all his stories. Ok, I know Paradise Towers is almost universally ridiculed but those cleaners were damn creepy when I was 8!

Now I’m 33 and a primary school teacher and it’s so nice seeing kids interested in a program I loved growing up. The kids in my class even seek out and love watching the old black and white episodes - how cool is that?! Last year for a school performance (ok, and totally more for myself) I built a full scale Dalek out of cardboard. I don’t know another job where I could get away with building something as indulgent as that and keeping it in my workplace (his name is Boris and he keeps a watchful eye on the students while they work (great for behaviour management!)).

Doctor Who is one of those shows that reminds me of being a kid - getting lost in my imagination, the smell of the Target books I’d borrow from my dad’s school library, the opening credits to Sylvester McCoy’s era, the summer sun lighting up my parents’ loungeroom when I first watched Remembrance of the Daleks. It’s a chance for me to get lost in nostalgia that’s warm and familiar.

By Paolo

I have followed your blogged reviews for a year now. I cannot help but want to feed back if only by telling my Doctor Who story and thanking you for your posts.

The oldest or youngest me was there with the 3rd Doctor driving Sarah Jane through Dinosaur haunted London. I remember the Planet of the Spiders, and now in later life the mystery of the tulpa which goes back to the Great Intelligence in the Abominable Snowman, the London Underground and forward to the Great Intelligence in "The Snowmen" last Christmas. Next memories were the the Deadly Assassin and from there everything. I have joined every journey since then and caught the previous journeys on DVD. Ecstatically haunted by rumors of the bulk of lost stories returning I live in hope of an awesome announcement.

The Doctor has always represented the ultimate freedom to me. Fighting the bad guys and just freely traveling it would be the perfect life. I dont want to travel with the Doctor, I want to be the Doctor.

Cheers and best wishes. Lets hope for a brilliant 50th and a magic 90ish

By Agathe Deheurles (whose love for the show is so great she has made a stab at writing this in he second language)

The show mean to much for me because it's all the time different. This difference is that I always take pleasure in watching this show. It's not one like the others. This is one that always leaves us in doubt, in uncertainly. It's this show that I like and mean to much for me because this is show that sometimes makes me afraid, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, that moves me, which makes me shudder, which makes me tremble , turn pale, blush ! Sometimes I say:'' No! It's impossible! '' Or sometimes I participate in this show: "Go ahead my friend !!! Run!!" Or I imagine to be in this show and be in the place of these characters. And I wonder what I would do in their place ! It's this show I all the time I wonder all the time what is going to happen. I never know what will happen. The best or the worst. I think that something will happen and it will happen otherwise! And indeed, that is what is important to me because I love being surprised. It's for that I really love this TV serie because it's all the time this show.

By Dave Hastings

When Doctor Who means to me...? Hmm that's a tough one. There are many avenues that are a consequence of this wonderful and very special show that came into my life for the first time back in the late 80s when I was discovering the creative world of Films & TV around me with my still impressionable mind.
But of them all, few stuck with me like the good Doctor, the 7th in my case. The many tales of the 'little man' with his question mark brolly enthralled me week after week, and I have fond memories of sitting between both my folks on the sofa on an evening watching Dalek explosions and Ice World's, all the way to the shattering of Fenric's chains, and if I could revisit those points now (where is a TARDIS when you need it eh?), I would simply smile, and ultimately realise that this was one of the most defining moments of my life, because it was there, that my personality was ultimately formed, (my inner geek so to speak), which I have carried in my heart ever since (not only by exploring other doctors but other franchise worlds).

Doctor Who helped me deal not only with my own identity, stamping it in the process, but also inspired my own aspirations for the future. It gave me ideas and taught me to remember not to care about what others think, to be happy, to live life to the fullest. Even today, when I'm either lecturing in media or working on a shoot, that same energy, passion and feeling of complete awe I encountered as a nervous 5 year old come hurtling back, reminding me to continue being as creative as possible, as well as to laugh, cry and love in the process.

So, I guess I have the Doctor to thank for that. Happy 50th my old friend and heres to the next adventure.

By David Cole

I was 3 years old when Doctor Who began its long holiday in 1989. While it sent us a postcard in 1996, it would be another nine years before the series' triumphant return in March 2005. By then I was a month shy of 19, so the programme skipped my childhood almost precisely.

I had been an avid follower of Big Finish Productions' magnificent audio productions, and had become fairly well-versed in the series' lore through video and DVD releases and the odd repeat, but during my childhood I had sadly been deprived of the time-honoured tradition of sitting down on a Saturday evening and watching the current Doctor in action. Now that the show is back and is a mainstream BAFTA-winning hit, it's almost as if those Wilderness Years didn't happen; we're very pointedly celebrating 50 years of one programme – the recent return of Paul McGann to the screen and the lovely nod to his Big Finish 'era' tying the whole thing together into one epic narrative.

When I watch Doctor Who now, I'm transported back to my early childhood, almost regressing to that childlike level of excitement and anticipation. The fact that I missed out on the TV show during those years doesn't matter; I'm making up for lost time. Doctor Who has been called “the children's own programme which adults adore,” and it's true. The adventures of the Time Lord appeal to the inner child and when I enjoy them now, I get to be a kid again. In the words of Doctor #9, that's fantastic!

By Nicholas Hollands

I've been a fan of the show for as long as I can remember, and I still have clear memories of watching Destiny of the Daleks through the glass bit of our living room door, to keep the Daleks away. I didn't really get into 'fandom' until David Tennant got into his stride, and it's through the internet forums that I met my husband-to-be, as well as a bunch of new, great friends. For me the show has a huge pull, bringing together people of all ages and from all walks of life, and it thoroughly deserves its iconic place in British culture.

By David Richardson

Why does Doctor Who mean so much to me? It's 50, I'm 50... it's been there all my life, and we're grown up together. As a child it stimulated my imagination and encouraged my creative side. As an adult it did the same thing in different ways - got me interested in television, actors, audio... It led me on a path to doing the job I do, and it's a job I love, and I love it in turn because I love the series. And with it comes a whole host of wonderful friends and acquaintances... I can imagine what my life would be without Doctor Who, but I don't think I'd like it.

By Archibald Paasuke

I have started to watch Doctor Who only a year ago, but it was a love from the first sight (I mean from the first episode). Of course I was very unoriginal making my steps into Whoniverse with Ninth Doctor and Rose, but later I managed to watch together in a chronological order Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures as well. I’m feeling guilty because I have also watched a terrible season of K-9. But now I’m going deeper in the classical episodes and BF audios. That’s a journey I would like to take forever, because of the many reasons and one of them is that Doctor Who is a wonderful story about dynamics and changes in life, a story about a character with many faces, gifts and abilities. It is very individualistic. We may not regenerate and get new faces, but the message is quite realistic and can appeal even to humans, not only timelords: be who you are, be proud of yourself and be keen in developing (discovering) yourself. Preserve your face among those who haven’t done it. Be original, do not imitate the crowds. But be kind and helpful. Do dream: the best episodes of the show do encourage our imagination to go wild and brains to be critical. The magic of Doctor Who is that is opened to everybody and at the same time every approach to it is individual and special.

Usually I don’t like long TV-series and hate soaps. Plots tend to lose focus and characters become simplified puppets. Long-lasting shows are doomed to be commercial long living zombies and pointlessly kill a lot of hours in life. Doctor Who is one lucky exception. Like its protagonist, it can renew itself from being an educational program to James Bond-like adventure series, from being eccentric and steampunky to melodramatic and overcrowded Tardis-family saga, from being very socially critical and often very serious to something very jovial in almost a children’s fairly tale sense. You will never know where that show is going to take you. It is a dangerous trip to go with the series, but that’s worth it.

Doctor Who is an astonishingly hard show for newer audience. Many are terrified by classical episodes (which are mostly pure gold if we leave couple of battlefields behind), plus even with the new series you have to know about Christmas specials, miniepisodes, prequels, tardisodes and so on. But at another point the vivid dedication of different writers to the show is just magnificent: Whoniverse is huge and that’s something overwhelming. Create your own canon, battle your own continuity problems, meet new who-addicted friends – Whoniverse isn’t a show anymore, it is a way of living. And you don’t need to wear bow tie to feel it.

Everyone dreamt in his or her childhood to roam different fictional realities, past and future, space and time. I’m not exception. Doctor Who gives as a chance to be in some way like a kid again, to feel that sense of adventure, to try out the romantic cloak of lonely travelling figure and think out of daily routine borders. It is a good door to discover your inner magic. That’s why I love Doctor Who.
By James Gent

I’ve been asked to contribute a few words on what Doctor Who means to me. As commissions go, this is a knotty one. Aside from a spell during the 1990s when my interest in the then-rested show tailed off into more profitable areas, like rock music, comedy shows and the (fruitless) pursuit of girls, I can’t think of a time when Doctor Who hasn’t been part of my cultural life. Yet, what Doctor Who means to me now is different to what it meant to me aged 7, or aged 21, or even seven years ago, before the Glorious Return. But here we are – like childhood buddies who grew apart only to find our relationship rekindled, evolved into something a bit less self-conscious and more self-aware, and able to chuckle indulgently at our ups, downs, growing pains and occasional judgments of error (for me, mullets, stone wash jeans and an inexplicable obsession with third rate indie bands, for Who, take your pick – Bonnie Langford, Dimensions In Time, glam rock minotaurs…).

As far as I can recall, my fascination with and passion for the world of Doctor Who was intense and immediate. It was the most dominant of many crazes I nursed in my formative years, but far from the only one. When you’re a wide eyed youth, your obsessions are as intense as they are transient – at various times in my first decade, homespun, poky and unhip Doctor Who was competing with more commercial, flashy fare, from the androgynous popstars who graced Top of the Pops every Thursday, to the then-seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was the ‘80s toy boom (Action Force, Transformers, MASK) and the slick cinematic thrills of Zemeckis, Lucas, Spielberg et al.

I still have a fondness for all those fads that fired my youthful imagination but that fondness is based almost entirely on nostalgia, residual warmth from the afterglow of a less complex time in one’s life. Doctor Who stands apart from this as it continues to exude a fascination and appeal that really is like a form of time travel. The shows I enjoyed unconditionally during the early ‘80s I now appreciate on multiple levels thanks to the way the show’s history and themes have been tirelessly documented, dissected and analysed between the pages of countless books and magazines, not to mention the eye-opening commentaries and special features that grace the dazzling DVD range. The series in its current incarnation is a special marriage of the essential elements that made the original series so unique and eccentric and the cinematic vocabulary of modern, film-style TV drama that when it’s on form, it can’t be beat. When it takes risks, with something offbeat like Love & Monsters, you realise what a gift the show’s unique format is for creative storytelling. When it falls short of its own standards or seems to be treading water, I still keep watching – critically but affectionately, the way you stick around for a good friend or beloved family member who’s let themselves go – you get frustrated but you’re always ready to pick up the pieces as they get their act together – or the way you ‘keep the faith’ as your favourite group goes through an ill advised change of musical direction, always holding hope that your faith will be rewarded with that glorious comeback, that “Yes, they’ve still got it” moment. Doctor Who has had more than its share of those dizzy peaks and moribund troughs.

Before the internet, you had to wear your faithful endurance like a badge of honour, in the face of your not-we friends’ uncomprehending head-shakes... and then you discover that being a fan isn’t a solitary activity. There are forums and fanzines, and behind these are real people, who you find a commonality with, a shared bond, they share your pain at sitting through dross like Timelash and Time and the Rani like a faithful hound. And these people are proactive, not the lazy stereotype of the socially challenged ‘anorak’. Well, not all of them. They make things, write things, organise events and pub quizzes, and travel around the country to hang out at conventions, where the guest list of Doctors, companions, extras and producers suddenly, imperceptibly, becomes secondary to strong, rewarding friendships, spanning sexualities, age groups, continents even. It’s enriched my personal life to such an extent that I can genuinely describe the effect as life-changing, life-enhancing certainly. There’s a culture, a commonality and a community – too broad and too deep for the small screen.

This is what Doctor Who means to me. Many years of pleasure, man and boy, thanks to not only the assorted talents who created the programme over the years, but also the equally diverse mix of people it can bring into your social orbit. To steal a phrase – not so much a programme, more a way of life.

By Matt Fitton 
It's an anniversary! So let's have a list. Here is my own personal Top 5 of perfect Doctor Whos. In fact, it's not even a top 5, just the first of many that spring to mind...

City of Death: 'Absolutely exquisite.' Tom & Lalla & Douglas Adams working in perfect unison. As timey-wimey as a Moffat story, with a great villain, great guest cast and great location. I can watch this again and again.

Kinda: 'You can't mend people!' After the certainty of Tom, this, for me, is where Peter Davison really nailed it. A more adult, cerebral and downright spooky Who. Christopher Bailey's brilliant script coupled with Simon Rouse's excellent performance. And the Part Two cliffhanger is possibly my all-time favourite.

Chimes of Midnight: 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without my plum pudding...' I admit it: I have a festive relisten every year. The Eighth Doctor & Charley relationship at its peak, some very clever and funny writing from Rob Shearman, with performances to match. (Though it's hard to single out just one Eighth Doctor audio: Neverland, Human Resources, Lucie Miller/To the Death & Dark Eyes all get honourable mentions as well.)

Human Nature: 'Smith and Joan.' I can have this one twice over! First, as one of the pinnacles of the Virgin New Adventures, and then again to showcase what a brilliant actor we had in the lead role with David Tennant. All courtesy of Paul Cornell's excellent writing.

The Eleventh Hour: 'Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run.' Simply the best debut of any Doctor (bar An Unearthly Child!). I rewatched this recently with my son, and he was riveted throughout. The Eleventh Doctor arrived with a bang, and carried the torch brilliantly to the show's 50th year.

This is of course just the tip of the iceberg. Quite simply, Doctor Who is the best sci-fi-fantasy-tragi-comedy-(pseudo)historical-(melo)dramatical-farcical-serio-family-kids programme there has ever been or ever will be. And it thrives on change, which means it will be around in some form or other much longer than any of us. It's a legend that's been formed in modern times, something new that will last forever - which is a very rare thing indeed. Happy birthday Doctor!

By Andy Lane

For those of us of a certain age (I Was born in April 1963, six months before the first episode was transmitted) ‘Doctor Who’ has always been there, running alongside our lives. For me in particular the show provided moral guidance as I was growing up, giving me an example of how a good adult acted (apparently conquering or destroying entire races is wrong). Most of my best friends are friends I made through fandom. I met the woman who later became my wife through Doctor Who’. At the funeral of my best friend (also the Best Man at my wedding) the 'Doctor Who' theme tune was playing as we entered for the service (his family said ‘Oh, that’s nice, he would have liked it’, while his friends said ‘Oh, it’s the original Delia Derbyshire version, not the later Peter Howell rearrangement, he would have liked that’). I sat with my five year old son watching the 9th to 10th Doctor regeneration in my parents’ house – the same house in which I had watched every previous regeneration, but it was his first one. And, to cap it all, I probably wouldn’t be a professional writer now if Virgin Books had not taken a risk and hired me to write one of their tie-in New Adventures. Literally, ‘Doctor Who’ means everything to me.

By Robert Smith?

I recently had to figure out exactly when I became a Doctor Who fan. (It was for "Who's 50: The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die." You should check it out!) I knew it was sometime in the seventies and had guessed that I was around six. My father had been watching The Green Death because he'd been a William Hartnell fan back in the day, so was watching Doctor Who for old times' sake. (He was a fan of Hartnell in general, not just his Who work.)

This sort of thing seems commonplace nowadays, but back then it just didn't happen. I like to think I was one of the earliest second-generation fans. I grew up in Australia, where they repeated Doctor Who all the time, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to figure out when this momentous event occurred. But when I was reviewing The Green Death for "Who's 50" (yes, it made the list!), I wanted to nail down the dates, so I wondered if I might be able to find out if I did some searching online for transmission dates.
It took me about ten minutes to nail down the date: June 12, 1978. I was five years old.

How did I find out so quickly? Jon Preddle runs a website called and you can find it at The website aims to catalogue all the times Doctor Who was ever shown around the world, on any TV station. That's right, all of them.

This is a monumental task. Luckily, he has fans helping out, so that he can tie down dates and TV stations. But I know he's also visited remote libraries in Africa to read through their microfiche listings of what was shown when. It's a stupendous idea - and one that non-fans simply wouldn't be able to comprehend.

Why would anyone care, I imagine them asking. But I cared greatly. It turned out that The Green Death was only shown the once during this period as the original version, in black and white, had been rated A for adult content; later, the colour version was reclassified G and thus aired in May-June 1978.

 I find this stuff absolutely fascinating. I'm an academic in my day job, so I'm drawn to research. But I might have it backwards: possibly my academic life stems from the fact that I was so into Doctor Who that I studied it intensely, hungry for facts and figures.

As a result, my journey into the past didn't stop there. I keep rigorous diaries, dating back to the mid-eighties, so I was pretty familiar with everything that was shown in Australia in the mid to late eighties. Consequently, I went through table upon table of data, cross-checking the numbers and dates against my own records.

And I found several errors.

 For example, The Seeds of Doom Episode 4 lost the last five minutes of its episode, but the ABC kindly showed them at the beginning of Episode 5 the next day. I was so disappointed and then ecstatic about this that I'd recorded it in my diary. The website was almost right, but it had transposed the events by an episode. I knew that wasn't right, as I'd missed Episode 6 (my grandmother died that day), whereas I'd definitely seen the recap. So I emailed Jon Preddle and he was very grateful. He told me that much of the information came from people's memories. Which is pretty impressive: whoever had remembered that particular incident was very close indeed, only off by a day.

 I could justify all my other changes, based on two written records: my diaries and my calendar. (I wrote down what I saw and when I saw it, and I also had a little recap of the episode in my diary.) You can imagine how pleased he was for this kind of concrete evidence.

Then he asked me if I could solve the mystery of December 1989. Could I?!? This was the moment I was born for!

Of course I could: The Pirate Planet 3 was delayed for several days and then they never showed Episode 4, despite it appearing in the listings. I also found a miscounted number of episodes in 1990. The website had a note saying that at some point during a three-month period an episode wasn't shown, but they couldn't figure out when that was. I had perfect records: not only could I tell them which episode (Invasion of Time 4), I could tell them why (it was pre-empted by parliament).

So now the website is nicely up to date. Of all the many things I've achieved in my life (and there have been many), this may have been the geekiest thing I've ever done. And I love it!

What all this indicates is the sheer hold that Doctor Who has had - and continues to have - on my life. I can track most of the major events of my childhood (and beyond) around what Doctor Who story I was watching (or reading or listening to). Doctor Who is something ever-present. It helped me decide to be a scientist, it introduced me to lifelong friends and lovers, and it even gave me a second career, as an award-winning writer. (The precursor to "Who's 50", "Who is the Doctor", our guide to the New Series, won the 2013 Silver Independent Book Publishers award in pop culture.) My research into mathematical modelling of infectious diseases - something that was directly inspired by Logopolis - has saved countless lives. I've been pretty lucky.

But, as I say in "Who's 50", no experience in my life - before or since - was as profound as watching Jon Pertwee fight off a giant fly with his cape as maggots swarmed all around the countryside. Upon seeing that, I was absolutely hooked and I never looked back. I was five years old and I'd just lost my Doctor Who virginity. I went in as a boy and came out a fan.

And as a special treat...

By Paul Magrs 
What I learned from the Dr Who Annual… (Excerpt from The Annual Years by Paul Magrs, Obverse Books, 2014.)

What I learned from the Dr Who Annual 1976. 
When he tells you he’s taking you to a beautiful world inhabited by friendly pacifists: watch out. Even the most innocuous worlds can be terrifying, especially if you materialize on the wrong scale and fall in a pond. Also, it isn’t just the monsters and stuff marauding about that can do you harm. Some planets are alive and telepathic and can bring your worst fears to life before you. Sponges can be sentient but not necessarily evil. Watch out for noisy feminists. Cabbage tea can do wonders for hormonal imbalances. The Neuronic Zone is a very strange and scary place. Watch out for being zapped into a human farm and receiving the excess psychic energy of flame-headed skeleton people.

What I learned from the Dr Who Annual 1977 
The deeper you get into outer space, the stranger the alien species become, and still Dr Who is pretty blase about everything he sees.

What’s more dangerous than evil space lizards who hate you? Evil space lizards with a wind machine who hate you.

Beware of return visits from your old friend Dr Who. He doesn’t ever have quiet weekends away. If he turns up on your doorstep again, something hideous is about to happen.

It really isn’t worth getting into a battle of mind-power with Dr Who. He will most definitely kick your mental arse.

What I learned from the Dr Who Annual 1978 
When you go looking up old friends? Prepare to be disappointed. People change. They forget you. They move on. They can go to the bad. When you travel with human beings, they soon get tired of very dusty hot planets with three suns. They quite like going back to Earth every now and then, no matter how much they tease about wanting to be somewhere exotic. Just because someone says they’re a peaceful scientist, don’t believe them. They might be psychotic killers, even if they’re not ugly on the outside. In fact, don’t listen to anyone. Do your own thing. We can’t ever be sure whether the world we’re in and the further adventures we’re heading into are actually real, or whether they’re just a heroic dream that Dr Who is having.

Never mind!

What I learned from the Dr Who Annual 1979 
Persecution and sacrifice are both are waste of time, and not at all nice. It’s necessary to cultivate your own garden. And, if you do, you might get help at just the right moment from the unlikeliest of sources. Watch out for gigantic space cows in ermine robes. Anyone too smiley and happy and perfect is bound to turn out to be a vampiric fiend. Always buy Princesses anti-grav belts as presents. If all your clothes and flesh are made to disappear by a crazy mystic in a castle, run straight to Dr Who, who understands how M-Rays work. And never, ever get into a mind duel with him – but you already know that, don’t you?


Anonymous said...

May 2007. I am almost thirteen years old, and Batman and the Justice League cartoons are the latest pop culture fad that I am obsessed with (the other major interests of my life up to that point being Scooby-Doo, Winnie the Pooh, Letterland, The Land Before Time, Godzilla and friends, Dinosaurs and Jurassic Park, Star Wars, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Alien, Predator, and Indiana Jones). The only major fellow fan I know is a family friend who we meet up with semi-regularly. At one of these get togethers, he gives me an early birthday present: two DVDs of a science fiction series I'd heard of, Doctor Who. The DVDs were called "Genesis of the Daleks" and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". My friend told me a bit about the show, and also that was really bad - an absorbed prejudice that took me years to overcome (though I had some help from "Blink" and Matt Smith in doing that.)

Having raised myself on a very decent helping of old monster movies, I took the terrible special effects in their cheesy stride, but what impressed me even more about Genesis (the first to be watched) was its story. Having grown up to be a very compassionate person, Batman's no-guns-or-killing rule was something that helped vindicate my values. In that respect, the Doctor was like the next step towards an adult perspective. The Doctor loved life in all its forms and abhorred violence and taking lives, but he was willing to kill and to use guns when he had to in order to do the right thing. If Batman was an idealist, than the Doctor was a pragmatist, and I feel that he has helped me a great deal in dealing with the depressing often horrifying realizations about human nature and the world that come throughout adolescence. The Doctor acknowledged that there were grey areas in life, that sometimes death was inevitable...but he kept his values anyway. He didn't give up.

Of course, I couldn't have summed it up at the time without the retrospection of several years. Genesis was slow but turned out great, but it was Talons that laid the groundwork for me to be hooked on the show (and later, that story's spin-off audio series Jago and Litefoot). My friend lent us Pyramids of Mars, but I didn't like that one as much even though there was lots of good stuff in it, due to the Doctor's attitude (however justified) throughout the story. But the special features on the DVDs - clips of all these different stories, with all these strange creatures and strange sounds, from all different eras; look at them all! I was well and truly hooked.

Now I'm planning to write my high school Senior Thesis paper on Talons of Weng-Chiang, and just today I came up with lots of terrible Wholiday wishes such as "Happy 5atWh0day!"

Happy 50th, Doctor Who. Long may you carry on.

Doc Oho said...

Thanks for sharing your story :-)

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