Doctor Who: My Personal Experience
With the new season of Doctor Who nearing us faster than light speed, and indeed with a new Doctor in tow; I suddenly felt it was important for me to get down my feelings and personal experience with the Doctor as I have grown to understand him and the series. So I shall start at the beginning.
I first heard about Doctor Who I think by accident while rummaging through Youtube and finding different theme song intros from the 70s and 80s, likely uploaded by fans of the 10th and 11th Doctors at the time. And very easily I became fascinated with it. I mean there was just this bizarre looking fellow with a brown afro zooming down a diamond shaped corridor that looked like an oil spill, or that same guy now having his head floating through space: all with this absolutely intriguing and ear-worm-like theme song.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was discovering Doctor Who at just about the same time as a large amount of the current fan-base was. Sure, David Tennat’s era grew the fan-base in both Britain and America ten-fold from what it had been before that point. But after the current fans got used to Matt Smith, a whole slew of new viewers came on; creating vast stores of reviews, fan-art, fan films, cosplay photos, and all number of other geeky manifestations. And I was now, unbeknownst to me, getting pulled further and further in by the tractor beam of curiosity and mystery that is the Doctor Who franchise.
About a year or two later, Nash, from the ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com website, was producing reviews of Classic Doctor Who episodes that he felt were rather embarrassing or very poor, and so I took an interest in watching some of his reviews to hopefully learn more about the history of the show: since all I seemed to be into at the time was the older Who material. And sure enough, I was treated to a wide array of Whovian trivia, as well as examples of almost every classic Doctor: even it is was all about their worst quality adventures. That then was what drew me closer to actually watching an episode or two. So soon after that, I noticed that Netflix had both episodes from the new and the old series of Doctor Who, and decided to take a trip into the old with who I had decided was the most interesting of the Doctors to me: Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor. Rather arbitrarily, I chose to watch The Green Death. And after gradually making it through all 5 parts, I was rather pleased by the end. I later realized it was indeed the final episode for Jon’s second companion, Joe Grant. But despite that, I thought it was a very entertaining bit of classic sci-fi television, and thankfully wasn’t at all disappointed with him not going off planet or out of time like one would expect him to.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time choosing what old episodic arch to watch next, and wasn’t sure which Doctor to try out besides the 3rd. Eventually I got fed up with it and moved on to other shows like watching the entirety of King of the Hill and Futurama (if you can believe that).
The clincher that finally made me decide to buckle down and watch the revived series wasn’t really anything in particular. It was more or less the vibe in the air. The fact that so many people at my college, SCAD, were always sporting their fandom for the show and talking about the latest episodes on the bus and in the cafeteria. And knowing that there was no harm in checking it out at least to know then that I had given it a chance, I randomly sat down one night and put on the first episode of Christopher Eccleston’s era, Rose…
I have not been the same since.
I had no idea at the time, but this show was going to gradually suck me in further and further the longer and longer the show went on. The first season was rather freaky and darker than I expected, and almost every episode for a long while had this odd soft-focus edge around everything. Very orangey color to it all as well, beyond in the interior of the TARDIS. But even so, what totally got me to fall in love with the show and the character was just… their pure immensity. The fact that the show’s premise about “A Madman in a blue box” is only a very small part of what goes on… was the single most amazing revelation that I had while watching. The fact that this Doctor character is the single most complicated creature in all of sci-fi history.
He is 2000 years old now. He has lived in the bodies of both old and young men, with the mind of both an old and young man. He is boundlessly knowledgeable, but very impractical and irrational. He is a joker, a prankster, a cynic, and sometimes a brat. He is lovable, amazing, and yet terrifying. His travels have taken him to farthest edges of the universe, and even to its inevitable end on multiple occasions. He’s even prevented its death and has brought about its rebirth. We will never know all the adventures he goes on because he has a new adventure every single day. And we may never know how truly old he is, because he could very well be all-powerful entity that has decided to take human form (look it up people, it’s a somewhat true-ish rumor in the fandom). And perhaps the most fascinating thing of all, is we may never fully understand why he does what he does. Why did the Doctor steal the TARDIS? Why didn’t he decide to fix the chameleon circuit? Why does he love that grinding sound the TARDIS makes? Can the Doctor subconsciously choose his new body, and if so, why does he choose the one that he does? Why does the Doctor never fully succeed in wiping out the Daleks, or why does he chose not to? Does the Doctor know everything about the universe somewhere in his mind, and if so, then why does he go bumbling into every situation like it’s always going to be fine? And of course: Why can he, and he alone, save the universe on a daily basis?
My grandmother recently explained to me that the word “awesome” is no longer used in the way it once was. The word awesome has in the last half-century been downgraded into a mundane word that no longer holds the same weight or meaning. In the past, it originally meant things like “beautiful,” “breathtaking,” “fearsome,” “formidable,” “horrible,” “impressive,” “imposing,” “magnificent,” “stunning,” “terrible,” “wonderful;” and of course “filled with awe.” It’s a word that truly should express the boundless and frightening enormity of something larger and more important than yourself.
So that is why I can think of no other, more accurate word to use for Doctor Who and the Doctor himself, other than… “AWESOME!”
No more, and no less. Because “awesome” covers just about everything.
Now that isn’t all I can say about Doctor Who. Actually I realized a few other things while watching the show.
For one, I couldn’t get myself to stop watching it. Obviously.
I was just burning through episode upon episode every single day for over a month until I finally made it to the end of Series 6; where at the time, I couldn’t go any further. I was actually determined to make it through the entire series before I saw the 50th Anniversary. But it turned out that I was a bit short, so I just ended up purchasing the 50th Anniversary blu-ray and watching it before I had even begun watching Matt Smith’s run. It didn’t necessarily ruin anything for me. I actually became rather interested in filling in the blanks that I had missed in the story before that point.
Two, I freaking loved the wardrobe.
I mean, what the hell was I thinking not picking this show up back in 2005? This is show is amazing just for its production design and wardrobe alone. For years and years and years I had been obsessed with characters with long coats and fanciful garb: like Willy Wonka, Floop from Spy Kids, and even characters like Van Helsing and Neo who went for a more durable long coat. Bow ties, neck ties, top hats, waist coats, watch fobs, pointy ancle boots, and long coats were always a fashion statement that I wish I could have had years ago. And unfortunately I still don’t quite have that style now. But I’m working my way towards it because Doctor Who has shown me all of the numerous ways that you can create a whimsical yet functional look. Multiple Doctors wore the frock-coat, many of them wore ties, some even wore iconic hats, and Tom Baker had the scarf. It was just so damn eccentric and eclectic and bizarre that I was suddenly shocked that I had never invested myself into the show before that point: which was only just last year. Now I am certain that I shall always be indebted to Doctor Who for bringing together so many of the things that I love: adventure, excitement, quirky sets, eccentric characters and accents, fanciful and whimsical wardrobe, magical and expressive gestures (I’m looking at you, Matt Smith), time-travel/space-travel; and let’s not forget, attractive women and loyal friends. It’s the fantasy/sci-fi show I’ve always dreamed of.
Three, somehow, I feel like I’ve spent more time with Doctor Who then I actually have.
It’s a strange feeling and a strange thought, but it almost feels like the few months that I had burned through seasons 1-7 suddenly seem like I had spent 9 years watching them. It’s almost as if, because the early seasons had been made in the early 2000s, and because my investment in the show was and is so strong, that I feel like I watched those episodes when they originally came out back in 2005, 2006, 2007, etc. Sort of like false memories of my younger, more innocent and childish teenage-self had experienced those episodes and those Doctors, and not me as I am now. And perhaps that’s not just because the age of the show comes through in the visuals and the design for each era, but because my slightly younger self comes through when I watch the show. There is no better way to enjoy something than to enjoy it with your childish side: to feel like a kid again, watching something amazing on Friday night or Saturday morning. And then totally wanting to turn around the next week and make something based on that very same thing you just watched because you loved it so much. That is how I feel about Doctor Who. No matter what part of the series I watch, sometimes even the classic series, I feel like a true kid again. Sure, I still write all these reviews on Animated films and I watch a lot of anime and cartoons like Steven Universe and Wander Over Yonder and TUFF Puppy. But somehow, some way, Doctor Who affects me more than those shows ever could. They affect me on a similar emotional level that some animes do, but also on a fundamental adventurous level that many cartoons back in the day like Muppet Babies and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh did.
There’s really no easy way to describe it. When I think about the Tennant era, the Eccleston era, the experience of watching the 50th Anniversary: I get this rush of cool air, this spark of adrenaline, this fruity taste in my mouth like I’ve been eating my favorite gummy orange slices (or maybe it’s the Jelly Babies), and just this sense like I need to get up and dance or go outside and have an adventure of my own. It’s unlike any other feeling watching a show that I’ve ever experienced. And I don’t think anything could ever replace it.
In the end, I think Doctor Who will stand as one of my favorite franchises of all time. The theme song will always be on my mind and on my phone. The posters and T-shirts will always be in my room. I will always love dressing up as the Doctor: especially the 3rd, 4th, 11th and very likely the new 12th. And I will always, ALWAYS want to spur others onto the show, because it will change your life. You may not realize how much, but I believe that if this show can change my life as much as it has, then it could very well do the same for someone else. And it would be a shame for someone to miss out on that experience.
Here’s to Doctor Who. 50 years and still going strong. What must the future have in store for the Doctor next?
THANKS & SHOUTOUTS:
I would like to give a shout-out and a big thank-you to NASH of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses and WTFIWWY fame; without whom I would not have discovered the world of Doctor Who as I know it now.
I would like to thank Diamanda Hagan, also of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses; for her endlessly funny and honest “Twatty Who” reviews of many arguably bad Doctor Who episodes, as well as her still ongoing detailed retrospective of the entire Classic Who saga from Series 1 through 22.
I would also like to thank the brilliant Rob Grainer and the highly creative Delia Derbyshire for creating perhaps the single most catchy and adaptable theme song in existence, “The Doctor Who Themes.” Every new version I hear I love more and more.
And in relation to that I want to thank the Doctor Who Theme remixer and composer HardWire, of Youtube, for writing two of my favorite fan-remixes of the theme: “The Three Doctors Version” and the “Doctor McCoy Theme Variant.” (That’s Sylvester McCoy, the 7th Doctor)
I must also thank (as Colin Baker has) Russel T. Davis for championing the return of Doctor Who in 2005 and 2006; as well as Steven Moffat for doing a brilliant and clever job with his re-imagining of the 11th and soon to be 12th Doctors and TARDIS’s.
And in an odd yet interesting way, we must not forget to thank Stanley Kubrick, for without whom there would have been no Star Gate sequence, without which there would have been no Douglas Trumball to invent the camera techniques to create that sequence, without which there would have been no 3rd and 4th Doctor opening intro with the Slit-scan circle and diamond time-tunnel: which has gone on to become the most recognized Doctor Who related image in the franchise’s history… There. I just blew your minds. =D