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The Times coverage of series 1 date
The thrill of the chaise 2005-03-06
Elevate, exterminate: Daleks conquer stairs in new Doctor Who 2005-03-06
For 25 years, Doctor Who's creaky charm captivated a nation 2005-03-06
The Doctor faces his newest adversary ... the Canadians 2005-03-09
Doctor Who puts accent on a new look to old show 2005-03-10
Forgotten timelord 2005-03-11
The Return of the Time Lord 2005-03-18
Billie the kid 2005-03-19
Piper at the gates of dim 2005-03-21
Doctor faces a high-tech challenge 2005-03-26
Blonde Bombshell 2005-03-26
The Whys and Whats of Who 2005-03-26
Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past 2005-03-27
Just what the Doctor ordered 2005-03-28
Who's the daddy as 10m find time to see the Doctor 2005-03-28
The Right Medicine? 2005-03-30
He saves the world and BBC, then Dr Who quits 2005-03-31
Casanova actor seduces the Doctor Who casting agent 2005-04-01
Dr Who too scary for young children 2005-04-14
BBC climbs down over Doctor Who fear factor 2005-04-15
Casanova regenerates into the new Doctor Who 2005-04-16
Who's Afraid? 2005-04-19
Nigel Andrew's View 2005-04-23
Rovers' returns 2005-04-29
Back behind the sofa — it's a Dalek 2005-05-02
Wanted: One Time Lord, Tardis optional 2005-05-06
Let's not be beastly to Daleks 2005-05-16
An absurd ruling takes the fun out of Doctor Who 2005-05-16
Unsuitable for children 2005-05-17
The censors ... will ... exterminate 2005-05-17
Doctor treated 2005-05-19
Legislate! Legislate! 2005-05-19
BBC advises Doctor Who fans to stay offline until the bitter end 2005-06-14
Sought, located 2005-06-15
The Doctor's fate is sealed with a first kiss — or two 2005-06-16
I'm prepared for my role as BBC Man, but how to fit Big Specs into the new Dr Who? 2005-06-25

Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past (2005)

2005-03-27 Sunday Times.jpg


Are you sitting comfortably? In the early days of broadcasting, before you were born, Best Beloved, when the whole world was in 405 lines, took two minutes to warm up and vanished into a white dot at 11pm after a vicar had told you off, there were gaps -holes in the universe of home entertainment. To plug the holes, they put up a test card, and they made little films called interludes. These were like commercials, but without a product. Some time ago, I went on a charming and frankly bedroom-obsessive programme about them. I only really remembered the most famous, the potter's wheel -a shot of hands making a pot. It was strangely restful and pleasant. But they showed me others -a man ploughing with horses, kittens, the London to Brighton railway journey speeded up to just a couple of minutes. They were time bungees, hoicking me back to the hazy hindsight of childhood. I was filled with a retrospective feeling of euphoria and sentimental glee.

These insignificant movie madeleines were disproportionately intense. Seeing them again brought a lump to the throat, but at the time they made me sigh with tedium; they were interludes of boredom. They meant there was a technical hitch. Television used to have lots of technical hitches, and I realised that this is how golden ages emerge. It's the rewriting of cultural history. For a medium that is barely a generation old, television has a huge golden nostalgia.

For most of you, interludes will mean nothing, and if you saw one today it would still mean nothing. They are only personal time travel if you're over 50. Which brings me to Doctor Who (Saturday, BBC1). I vividly remember the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, and the first episode. I remember where I was sitting, I remember what our first television looked like. The Doctor went back to visit cavemen, and I wrote a description of what I'd seen in a colouring book. I suppose that was my first television review. Doctor Who was hugely popular with people who are going to be 50 about now. Compared with most children's television, which was avuncular and improving or good, clean slapstick fun, Doctor Who was invigoratingly scary. But, like most things, it petered out into self-parody. Its very long-evity kept it Zimmering on, way beyond any entertainment values. Finally, Michael Grade put it out of our misery, and that should have been that. But time travel has a way of coming back at you.

The golden ageism associated with the Doctor is particularly virulent. What is it with sci-fi fans that they alone are incapable of moving on? They clutch at the past with a fantasy yearning in complete contradiction, you'd have thought, to the observations and lessons implicit in science fiction. Never mind: either way, they're in a world of their own, and the BBC has foolishly rebuilt it for them. The new Doctor Who has an impossible brief: to be in two places at once. It's been made at the insistence of an audience of ghosts, adults who wish to be reminded of childhood and a lot of real children who've never seen it before, have no idea what a police box is, but have grown up with Star Trek, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. So, how frightening do you think a Dalek's going to look to them?

The first episode introduced us to a new Doctor and his assistant. The best thing about it was Billie Piper, who was well cast as a modern, chavishly smart sidekick who runs well. Doctor Who's assistants all had to do a lot of running and sometimes falling over, so they had to be rescued.

Piper has a face that the small screen just wants to lick. Christopher Eccleston, though, is a less obvious piece of casting. He's an intense, naturalistic actor with a dangerous edge; being a pre-watershed alien with comedy bits really isn't playing to his strengths. Perhaps they thought that having done The Second Coming of Christ, he'd find the eighth incarnation of Doctor Who a doddle.

The actual drama reminded me of early Avengers rather than Doctor Who, but perhaps that's because it involved invigorated shop mannequins, which I remember Steed had to cope with as well. The authentic nostalgia lay in the crap special effects and hokey crowd scenes, where 10 had to make do for 1,000. The dialogue was mostly exclamatory, interspersed with unbelievable explanations of bits of plot and lots of running.

What killed off the original Doctor Who was jet lag. The rest of science fiction passed it by, and unfortunately it still hasn't caught up. The current incarnation of the Time Lord has barely moved, and the one thing the future can't afford to be is old fashioned.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Gill, A A (2005-03-27). Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past. The Sunday Times p. Culture p. 12.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gill, A A. "Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past." The Sunday Times [add city] 2005-03-27, Culture p. 12. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gill, A A. "Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past." The Sunday Times, edition, sec., 2005-03-27
  • Turabian: Gill, A A. "Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past." The Sunday Times, 2005-03-27, section, Culture p. 12 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past | url=,_he%27s_still_stuck_in_the_past | work=The Sunday Times | pages=Culture p. 12 | date=2005-03-27 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=20 April 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Oh Lord, he's still stuck in the past | url=,_he%27s_still_stuck_in_the_past | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=20 April 2019}}</ref>