Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Date with the Doctor

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Dr Who Convention, North Sydney

November 22, 1963, was the day the world stopped when the news of US President John F. Kennedy's assassination flashed around the globe. The next day, Londoner Colin Baker arrived home at his flat to catch whatever new developments there were on television, a then still-exciting new medium.

He walked in the door, pausing at his split-level entry landing as strange electronic music and visuals surged from the TV. Baker was still glued to the television 25 minutes later.

The first episode of Doctor Who had just aired, a show which ripped open and played with the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of fans for the next 26 years.

"I was an instant fan and watched it every Saturday for the next five or six years until work intervened," said the actor, who eventually became the sixth and final Doctor in the Doctor Who series.

While the US was churning out camp sci-fi shows like Lost In Space -- entertaining, but ultimately shallow whimsy -- the Brits created a breed of Time Lords for Doctor Who based on various scientific theories and what-ifs.

These were beings who travelled time and traversed different dimensions in a never-ending battle against the universe's collective baddies -- chiefly the robotic, death-ray shooting, terrain-challenged Daleks.

The Time Lords always dragged along pretty, plot-propelling young female companions. But being asexual, any feminine allure was lost on the moral-pursuing Time Lords.

The other problem for the Time Lords (always the same Doctor who regenerated into new bodies if killed) was that their time-travelling machine, the Tardis, was faulty, meaning they often ended up in the wrong place.

While the show went off air 12 years ago, there remains an enormous army of Doctor Who fans.

They regularly gather at conventions across the globe to discuss the intricacies of the show and its history.

"I could be at one every weekend," said Baker, in Sydney for such a convention this weekend.

"I used to go to the US six times a year. Numbers are slowly dwindling -- which means we only do cities now, not towns."

Still impressive. People discuss the show, hold panel discussions, stage trivia contests and talk the Time Lord talk at these events.

"You can't generalise about the fans," Baker said. "It's usual for the press to find the odd fan on the margins of life and typify them as the average fan, which is not the case.

"You can find a football fan who is a neanderthal who goes around beating up people and it's as inaccurate to say all football fans are like that as it is to portray people on the fringes of fandom who think they are a Dalek as being a Doctor Who fan.

"Judges, lawyers, doctors -- many people enjoy the genre."

Fans survive on Doctor Who books, videos, the TV movie and audio recordings; but it really was a death in the family when the show was axed in 1989.

The BBC faced an explosion in competition and found itself chasing ratings in this new world. Fans were irked by Colin Baker's Doctor -- he was moody, gruff, unfriendly.

An excuse therefore presented itself to executives and the show was gone. Protests saw it re-appear for one last season before being consigned to the video vault.

"At the time it was uncomfortable and I was hard pressed not to take it personally," says Baker. Hindsight has repaired those feelings, as he now sees the bigger picture of that time.

But a pleasing thing is that there's been some solid revisionism amongst fans who initially didn't like his Doctor. Cruise the Internet and you can find long discussions about this very subject.

"It makes me feel justified. I'm heartened because they now see I had a longer-term view," says Baker.

"I did have the hubris to have a long-term plan, which was to start off playing the Doctor as an angular, unapproachable character that people would react to by saying 'this isn't Doctor Who, why is he being like that?'

"Then I was going to evolve him, but I was replaced before I got the character to reach the plateau and upcurve of that game plan. So all they got was the angular bit."

  • Whovention 2001 is on at the Rydges Hotel, 54 McLaren St, North Sydney, from 8am to 11pm today and 8am to 6pm tomorrow. Tickets are $80 per day, or $140 for both days, at the door. Family and concession discounts are available.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Casey, Marcus (2001-02-17). Date with the Doctor. The Daily Telegraph (Australia) p. G18.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Casey, Marcus. "Date with the Doctor." The Daily Telegraph (Australia) [add city] 2001-02-17, G18. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Casey, Marcus. "Date with the Doctor." The Daily Telegraph (Australia), edition, sec., 2001-02-17
  • Turabian: Casey, Marcus. "Date with the Doctor." The Daily Telegraph (Australia), 2001-02-17, section, G18 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Date with the Doctor | url= | work=The Daily Telegraph (Australia) | pages=G18 | date=2001-02-17 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Date with the Doctor | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>