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Everyone's going Doctor Who mad!

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As fans of the Doctor eagerly await Saturday's special season finale, the Express's resident Doctor Who expert, John Baron, charts the Time Lord's story from the very beginning - and looks into the future of the popular family TV programme.

IN case you've not noticed, EVERYONE'S been talking about Doctor Who this week - including my 17-month-old son, Stephen, and my dog, Frodo.

Well, maybe not the dog, but he did wag his tail excitedly at the telly last Saturday when a Dalek came on screen.

The reason for the 'who-ha' among workmates and schoolkids up and down the country is the incredible cliffhanger and the finest televisual moment of the year in last Saturday's episode.

The Doc (champion gurner David Tennant) is exterminated by the Daleks and, as the episode ends, he's about to regenerate. But into who, or what? Will the Daleks destroy the universe? Will Sarah Jane survive - and Torchwood? Aargh.....

Saturday's 65-minute special, entitled Journey's End and the biggest finale of Doctor Who ever - will provide the answers, with BBC bosses expecting an amazing 10m viewers to tune in. Not bad for a series that debuted in black and white one Saturday tea-time the best part of 45 years ago!

The last episode - The Stolen Earth - featured everything that's great about Doctor Who and achieved and audience appreciation figure of 91, the highest for the series since its return four years ago and one of the highest for a mainstream TV programme ever.

Davros and the Daleks returned, Sarah Jane Smith (from the Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker era) was back, along with a whole host of familiar characters and friends coupled with fantastic action, special effects and humour.

What do you think will happen in Saturday's episode? Click at the bottom of this story to comment

But, for the uninitiated, who and what is Doctor Who?

Devised as an educational and entertaining programme to fill the slot after Grandstand on a Saturday tea-time, Doctor Who has won the imagination of families since 1963, offering up the likes of the Daleks and Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Sea Devils, Yeti, Autons and more.

It survived until 1989 when the BBC halted production due to falling ratings and was briefly resurrected in a 1997 TV movie starring Paul McGann, a failed US/BBC pilot for a new series.

It was finally brought back by Russell T Davies in 2005. There were two Dalek films in the 60s featuring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, and two recent spin-off series - Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures.

The Doctor himself is a mysterious regenagade Time Lord from Gallifrey. Little is known about his family, he's a lonely, powerful and enigmatic figure who travels through time in his Tardis.

The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, was a crotchity old man, often irrascible and actually quite unpleasant. He was a bit bumbling and forgetful - mainly because Hartnell would sometimes fluff his lines. The Daleks were encountered in Hartnell's third story and proved an instant hit.

A reference to the second Hartnell story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, was in last Saturday's episode (the Daleks tried to drill to the Earth's core and pilot the planet to another part of the universe in the 1964 story.) Susan Foreman - the Doctor's granddaughter - was his initial companion.

The second Doctor was the 'cosmic hobo' - flute-playing Patrick Troughton, and featured highlander Jamie (Emmerdale Farm's Frazer Hinze) as his assistant. Many of the second Doctor's episodes are missing after being destroyed by the BBC - my favourite, Tomb of the Cybermen, is an all-time classic.

Come the 1970s, Troughton regenerated into Jon Pertwee and a dashing dandy of a third doctor who was exiled to Earth by the Time Lords and who linked up with UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) to fight aliens about to invade Earth - and the Master, played by the late and great Roger Delgado.

My fave Doc, Tom Baker, comes next. He was my Doctor. Loved the scarf, the mad, curly hair, the toothy grin, K9, Leela etc etc. I used to cry and run behind the suffer as soon as I heard the theme music coming on. Still do, in fact. Arguably the best period of Who in terms of quality. Genesis of the Daleks (which led to the Time War) and The Talons of Weng Chiang are particular favourite stories.

Cricket-playing Peter Davison followed when Tom left after seven years. Liked him, had some good stories like Earthshock, with the Cybermen, and The Caves of Androzani.

But he left after a short three years, to be replaced Colin Baker as a rude and arrogant Doctor. A lot of fans didn't like him, with his garish outfit and dismissive demeaner, but I didn't mind him, he was let down by some poor production values and even worse scripts and the BBC (and, as a result, the viewers) began to lose interest in the series. His American assistant Peri was quite fit and popular with the dads, though!

Sylvester McCoy was again much-maligned, but his darker interpretion in season 26 and stories liek The Curse Of Fenric found some late favour. He had Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred as assistants - nuff said! The series was then cancelled after being scheduled against ITV's ratings juggernaut Coronation Street and not revived until Paul McGann's eighth Doctor in the TV movie.

In 2005 the series was back and Christopher Ecclestone took over as a Time Lord in mourning and dealing with loss. After destroying his own race in the Time War with the Daleks, this Doctor was truly alone - with only the hints of romance with Billie Piper to keep him going.

Bitter and hateful - has there ever been a better performance in Who than Ecclestone in the episode Dalek when he conffronts his mortal enemy for the first time since the Time War? Great stuff!

Sorry folks - this guy beates the tenth Doc, David Tennant, by a mile!

So, the future - what's going to happen in Who?

Well, for the next episode, wild speculation on the web is that the Doc will ... ah, now, you're going to have to check out some of the rumours for yourself. Will Rose and the Doc live happily ever after? Does the Tarids get destroyed, will Sarah Jane get exterminated? It's fun to speculate and it's what everyone's talking about right now.

One thing's for sure, there won't be a series next year - series five isn't due until 2010, with four specials as the series takes a well-deserved breather next year.

When it comes back, can new Who maintain its great success? Show-runner Russell T Davies is leaving, producers Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner have gone, Catherine Tate won't be in it and there's a question mark over David Tennant's participation as the Doctor.

Saturday is the end of an era, in more ways than one. Only time will tell what that will mean for the series.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Baron, John (2008-07-02). Everyone's going Doctor Who mad!. Wakefield Express .
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  • Chicago 15th ed.: Baron, John. "Everyone's going Doctor Who mad!." Wakefield Express, edition, sec., 2008-07-02
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Everyone's going Doctor Who mad! | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Everyone%27s_going_Doctor_Who_mad! | work=Wakefield Express | pages= | date=2008-07-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 February 2023 }}</ref>
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