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Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who

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  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 2003-11-21
  • Author: Jonathan Richards
  • Page: T2, p. 1
  • Language: English

40 YEARS ON, ANOTHER DOCTOR...BUT WHO?

DUMMA-DI-DUM, DUMMA-DI-DUM, DUMMA-DI-DUM...THEN THE HIGH-PITCHED SQUEAL OF THE THEME MUSIC AND YOU DIVED BEHIND THE SOFA BEFORE THE DALEKS GOT YOU. AS DOCTOR WHO RETURNS TO TV, JONATHAN RICHARDS ASKS FANS ABOUT THE ENDURING APPEAL OF THE TRAVELLING TIME LORD


FOR 14 YEARS Doctor Who has been lost in the space-time continuum. Cast adrift by the Daleks in charge of the BBC in 1989, he resumed briefly in a 1996 movie, but otherwise his fans have had no inkling of which galaxies or even millennia his Tardis has been navigating. But he's on his may back. The BBC has commissioned a new series, the search for the next Doctor has begun and a new generation of children will spend Saturday nights cowering behind the sofa. The first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on November 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy's assassination, with William Hartnell playing the Time Lord. As the Doctor regenerated himself over the years, six other actors took the role. At its peak the show had a worldwide audience of more than 110 million in 60 countries. In 1996, for BBC TVs 60th anniversary, Doctor Who was voted the all-time favourite drama.

In truth, the most famous native of the planet Gallifrey has never really been away. During the long hiatus since the last series, more than three million Doctor Who videos and DVDs have been sold. The number of Doctor Who novels now stands at more than 100, a record for a series built around a single character, according to The Guinness Book of Records. For the 40th birthday the BBC commissioned a new six-part animated serfs that can be viewed on their website: Scream of the Shalka features the voices of Richard E. Grant, Sir Derek Jacobi and Diana Quick. There is also a lavish coffee-table book, Doctor Who: The Legend, and a ma. of further merchandise. There was a 40th anniversary Doctor Who convention at the London Hilton this month, and UK Gold turns much of its programming over to the Doctor this weekend.

So it is understandable that the BBC should want to tap the great well of nostalgia for the Doctor. But updating it for a 21st-century audience will not be easy. The new TV series, which won't go out until 2005, is to be written by Russell T. Davies, a fan who is best known for writing Queer As Folk.

DAMIAN WHITWORTH

TOM BAKER

The Doctor, 1974-1981

I always went for the laugh. I was shameless. I didn't have to reach to play the Doctor. 1 always felt myself to be some sort of benevolent alien who came from somewhere else. And I've never stopped being the Doctor.

Doctor Who fans are much superior human beings. A fan's love doesn't evaporate. It endures and it is blind. I don't think it's strange that people are obsessed with what made them happy when they were children. I was in Oxford Street recently and a man said to me: "Tom Baker?" I said "Yes". He said: "You know, when I was a child I was in care in North Wales. Oh, Christ, you made a bit of a difference on Saturday nights." Then he was overcome and just waved me away and walked on.

The Daleks have got to come back, that's definite.! would like to be brought back too, but not as the Doctor. It would be terribly, terribly funny if they brought me back as the Master.

ALAIN DE BOTTON

Author and commentator

I was utterly mystified by Doctor Who. I grew up in Switzerland, and when I came to prep school in the UK, aged eight, the programme was a subject of much fascination among my schoolmates. My English wasn't that good at the time. Who was this Doctor Who? Where was he from? All the boys watched it together in the television room, so I couldn't choose to watch anything else. The experience was as mysterious as lnaming Latin: I never understood what was going on. But I found it a frightening and depressing programme. It portrayed an unattractive vision of life, and I simply couldn't understand the obsession with it. Doctor Who came to sum up something of my feelings of being left out. Its popularity confirmed my feeling that I had landed among barbarians.

JOAN BAKEWELL

Author and broadcaster

l was a big fan in the Tom Baker days. I had young kids then and I remember as all being completely entranced. It was a completely new approach to children's entertainment scary, thrilling, witty and well written. The jargon even made its way into popular speech: Dennis Potter at one stage referred to John Birt as "a croak-voiced Dalek", a huge put-down.

MARK GATISS

Comedian

I absolutely love Doctor Who, and have done since I was small and used to hide behind the couch when the shop window dummies came alive. It was the first TV show I remember and I was hooked from the start. When it's treated properly, it's the perfect TV programme: witty, scary, odd, distinctive and exciting. It's true family viewing, working on many different levels. I would love to be the Doctor myself and perhaps, if this new series takes off, I'll apply 20 years down the line. But I think the smart money is on Bill Nighy.

VICTORIA HERVEY

Socialite

Was it Rowan Atkinson who played him? I can't remember. I wasn't a huge fan, but I remember it was popular with some people at my prep school. I just never really liked science fiction. The music was cool, though.

JULIE BURCHILL

Journalist

I love it. My favourite Doctor was Patrick Troughton, but that just shows how old I am. 1 was always a bit scared of Jon Pertwee, he looked like a bit of a pervert. But I'm glad it's coming back, and I hope Alan Davies gets to play him because he's so sexy.

BORIS JOHNSON

MP and journalist

I think it's brilliant. When I was a nipper it was played by a chap called Tom Baker, and the whole thing was absolutely terrifying. I was particularly frightened of the Seamonsters. But frankly I couldn't give a monkey's who will play him this time. They could get General Pinochet in, he'd make a rather good Doctor. Norman Lamont would be excellent too, he's got the right sort of quizzical eyebrows.

JOHN SESSIONS

Actor and comedian

I'm excited about it coming back on, especially if Bill Nighy plays him. I used to watch the show when 1 was very young, and my generation saw all the early ones with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, before Colin or Tom Baker came along. The Doctor should be crotchety and bad-tempered. He's not the trendy uncle type, or the parent who goes into their teenager's bedroom and recognises all the rap records. He's a reactionary, hates his ability to travel in time, and hates the future like all decent old people.

DERREN BROWN

Illusionist

I used to love it when I was younger, I'd watch it all the time, hiding behind the couch. I'm very excited about the possibility of Eddie Izzard playing him as I'm a huge fan. I think it will definitely get a lot of people watching, anyway.

PAUL CORNELL

Author of Scream of the Shalka, the BBC's web animation Doctor Who series The show's appeal lies in its blend of the wonderfully silly and the wonderfully serious. It was enjoyed by the whole family, especially with Tom Baker, who as an adult you realise is some kind of comic genius but as a kid you thought was just this really clever, resourceful hero. What are your memories of Doctor Who, and who should play the new Doctor? E-mail debate@thetlmes.co.uk

OUR INNER CHILD

IT would be hard to explain to someone who never saw Doctor Who in childhood why it had such a phenomenal grip on us as kiddies its easily forgotten that In 1963 there only were two channels and very, very little of the output was directed at the Our to 15-year-olds who lapped the show up. How do you describe what it was Ike as a child to sense the sexual chemistry between the Doc and his assistant? How to convey the fascination and menace of the words We are the Da-leks. Ex-ter-min-ate, ex-ter-min-ate", uttered in an easily Imitated, frighteningly neutral, alienated electronic buzz?

Be that as it may, while for most of us the show remains a rare pearl (along with Blue Peter and Top of the Pops) in what seemed a televisual bucket of pigswill, few would actually want to see a new series or revisit the old ones. Thanks for the memories, but let sleeping Daleks lie. Yet there is a tiny coterie of adults whose juices are overflowing at the very thought of seeing more. As far as I know there are no scientific studies of this cult's psychology but there are of the causes of nostalgia. The scientific journal Psychology and Marketing (April 2003) presented evidence that we do indeed tend to be nostalgic for songs, films, movie stars and fashion trends according to the age at which we consumed them. For example, in a sample of 16 to 80-year-olds, songs that were popular after the age of 18 or before pubescence have the least nostalgic impact. Liking for movie stars peaks at 14 and for films at 27. Like ducks who bond with the first thing they see on being born, there appear to be critical periods for developing nostalgia hunger. But there were also substantial variations in proneness to nostalgia — the more prone, the earlier the preferred product memories. Applied to the Who-nerds, this could be explained as follows: that their childhoods were more than averagely lonely, neglected or abusive. For such children, the menacing world of the Daleks may have expressed their f"3rs closer to home. Becoming part of an alternative world in which the threat to the Doctor was invariably given a happy ending (exit via the handy time-travelling Tardis) would have been deeply pleasing. As adults, doubtless some of them would not want to be reminded of the show because they want nothing to do with that time in their life. But for the cult followers it may be that nostalgia for it gives them at least one positive and reliable memory to cling on to from the maltreated wreckage of their childhood.

Not that I wouldn't mind seeing just one of the old shows again ...

OLIVER JAMES

They F"** You Up: How to Survive Family Life, by Oliver James, Is published hi Bloomsbury (£7.99)


Caption: You can trust us, we're Doctors: from left, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton TIMELESS...

• There have been seven TV Doctors: William Hartnell (1963-1966), Patrick Troughton (until 1969), Jon Pertwee (until 1974), Tom Baker (until 19811, Peter Davison (until 1984), Colin Baker (until 1986) and Sylvester McCoy (1989).

• The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey with the power to regenerate. He has two hearts and a body temperature of 60F.

• The first episode was produced by 27-year-old Verity Lambert, later a top drama producer.

• The long scarf first worn by Tom Baker was the result of a knitter thinking that she had to use all the wool she had been given.

• There is a Doctor Who monster for every letter from Aggedor to Zygon.

• The Tardis changes shape to fit its environment, but it became stuck as a police box after landing in a junkyard. The Doctor could not fix the mechanism.

• Actors in the series include Lynda Bellingham, Nicholas Parsons, Honor Blackman, John Cleese, Martin Clunes, Leslie Grantham, Bonnie Langford, Rula Lenska, Kate O'Mara, Alexei Sayle and Ken Dodd.

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

  • APA 6th ed.: Richards, Jonathan (2003-11-21). Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who. The Times p. T2, p. 1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Richards, Jonathan. "Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who." The Times [add city] 2003-11-21, T2, p. 1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Richards, Jonathan. "Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who." The Times, edition, sec., 2003-11-21
  • Turabian: Richards, Jonathan. "Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who." The Times, 2003-11-21, section, T2, p. 1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Un-ex-ter-min-ate..._the_return_of_Dr_Who | work=The Times | pages=T2, p. 1 | date=2003-11-21 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 December 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Un-ex-ter-min-ate... the return of Dr Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Un-ex-ter-min-ate..._the_return_of_Dr_Who | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 December 2019}}</ref>