Fiftieth Anniversary Musings
It really is a good time to be a Doctor Who fan.
I have followed the show since I was a kid (I am in my early forties now). My first memory was my Mum telling me that there was a TV show that she thought I would like coming on soon. Until I was six we had lived abroad, and so I had never ever seen Doctor Who. The first images that I recall where of giant stones killing people, which of course turned out to be The Stones Of Blood.
I stayed faithful to it until it finished when I was seventeen. I was there for the twentieth anniversary, and still recall The Five Doctors being shown during Children In Need (in those days the fundraiser was done between shows rather than dominating the entire schedule for the whole tedious evening). In fact technically I was there for the tenth anniversary story, The Three Doctors, but I suspect I was hanging from my mothers teat at the time and unable to appreciate what was happening.
Merchandise was always available when I was younger. I remember buying both the Peter Howell and Dominic Glynn versions of the theme tune when they were released as seven inch vinyl singles. I had a Doctor Who mug with the neon logo from the eighties on it. My Mum started buying me Doctor Who Weekly not long after it started. Every holiday that we spent on the south coast used to involve me checking out the second hand book shops and markets to increase my Target Doctor Who novel collection. (I even found one that was autographed my Tom Baker. It was The Cave Monsters. Weird!)
Doctor Who Weekly evolved into Doctor Who monthly. The Radio Times issued a twentieth anniversary special magazine. My family bought their first VHS video recorder and I started taping as many episodes as I could afford given the price of a blank tape compared to my pocket money. I used to edit the episodes live into feature length stories so that I could get two four parters on one 3 hour tape. Peter Haining started writing those big hardback books that taught me about the history of the show. All was good.
Then Michael Grade took it away from me (The fucker also cancelled The Tripods one year before the end. I’d still yell abuse at him now if I saw him on the streets) for eighteen months. And it all seemed a little sour from that point on. The twenty fifth anniversary came and went with little or no interest from the BBC or the general public. The magazine and the books were still going, but little else. And the year after that, the final humiliation, the show just stopped. It was ever properly cancelled, they just never got around to appointing a new producer when John Nathan~Turner left and it just faded away noiselessly (like the Tardis apparently should, according to that lying bitch River Song).
Of course it’s all gone a little too far the other way now. Big Finish produce amazing quality Doctor Who audio and have been for fourteen years. I own everything they have produced but it will be many years before I catch up and listen to it all, and if they never stop then I never will catch up! The BBC have also had a go at Classic Who original audiobooks as well as New Series audiobooks and regular books. Things have gone full circle and we have a weekly magazine again as well as the Monthly one. You can’t go into a stationers without seeing branded folders, pens, rulers, toys – it seems endless. And now you can collect figurines in a two weekly part work magazine series (and annoyingly they’re actually rather good, especially the monsters!) The fiftieth anniversary is being shown simultaneously in over seventy countries around the world. You can go and see it at the same time it is broadcast in the cinema in 3D in several countries. When it came back in 2005 you would never had guessed that it would get this big this quickly. And at Christmas we have a new Doctor to look forward to, the amazing Peter Capaldi. It’s almost too good to be true.
And is often the truth behind things that seem too good to be true? Well, usually they are. We have already gone from two spinoff shows to none (although I have a feeling The Sarah Jane Adventures would still be with us if the amazing Lis Sladen still was). There were also two magazine shows at one point – Doctor Who Confidential (which went into the making of the show in what was arguably too much detail) and Totally Doctor Who which went out during kids TV. That is also gone. So although the BBC are pushing the show relentlessly now, what about after the fiftieth? The show is arguably in decline, but wow look at what you can still get. And next year we have a Doctor who, if written for properly, could be the best yet. Yes, it really is a good time to be a Doctor Who fan.
Unless you want well written stories that make sense. In that case, you can go and do one. But style and content is a discussion for another time.