If you've been under a space rock for the past few months, Doctor Who reached it's 50th anniversary last night. This post is late in the making purely because I was too busy getting excited about the anniversary special episode yesterday to even contemplate blogging about it! I'll warn you now, I'll be spoiling some of the events of the 50th in this post, so back away now if you haven't seen it yet.
I've been a Doctor Who fan for a good decade. My parents always used to rave about Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker as their Doctors, but the BBC never repeated their episodes so I never had the chance to watch them. I watched the Paul McGann TV movie when I was young and liked it, but still couldn't quite get my head around it. I guess the McGann era wasn't catered to children unlike every other Doctor's, it was more about the maturity of the Doctor's character, and that's why I didn't quite get it back then.
I can wholly blame Christopher Eccleston's incarnation of the Doctor for my obsession. In 2004, I was of an age that I could finally understand the intelligence of the show and take it all in, and my god was there a lot to take in. A grumpy Northerner travelling through time and space? The whole concept was a dream come true for a kid that loved sci-fi in all it's forms. Eccleston brought a dark regret to the role after the missing years of the Time War and it was beautifully heartbreaking watching every moment the Doctor remembered what he had done to his own people.
When Eccleston left, I refused to accept David Tennant as the new Doctor. There was no way anyone was going to take over from MY Doctor, even if he has the surname of a Pet Shop Boy. I cut his face out of magazines, I couldn't stand to look at him taking the place of Eccleston. I was forced to watch the Christmas special by my parents, and it took a matter of minutes before I got over that grudge. Before long, I was engrossed in Tennant's portrayal of the impossible man fighting back his demons and the demons around him at the same time. His quirky, have-a-go attitude brought an energetic side to the Doctor that I hadn't seen before, and I breathed it all in. I was hanging on the edge of my seat every Saturday night, even wishing away my beloved Strictly Come Dancing just so I could see a new Tennant episode. Tennant became my doctor with the episode The Last Of The Time Lords, where the story of the Master is played out effortlessly by John Simm, who I'd loved since Life On Mars. The idea of a malicious, venomous, heartless counterpart to the Doctor was fascinating to me, and Simm portrayed it better than anyone else, bringing the madness of the Master to life by examining his destroyed childhood on Gallifrey. The most heartbreaking moment I've ever seen appeared in that episode, as the Master dies in the Doctor's arms, I died with him. Not to mention the haunting soundtrack by the magician that is Murray Gold, which also makes a stellar moment out of Captain Jack Harkness' farewell at Cardiff Bay, my favourite place on Earth.
Doctor Who means more than just a show to me, it's a connection with Wales, where I was born. I left there when I was about 5, so seeing the place I was born on the screen brought a lot more depth to my childhood - I may have not been of an age to find Doctor Who scary when it reappeared on screens, but I found it far more emotionally profound than I can even explain in words. I make a pilgrimage to Cardiff Bay every time we go back to Wales, and I sit on the slab of stone beneath the water tower that is the fictional entrance to Torchwood HQ, I play some of the soundtracks, and I lose myself. Cardiff is my home, and seeing the Millennium Centre on Doctor Who made it feel as if I were only moments away from my real home, I only had to watch an episode again to feel like I was back there.
I'm a very vengeful watcher of Doctor Who, as you may have noticed. In the same way I disregarded Tennant, I ignored Matt Smith as Tennant's replacement - how could a sprightly 27 year old play a conceptually British old, wise man with as much depth as Eccleston and Tennant had? I wept hysterically throughout The End Of Time, Tennant's last episode, said my own personal farewell along with the universe, and vowed to never let 10 go.
And I didn't. To this day, I have not watched a single episode of Matt Smith. I just cannot comprehend him as an actor, never mind as the Doctor. Of course, that's just my opinion, but my blood boils whenever I see this young man jumping about spouting his lines with no real emotion behind them. I endured Smith's role in the Day of the Doctor last night but I'm afraid that's as far as it'll go for me. Of course, I've now almost recovered from Tennant's farewell, so I'm looking forward to seeing Peter Capaldi take on the role, as I'm sure he'll make a great return to the original Doctors, I'm sensing he'll be a Pertwee/Davison crossover, which in my head sounds bloody brilliant.
The 50th anniversary special had me in floods of tears, not only because of Tom Baker, but because of the appearance of every single Doctor, past and present, ready at their consoles to save Gallifrey. It still hasn't sunk in, the beauty of that single moment was just astounding. Just when we thought Smith and Tennant would be the only Doctors returning, we may not have got every one of them involved in the way we would have liked, but it wouldn't have been possible to do what every fan wanted. Which is where the Red Button mini-episode came in - The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. If you were annoyed that John Barrowman didn't get a part, or Colin Baker hadn't returned, watch the Red Button and prepare to see what happened to the stars of the show who weren't brought back for the anniversary special. This episode contains a nod to every single Doctor in the way we expected the special to, and just about rounds off the anniversary perfectly.
Fiction had never been so real for me until Doctor Who came into my life, and I know outsiders will never comprehend why this girl is getting so emotional over a fictional character, but that's the beauty of fandoms like Who - nobody else understands how you feel.
Thank you for everything you've done for me, Doctor - thank you for making me appreciate every moment as you never quite know what's around the corner, thank you for bringing me back home, and thank you for all the tears and laughter in equal measures.
Happy 50th birthday old man, and here's to many, many more.