Throughout my thirty-seven years of life, I’ve been exposed to Doctor Who, but I never fell under the Whovian umbrella of fandom. I remember catching reruns on PBS in the 80s late at night when I was younger. Okay, it was probably only about 9PM, but that was “late” for a six-year-old. I never got in trouble for it. In fact, my elder-geek of a dad subtly encouraged it.
Did I understand any of it? Oh heavens, no. My viewings of the cheesy sci-fi show were sporadic, never in order, and half of the concepts presented in the show were incomprehensible to my post-toddler brain. That and British English might as well have been a second language to me back then.
I had questions like: Why was The Doctor always played by different actors? Why are those slow-moving R2D2-looking things considered a dangerous alien race? What the hell is with that blue police box?! (Yes, I used “hell” rather liberally at that age.)
It wasn’t until later that the adventures of the wayward immortal time-traveling alien were made clear. And while that sort of subject matter would’ve grabbed me - and did when I caught glimpses of it - I quickly lost interest.
That isn’t to say that I wasn’t nudged in the Whovian direction in the interim. As coincidence would have it, I was going to school in London when the ‘96 Doctor Who TV movie (starring Paul McGann in the titular role) was to premiere. Unfortunately, I missed it by a day. I flew back, hungover, the next morning. Long story…but I digress.
My next Who-sposure occurred on my 30th birthday. While friends and roommates were doing their darnedest to keep me in the dark about a surprise birthday party, I was glued to the SciFi Channel (pre-Siffy). They were having a marathon of the first new series of Doctor Who - the Christopher Eccleston season. It was then that the first fanboy kernels began to pop.
Immortal time-traveling alien that regenerates into different forms (when the replacement of an actor was needed), following the continuity of decades past? I could get behind this. This was sorta my type of sci-fi.
But then I caught the interim special - “A Christmas Invasion - ” where they introduced David Tennant in the regenerated role. And I hated it. Every stinkin’ minute of it. Sci-fi at its worst.
As “luck” would have it, it was Tennant’s run as The Doctor that reinvigorated the series. A whole new generation of Whovians emerged from the Vortex. Most of them were young, and - to my dismay - hip. I wondered why so many late-teens and early-twentysomethings glommed onto Tennant so quickly and I didn’t.
Then it hit me. Pinstripe suit, trench coat, spiky hair, sideburns, Converse…oh my God! Tennant’s Who was a hipster.
What had they done?! After that, I refused to watch it on principle.
Friends showed me some Tennant episodes here and there in the hopes of swaying me to the Who-side of the Force. To their credit, “The Girl in the Fireplace” was a damn good episode, but for the most part, I was uninterested.
When David Tennant’s run ended (to my relief), the role went to Matt Smith. And he was even more hip and more youthfully oddball than Tennant was. Some staunch fan-friends of mine even noted this by dubbing him “The Special Needs Doctor”.
I got a chuckle out of that.
Which brings us to the present…
Last weekend, “The Day of the Doctor” - the 50th anniversary special - was set to premiere. The special promised a team-up of both David Tennant and Matt Smith - the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, respectively. John Hurt was also cast as an earlier incarnation of the Doctor that hadn’t yet been acknowledged in the series continuity. To top that off were two online mini-episodes that acted as tie-ins to the special. And I had no interest in it Who-so-ever. But a curiosity did linger.
I watched both out of sheer curiosity. The one that grabbed me was “The Night of the Doctor“, a seven-minute short that chronicled how Paul McGann’s incarnation became John Hurt. To put it mildly, my appetite was whetted.
Following that, I watched a parallel special called “The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot”. It was directed by another Doctor alum - Peter Davison. The mockumentary was star-studded and hilarious. That convinced me to hunt down the 50th anniversary special.
I watched it the Sunday after the initial premiere. And it was…
In my lifetime, I can only name three series that succeeded in blowing the ever-living wad of geekgasmy joy on the small-screen. Those honors belonged to the TV miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, Babylon 5 - episode “Into the Fire”, and Firefly’s cinematic turn in Serenity. Well, “The Day of The Doctor” trumped all of them. It paid homage to the last fifty years of the series, wrapped up old plot threads, and introduced a new direction to the series. All done to almost-note perfection.
Since then, I’ve time-wasted at least two days’ worth of Netflix binges on the show. I developed a lurking respect for Tennant’s and Smith’s runs as The Doctor, while desiring to start the show from scratch with the Hartnell years.
Sunday, November 24th, 2013 marked the day I officially became a fan of The Doctor.
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