The Trip of a Lifetime: My life with Doctor Who

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Posted March 31, 2015 by Josh McCullough in Nerdy Bits

This past weekend, March 26th to be exact, marked the tenth anniversary of the revival of Doctor Who by producer Julie Gardner and writer Russell T Davis. For a show about time travel, I feel it’s only fitting that it turn fifty, and then two years later turns ten. Today however, we’re not here to talk about the specifics behind the show’s revival or the story behind it, an interesting story as it is, it’s one anyone could tell. Instead, I would like to talk about my experience with the show, I started watching with the revival, and have spent half my life with the show, it has therefore left a massive impact on me and I’d like to take some time to share with you a little about my life growing up with Doctor Who.

So, to start with I’d like to offer a bit of a confession; I didn’t actually start watching the show until episode twelve, Bad Wolf,  and even then it wasn’t until after much pressure from my dad. Sure I’d see the adverts every week, I remember those quite clearly, and while I had a vague curiosity in what I was seeing, for some reason the show never quite jumped out at me as a much watch. Every week my dad would suggest we give it a watch, and every week I’d find some excuse or something else I’d rather do. Eventually, he’d had enough. He heard that his favourite villains, some strange creatures called the daleks, were returning for the series finale and that we absolute had to watch it. I can’t remember why, but I decided to give it a shot, and it ended up being one of the most life changing events that could’ve happened to me.

I’m sure I had many questions while watching the show, who are these characters? Why are we watching Big Brother in space? Did that man just walk into a box and come out in a spaceship? But really, at the time I didn’t care or feel like asking, I was too enthralled by what I was watching. By the time the credits had rolled, I’d witnessed an entire army of what I assumed to be robots (oh I had much to learn) and the heroes ready to launch a valiant attack. This man called “The Doctor” had given a triumphant speech at the end, I didn’t quite know who he was yet, but I knew one thing; he was an absolutely captivating hero; I needed more. The wait between episodes was quite possibly the longest week of my entire life, when the big day finally came I was beyond hyped, and it was everything I had been hoping for. There was so many firsts I’ll never forget, my first look at the Dalek Emperor (who it turns out weren’t robots, but disgusting octopus creatures), my first look at the T.A.R.D.I.S. materialising (the sound would stay with me forever) and even my first…. Regeneration!? Strangely, I didn’t find the concept of the hero I’d become attached to over the last two episodes complete change before my eyes to be all that shocking, I believe my dad might have suggested it before it happened, so while I remember it happening very strongly, I didn’t have a great big sad or emotional response. Instead, this event only grew my curiosity, I wanted to know who this new man was, was he anything like the one I’d just known? I’d have a long time to wait, the show wouldn’t return until Christmas, but I had plenty of work to do until then getting to know this show.

Nine_Regenerates

This moment will be forever seared into my brain.

 

The next few months were spent hunting down all the episodes from the series I’d just missed. Being from a time before iPlayer, the excitement that came from finding more episodes to watch was a brilliant feeling and I began to regret not catching the show when it was on. The Doctor was a completely engrossing character to me, he could be funny one minute and then absolute deadly serious the next, he was always interesting however and kept my attention 100% focused. The things that hadn’t made sense to me when I first watched it just as the T.A.R.D.I.S. being bigger on the inside became second nature to me, and the idea that we could go anywhere in space in time made each episode feel bold, fresh and new. Throughout this, I stuck close to Doctor Who Magazine to catch glimpses of the new doctor, David Tennant. I remember seeing his costume on the cover for the first time, it looked iconic, it looked right, I couldn’t wait. This wasn’t the time however to be looking forward, as my dad had told me about the previous run of the show, it turned out Doctor Who had been going on for years, and it wasn’t long before I found it. It turned out that UK channel GOLD were replaying classic episodes of the show, and it’s here that I truly began to learn about the show.

It was just my luck that I began watching just as they started replaying the adventures of the seventh doctor (there were so many?) Sylvester McCoy, a man who would grow to become my favourite. Looking back now, I probably picked the worst place to start, as the early McCoy stuff is some of the cheesiest and cringe worthy episodes in Doctor Who history, but at the time I really didn’t care, it was more Doctor Who, and that was awesome. While McCoy started off as a bit of a bumbling, child friendly clown, he soon started to develop the sort of qualities I loved seeing in Eccleston, the cold, conniving nature of the master strategist. It was the plans within plans the doctor developed that made him my favourite and made his episodes enjoyable to me, and still allows me to enjoy them to this day. As the months went on I started meeting other doctors who were just as fascinating; I remember catching the ending of an episode and saw the doctor looking like a cricket player with a stick of celery on his lapel, and another with quite possibly the most eye assaulting costume I’d ever seen. While I have strong memories of meeting the fifth, sixth, seventh and even eight doctors for the first time, how I encountered the first four I can’t quite remember. I do remember owning an encyclopaedia type book about the show which is where I picked up a lot of obscure information, but I unfortunately can’t remember much about it (bonus points to whoever can tell me what it was). The point being however, by the time the second series of doctor who had rolled around, I was completely on board with the show, I knew Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Zygons, it was all second nature to me. I was completely ready for the Whomania to make a massive return.

Doctor Who DVD Shelf

10 years of effort across three shelfs.

With the second series of the show it absolutely exploded in popularity, David Tennant was an absolute hit with audiences and it seemed everyone fell under his charismatic spell. Everyone wanted a pinstriped suit just like his, and sonic screwdrivers were a hotly demanded toy amongst kids, I know I still have mine somewhere, however I think it’s broke. David Tennant became a household name and it seemed he was everywhere, no longer just contained to my own small world of interests, he’d permeated into the mainstream. I particularly remember seeing him on the cover of a magazine claiming him “world’s sexiest man”. It was around this time I started getting into a ton of Doctor Who merchandise; toys, games, posters, books. I wish I had photos to show you my room when it was decked out with doctor who stuff everywhere. I still have nightmares of cybermen figures falling off the shelf and smashing me in the face, it made me regret late night trips to Toys R Us, but it’s worth it for the memories. All that remains of this time is a massive shelf of Doctor Who DVDs which is still growing to this very day with the aid of a good friend of mine, who has promised someday she’ll help me own every episode.For my generation the show was a massive cultural event, while I’d enjoyed a lot of sci-fi shows in the past, this was the first thing that really felt like it really belonged to me and my generation. I understand that the show has been around much longer than us, but unlike other things I’d seen like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and so on, this was a world I instantly understood and felt a part of. Little did I know though, the best was still to come.

 

During the third series of the show, me, my dad and a friend of mine went to our first ever convention, Genesis Con 06, and it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever experienced. Meeting other Doctor Who fans was an incredible experience, I was still one of the youngest there at the time, but I felt like I could hold my own against dedicated fans with their vast knowledge and felt like I was among a community of people I understood. I have fond memories of rifling through stalls and finding tons of old doctor who comics and oddities and even getting to meet some of the cast from the show. I was absolutely stars truck at the chance to meet some of the people behind the show, including what was quite possibly the most amazing moment of my young life, meeting the sixth doctor himself, Colin Baker. He was an absolute joy to listen to, we could’ve heard him talk for hours but, I’m slightly ashamed yet proud to say, I certainly made his visit unforgettable. Being a young child of about 12, I thought it’d be a laugh to poke a bit of fun at Colin and the audience certainly enjoyed it. Colin himself seemed initially flustered, but soon joined in on the banter and we had quite a good bit of back and forth, the highlight being when he asked for my favourite doctor and I truthfully answered with his replacement, Sylvester McCoy. “SYLVESTER MCCOY!!” he bellowed at my answer, it was an amazing moment that set the room on fire. After the Q and A he pushed he way through the crowd and offered his hand in an act of friendship… before he crushed my hand and then suggested to the crowd I was physically attacking him. It was a brilliant moment I’ll never forget, to this day I still boast the honour that Colin Baker claims me his nemesis. Despite this, he still signed my copy of Revelation of the Daleks! It was truly the high point of my young Whovian life, before the dark times.

DW ROTD Signed

I love you really Colin, sorry for the hassle.

 

After a highly enjoyable fourth series, it seemed doctor who would not be returning in its traditional format the following year, consisting of four specials instead of the usual run of thirteen episodes. On top of this, there were continued rumours that Tennant would be leaving alongside show runner Russell T Davies, despite all the changes, I seemed to be growing strangely apathetic to the show. I’m not sure if it was due to the typical teenage thing of hating everything you enjoyed in your youth or if there was a genuine drop in quality, but at some point during the year of specials I completely lost my love for the show. I watched Planet of the Dead one Easter and it left absolutely no impact on me, I still haven’t re-watched it to this day, and at some point during the long break between that and the Halloween special Waters of Mars, my interest completely died. I was sick of Tennant’s smug charm and the silly humour of the show, I would get frustrated at any sight of the show in the public eye and I just wanted to forget about it. I didn’t pay attention to the episode at all, and even re-watching it I feel that same rift between me and the show. By the time The End of Time rolled around I only found myself watching to see this journey to its end, to find out how the doctor would meet his end. After what I found to be a disappointing, bloated episode I finally saw the man I’d cherished throughout the years go out on a whimper, it was a disappointing end to my journey, and after feeling nothing in regards to the new guy, I felt my time with the show was done. I could not be more wrong.

I don’t remember where exactly I saw the above trailer, I think it might even have been the cinema, but it left a massive impact on me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Doctor Who looked entirely different to the show I’d left behind, everything looked more exciting, cinematic, and the new cast seemed really intriguing to me. During the months until the show came back I watched as many clips of the new show I could and grew ever more in love with this new doctor, Matt Smith, a complete unknown. He had all the charm and charisma I’d initially loved about Tennant but it seemed new and fresh, coupled with the fact that Steven Moffat, the writer who made me take notice of writers when I was growing up, was the new show runner made this new series a must see. I waited anxiously, and ironically ended up missing the initial broadcast but received very good reports from my dad, I’d never seen him so excited about the show. We sat down that night to watch the episode and I instantly fell in love all over again.

My initial suspicions were correct, this new series felt like an entirely new show. New cast, new opening titles, new style, it felt like a complete overhaul and the added running time made even the pace feel completely different. There was much more action, silly hijinks and time travel now seemed to be more central to the plot than ever. I was drawn in with that same level of awe and wonder I felt with my very first episode, however, I can pinpoint the exact moment that I knew that not only my love for the show had returned, but that Matt Smith would forever be my doctor. The scene in which he confronted the Atraxi and debuted his new costume:

The scene speaks for itself, but seeing all the previous doctors referenced so strongly, and Matt Smith stepping forward to take on the mantle still gives me chills. I watched the episode again that night, and I think it may be the episode I’ve seen more than any other. It’s certainly in my top ten favourite episodes and remains my favourite introduction of a doctor in the show’s history.

The rest of the series contained hit after hit, the excitement of tuning in every Saturday was back in fuller force than ever. The series arc kept me engaged and my friends and I were speculating throughout the whole series trying to predict what would happen, and by the time we came together to watch the finale we were more excited than we ever had been about the show. The future seemed bright and I’d rekindled my intense love of the show, things were going well. Until I went through one of the toughest times of my life.

Following series five everything in my life changed incredibly rapidly, I lost someone very close to me and seemed to lose interest in most of the things around me. I became difficult towards my friends and it seemed my life was headed in a bad direction, that’s when the show would intervene and help me through it. The sixth season took on a much more sombre tone and revolved around the concept of death quite strongly, it hit very close to home, especially since I was no longer watching the show with my faithful companion. Despite this however, it was here that I saw a completely different side to Matt Smith’s doctor and I really began to understand and use his advice in my life. Despite The Eleventh Doctor’s cheerful and bubbly personality most of the time, he seemed much older and wiser this season, and many of the things he would say about death and importance of people meant  a lot to me and taught me a lot of lessons. Even going back and watching an episode like Vincent and the Doctor was massively helpful, and The Doctor’s words are ones I still use to this day:

Despite the troubles I was going through, the show still had things it could tell me, and with a mixture of this and the aid of my friends, I got through one of the darkest points of my life.

Paul McGann Showmasters

I managed to avoid collapsing with excitement until AFTER the photo was taken.

This lead in quite nicely for the 50th anniversary year of the show. Having got through some very difficult times, I was in a much more positive place, and it seemed the show too had returned to its energetic and adventurous mood as it entered into a time of celebration. The show was everywhere once again and I felt very nostalgic for the days of Doctor Who mania from years previous. There were a lot of good time during this year, including managing to meet on of my favourite doctors, Paul McGann, and the absolutely mind blowing experience that was The Day of the Doctor. Regardless of your or even mine current feelings on the special, it was an absolutely amazing night, my friends decked out one of our houses in doctor who bunting and we made a proper celebratory night of it. It felt like not only the perfect celebration of the show and its history, but also marked a time in my life that I was able to cement myself as truly happy, having come through the other side with some great friends by my side. The show was not done with me however, as it had one last lesson to teach me.

It was just after this that I was getting ready to go to university, my school days were ending and life seemed to be getting ready for some massive changes. I really wasn’t ready for it, after finally getting my life back on track I was terrified at having to try changing all over again. Some of my friends seemed to feel the same way, and while we supported each other as best we could, none of us really knew what was ahead or what the changes would bring, that’s when the doctor stepped in. Having re-entered my life at just the right time, bringing me joy and energy, then a quiet understanding, it was time for the eleventh doctor to teach me the importance of change. He’d impacted my life in such a strong way, and now he was leaving, it was almost too much change to deal with at once, but he knew exactly what to say:

We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”

His words were very touching to me, and felt almost as if they were said just for me to alleviate my concerns of change, me and a friend of mine would use these lines to help each other anytime we felt scared, and she even bought me a poster that Christmas which always reminded of these lines, as I saw all the different doctors and how things had managed to stay great even through change.

DW Poster

The poster in question that greets me every morning. (when it remembers to stay up)

 

I had to admit to being very excited for Matt’s replacement, so maybe change wouldn’t be such a bad thing? A year later, and things did indeed work out for the best, I love the show more than ever, and the new doctor, Peter Capaldi, may be my favourite one yet. I myself, have also been very happy with how life has turned out, so it seems that once more, my life and the show’s feel intertwined. It all worked out in the end really, and ten years on I feel like a completely different person than when I started. One thing that continues to remain though is the show, and my love for it. It’s certainly been the journey of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.