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Monday, 17 July 2017


I was nine when Doctor Who began. William Hartnell (1963-1966) was the star. It was in black and white - we didn't know any better. In the years of two TV channels, our choices were limited (ah, glory days!), so it was inevitable that the show would find an audience pretty quickly. I loved it and didn't miss an episode. I quite liked the Daleks and contrary to popular myth, there was no hiding behind the settee. But they were scary. It was the voices and the 'exterminate' stuff that terrified and excited. Later, I was more worried and frightened by the Cybermen. I didn't like those guys at all. Shiver.

After the great Hartnell, it was Patrick Troughton (1966-1969), a bit of a softer personality, but okay to carry the show on. Jon Pertwee (1970-1974) was probably my favourite. Even at that young age, I knew his silliness from radio's The Navy Lark but he was able to combine lightness and seriousness in his Doctor persona. Tom Baker (1974-1981) stands out for many, partly because he has been the longest serving Doctor and he had not only that long scarf but a tremendous actorly voice and a brilliant face to contort whatever the situation. Peter Davison (1982-1984) didn't quite work for me, nor did Colin Baker (1984-1986) or even the clownish Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989). Paul McGann in a 1996 TV movie had a certain style about him that worked well, restoring a more serious tone to the character. But, whoever was in the role, I watched and enjoyed all of it. And then, there was a long gap as Doctor Who ended after the McGann gig.

Time travel to 2005 and Doctor Who was revived starring Christopher Eccleston, a great choice and a wonderful resurrection for a character that we all thought had had his day. It was a brilliant series but Eccleston left after one season. David Tennant (2005-2010) was next up and he took the character to new levels with comedy, drama and many a tussle with ever weirder villains. It was fun at the start with Tennant clearly relishing the role and, it has to be said, drawing in bigger audiences than ever.

My interest came to a grinding halt when Catherine Tate joined the cast as Donna Noble. Sadly, talented as she is, I didn't like her performance at all. I found it all a bit forced, not that convincing and more often than not irritating. In addition, the show became tiresome to me. The Doctor/Donna combo to many people was a dream ticket. Some friends of mine, Doctor Who diehard fans, reckon it was the best chemistry in the history of the show. For reasons that I cannot define clearly, Catherine/Donna failed to connect with me. I switched off, only occasionally dipping in to see how things were going.

Matt Smith (2010-2013) was a David Tennant clone, keeping a continuity for the audience and then, an amazing oddball choice in 2014, Peter Capaldi, the ranting Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, became the 12th Doctor. I watched a couple of his episodes and he was very good. I suppose my apathy for the show in the last few years has been due to the outrageous plots. But, at the end of it all, it's only a TV show, disposable and not that important in the great scheme of things.

Whatever my opinions, I applaud the show's tremendous success and salute the casts and crews involved in maintaining a high level of production quality and success.

And now, we have a new Doctor to be played by Jodie Whittaker and congratulations to her. I won't be watching because I'm done with Doctor Who. Much has been made and will continue to be made of the fact that she is the first woman Doctor. And that's fine. Doctor Who is a character that regenerates, so he/she/it can become anyone or anything the writers and producers want he/she/it to be.

On the tail of the new Doctor announcement will cling the inevitable cries for a woman to play James Bond, which, of course, is an argument that goes nowhere. Bond is what he is, well defined and, unlike Doctor Who, does not regenerate across genders. By all means, have another similar character and call her Jane Bond but leave James Bond out of it. In the 1960s, Stefanie Powers became April Dancer, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and not Natalie Solo or Irene Kuryakin. But, whatever I say, knickers will be twisted in this age of hot air and apoplexy and debates will rage in hard copy, on screen and via online media for equality and political correctness. We might even get calls for a seven-stone weakling to play Tarzan or a tiny chimp to play King Kong. Sigh.

Doctor Who? Doctor Yawn in my life.

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