Okay, let me just put this out there. My favorite science fiction TV program is Doctor Who.
To most of you that statement probably elicits a shrug of the shoulders and a casual “Meh. Whatever”.
But let me put it this way; The show has been going on longer than I’ve been alive. And I’m no spring chicken. I’m not a wet-behind-the-ears fanboy who thinks that SF fandom started in 2000. I’m 51 years old… old enough to know better and just old enough to be justifiably cranky with everything.
But this show… this science fiction show from the British Broadcasting Corporation, ostensibly aimed at kids but actually aimed up at their parents as well… this amazing science fiction television show, got under my skin a long time ago; back in 1975 to be precise (it might have been 1974… memory is hazy when you’re my age).
I grew up in Canada and in Canada we have the CBC, the colonial sister to the BBC. The CBC regularly aired British programming and one of the shows on its roster back in the 1970’s was Doctor Who. I remember watching this white haired, dynamic Englishman wearing a velvet smoking jacket with a ruffled shirt battling monsters and uttering the most confusion (but completely convincing) technobabble. The guy was amazing. He could create the most fantastic scientific devices out of spare parts and a cup of cold tea. He ran around tirelessly through stone-walled corridors alongside crazy haired men in weird costumes, chasing monsters or aliens or robots.
Okay. You know all of this. I’m either preaching to the choir or I’m wasting my words on fans who “just could never get into the show”, and that’s fine. Don’t like the show? Don’t watch. I’m good.
Because, really, the most amazing thing about this show is that it began airing in 1963 and continued running season after season for twenty six years before its untimely cancellation in 1989.
I’ll type that again: TWENTY-SIX YEARS!
Sure, it was gone briefly but then it came back and it was better than before and it has been going on again for coming up on ten years, which by today’s measure is an outstanding run for a television series, particularly a science fiction television series. And it is still going strong!
I got involved in a Facebook discussion about the show. Nothing new. I’ve been talking about the show my whole life. I’ve talked about it at conventions, on panels, I’ve met and interviewed many of the actors and producers of the show. Back in the days before the internet, as the host of a radio program called The Ether Patrol (radio programs, for you kids out there who are too young to know, were like podcasts before there were podcasts. Except that they only played once at a certain time and had to run for less than 30 minutes and if you missed it you were hooped) I talked about Doctor Who.
This recent Facebook mini-rant was prompted by the introduction of the Doctor’s new companion, Bill played by comic actress Pearl Mackie. She will be joining the cast alongside Peter Capaldi who has played the title role for the last couple of seasons.There was the requisite amount of complaining about her, about how she could never be as good as the old companion, etc. One comment in particular kicked my reaction into gear and that was a Facebook pundit expressing the opinion that the show has got to tank eventually. It just can’t go on.
That was the moment that I realized that I had heard all of this before. As I said, I’ve been watching the show since 1974 or 1975. I’ve been interacting with other fans almost as long. And whenever there is a change in the cast, either of a companion or of the actor who plays the Doctor, the reaction is always the same. “I hate (insert newly cast actor name here) in the show. She/He’s not as good as the last one. I can’t wait till they’re gone.” And then every time – EVERY TIME – that actor announces their departure from the show the reaction is always the same; “No! He/She can’t leave! The show won’t be the same without her/him!”
Fans complain about their favorite shows. Fans complain about everything they love. Sometimes I think that there is more complaining from fans of the show than from those who don’t like it. The point is that Doctor Who, whether you love it or hate it, whether you’re an old fan like me or a snot-nosed newbie who thinks that the show has only just begun because they only just now discovered it, is something special. It has a magic that has allowed it to keep going and will allow it to keep going, no matter how much fans whine about certain particulars of casting or production or direction, whatever.
The show has been on longer than I’ve been alive and I am a cranky 51 year old curmudgeon.
You like the show? Then shut up and watch it. You don’t like it? Then don’t watch it. And shut up so that those of us who do can watch it in peace.
I guess my point, if I have one, is this: When Doctor Who is on… shhhhhh… I’m watching. Don’t bug me.
I’ll be back next week. Maybe I’ll talk about art like I’m supposed to.