Nobody chooses to become a Whovian. We all know that we are Whovians. I mean, why else would you be here? But how did you become one? How did it happen? When was the precise moment that you realised that you were different, no longer in charge of your own destiny? When Doctor Who had taken you over, the show occupied your every waking thought, shaping and changing the course of your life. When were you irredeemably “whovianised”? Plunged into the Whoniverse never to be retrieved! We all have a tale to tell. This is mine.
(Tardis doors open onto a 70’s living room, father and young son sitting on sofa.)
I must have been about four years old. I can still recall my first memory of Doctor Who. The Fourth Doctor and Sarah were scrabbling about in a quarry, an explosion, a stone hand scampering around and then inexplicably growing into a complete person. Needless to say, I was watching “The Hand of Fear”. The mists of time have probably made the episode more magical and mysterious than it actually was, but one thing is certain – my childish curiosity had been aroused. From behind my cushion (the sofa was up against the wall!) I would ask my father what was happening and he, alas, had great difficulty in telling me. He was hardly focused on the plot, since I kept on bothering him with my incessant questions. All but a few weeks later we watched together “The Deadly Assassin”. I was terrified by the hideously deformed Master and the horrific, nightmarish scenes in the Matrix. The Doctor was hurt, but father told me that the blood was only jam. I felt reassured, with my liking for jam sandwiches somewhat diminished! The Doctor gets his foot stuck in a train track and I was terrified as the train hurtled towards him. After that episode, I was always very careful when my friends and I played near the train track which passed through our village. Maybe Doctor Who saved my life!
I would continue to watch “Doctor Who” through Tom Baker’s run. “The Invisible Enemy” stands out as a particular favourite. I loved how the infected spacemen would say “Contact has been made!” It was an incredibly easy story to act out in the school playground! I started to collect Doctor Who Target novels, my generation’s equivalent of Harry Potter. I can’t remember my first one, but I think it was “The Auton Invasion”. I have vague recollections of my father reading it to me at bedtime. I would spend my pocket money on the novels, buying them as often as I could afford to, always from my local WH-Smith (They surely missed a trick by not adding an ‘O’ to their name during Matt’s run!) I was always excited to find out which new novelisations they had on their shelves. The rare ones with the illustrations would always be my first choice. Christmas became a Who-fest, a box would arrive every year jam-packed with the novels I hadn’t bought over the year. There would also be a “Doctor Who Annual” too. But they didn’t really count as the stories inside hadn’t been on TV! This was all part of my gradual whovianisation. But still I wasn’t a fully fledged fan…
I can say that with a certain degree of confidence, as I still wasn’t watching every episode. I didn’t mind if I missed one. I had lots of interests. There were draws spilling over with toys to play with. Countless friends who I could go and sit under the railway bridge with. I joined “cubs” and judo. Family commitments took up a Saturday evening or two. And I don’t remember kicking up a fuss if I didn’t catch that night’s episode of Who just because my elderly Auntie Doris came round for tea.
“Doctor Who Weekly” started up. As a kid I loved comics. I already devoured “The Beano” (as read by the Eleventh in that oh so popular singing episode with the unpronouncable name!) every week, not forgetting “Whizzer and Chips” too. Now I had a Doctor Who magazine clattering through the letterbox as well. This made the postman’s arrival even more exciting and as if seized by madness I would run, or even jump, down the stairs from my bedroom, having been alerted by our dalmatian who would start barking at the slightest disturbance.
I became a hardened fan when Tom Baker made his departure. The concept of regeneration fascinated me. As did the idea that the show could continue with a different actor. A young, dashing and good-looking one to boot. I believe the term used by my mother was “dishy”! Then, thanks to “The Five Faces of Doctor Who” repeats season, I was now actually able to see the old Doctors, who I had only read about in the Target novels. I became even more fascinated with the history of the show, my appetite already whetted by the features in the now monthly (grrr!) Doctor Who magazine. I was becoming a little expert, my young brain a sponge, soaking up all the intricate facts and obscure details about the series.
When a dazed Peter Davison sat up, wrapped up in Baker’s enormous scarf under that satellite dish, it was a new starting point for me. I was now, at least in theory, able see all his episodes! It DID matter if I missed them! Watching episodes was like collecting them. I would make sure I was at home to catch every episode without fail. I would make a precautionary visit to the little boys’ room before positioning myself right in front of the TV screen. Nature would not be allowed to call mid episode! No sofa now. No cushion either. No father! No way did I want him disturbing the episode! The arrival of adolescence made me, for my parents, as scary as a Dalek itself. Approach with caution! My father probably rued the day he had ever decided to sit down and watch “The Hand of Fear” with his sweet little four year old son. With his older self’s unhealthy TV viewing position, my mother most definitely worried about her little Dalek’s vision being impaired.
Doctor Who, now with Davison at the helm, felt shiny and new. There were brand new companions. There was a hi-tech synthesised theme and avant-garde incidental music. It felt like the show was mine, almost as if it had been polished up especially for me! I wasn’t able to own Baker, as he had turned up before my time, but I could own Davison. As Ten himself famously said in “Time Crash”, he was my Doctor. The icing on the cake, or should that be nail in the Tardis-shaped coffin, was when I attended the Doctor Who Longleat Exhibition in 1982 and actually met Peter Davison. But that is another story…
So that’s how I became a Whovian. A gradual conversion into the truest and most faithful of Doctor Who fans. Whovianisation complete! And yes I would let it happen again. And again! How I would love to be a young fan now, on the brink of discovering Doctor Who for the first time! Now with the benefit of hindsight, I would cry out to the holy Whovian trinity of Capaldi, Coleman and Moffat – “Do it now! Whovianise me!”
(What about you? How were you “Whovianised?” I would love to hear your stories. Just write them in “Comments”)