Why Doctor Who isn’t just for kids
Like many other grown-ups, I’m very excited about the return of Doctor Who to BBC 1 this Saturday (1 September). Indeed it will be 33 years to the day exactly since I watched my very first episode. Now there’s commitment for you! So how come people like me carry on watching when others put away childish things and grow up?
Here’s a photo of me at the age of eight, in the TARDIS with Peter Davison himself. Doesn’t get much better than that, huh? Even today I look back on this as one of the high points of my life, though my wife is forever at pains to point out that events such as our wedding day and the birth of our two sons should also feature equally (at the very least) on my list of lifetime achievements. But I guess there’s something innocent and joyful about the unadulterated glee you can see on my face in the photo that I still hanker after.
Whatever I do in life always seems to come back to Doctor Who. Years ago in my younger, wilder days, an ex-girlfriend dragged me along to an S&M party. For the first hour or so I felt pretty uncomfortable, surrounded by whips, chains and lots of leather. I sat next to an older gentleman in a blue, flower pattern dress for a while and struggled to make small talk. Then someone walked in with a bulging Tesco’s bag, peeking out of the top of which was a video of Inferno with Jon Pertwee. My relief was palpable, since it then transpired that pretty much everyone there was a Doctor Who fan, so I at least I had something I felt comfortable talking about with them. By the end of the evening they had even offered me the part of Davros in the homemade S&M version of Genesis of the Daleks they were filming the following weekend, though I politely declined as I’ve never been one for taking stereotypical wheelchair user parts…With hindsight, I don’t think it would have been such a good career move.
In the wilderness years of the late nineties I drifted away from my pet obsession a little. I even sold most of Doctor Who collection on eBay, managing to get as much as thirty quid for a promotional packet of cheesy Wotsits with Colin Baker’s face on the front. When I started dating my wife, I hid all of my videos under my bed and then gradually returned them to my bookcases a few at a time as I slowly ‘came out’ to her. First the Dalek stories, then the Cybermen… I kept the likes of the Sensorites and Krotons back till later on of course. When the penny finally dropped, I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t the first Doctor Who fan she’d gone out with. She, in turn was horrified by the prospect that she may well have a ‘type’ and I was it.
When my first son was born, of course I had to name him after the living legend that is Tom Baker. Friends mockingly suggested the name Sylvester but I wasn’t having any of it. I managed to slip this past my wife by letting her get used to ‘Tom’ as a name first, only confessing my real motivation after we’d got his birth certificate signed.
Then six months after Tom was born, I was on my way to work at the Soho Actors Centre one morning when a bloke with a highly distinctive walk strode past me. Instantly recognising from just his walk that this was indeed Tom Baker himself, I instantly gave chase in my wheelchair and finally caught up with him after a couple of minutes. Desperately groping for something to say to him I blurted out:
“Tom… Tom… I’m such a big fan of your work that I’ve just named my baby son after you… but my wife can’t stand you!”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, following by huge, bellowing laughter from Tom Baker. He was absolutely fascinated by the fact that my wife disliked him so much and insisted on recording a video on my mobile phone, telling her that it seemed like she was pretty much stuck with him, given the man she’d married!
The return of the series in 2005 neatly coincided with me becoming a dad, giving me the perfect opportunity to indoctrinate little Tom right from the start. My wife often jokes that, as a baby, he could recognise the theme tune from when he was in the womb. Indeed when a BBC1 documentary about me and my family was recently shown, I managed to get my choice of narrator and, as a result, now realise I now want the rest of my life also to be narrated by David Tennant – preferable in real time so that, everywhere I’d go, I’d hear his sweet, lilting Scottish voice in my head describing whatever I did.
So I guess for me there’s an irreverence and eccentricity about Doctor Who which sets it apart from its peers. Whilst the likes of Star Trek would get bogged down with irrelevancies like science and facts, Doctor Who would never let such things get in the way of telling a good yarn. At its best, the programme can also be incredibly funny – I’d maintain that my favourite story (City of Death) is one of the finest pieces of comedy made for British TV. No wonder then that, as a stand-up comic, so many of the people I work both with and for are also fans. Sometimes it feels like a bizarre, nerdy version of the masons.
So that’s why, 33 years on I’ll still be watching on Saturday. I just hope I don’t get a gig that night!
Laurence Clark’s new show Inspired, containing the odd gratuitous Doctor Who joke, is at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre on 7 September. For details see www.laurenceclark.co.ukTagged in: bbc, City of Death, David Tennant, Davros, doctor who, Genesis of the Daleks, Peter Davison, s&m, Tom Baker
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