This is the Saturday post that focuses on Doctor Who. This week, we wrap up a series posts I refer to as Journeys With the Doctor: My Stories of Doctor Who. So far here are the stories told to date:
In the last installment, I finally get to see Peter Davison in action and we took a brief glimpse into young Dave-El's future as a Whovian.
And the Doctor himself? Sylvester McCoy with his almost Charlie Chaplinesque presence would at first blush seem a bit hard to take seriously as our adventuresome Time Lord but when McCoy furrowed that brow and growled in his Scottish baroque, he was a Doctor you did not want to mess with.
- Peter didn't even get to finish his last season. Producer John Nathan Turner decided to give the new Doctor a jump and have his first story be in the last one of the season.
- The 6th Doctor himself dismisses his previous persona as having "a feckless charm". I don't recall the 3rd, 4th or 5th Doctors being so dismissive of their previous personas.
So my friends and I (and yes, I was not alone in this assessment) were already predisposed towards not liking this new Doctor.
Then we saw The Twin Dilemma and we changed our minds....from thinking we would not like the new Doctor to knowing we would not like the new Doctor.
While The Caves of Androzani is regarded as among the best Doctor Who stories ever, The Twin Dilemma is viewed as being the exact opposite. If you want details about the episode, click to this link here to the Wikipedia page on it.
But for the current moment, let's focus on a couple of things relating to the new Doctor.
The idea of the Doctor being arrogant is not a bad one. After all, he is a TIME LORD, has lived a long time and knows a lot of stuff. The 5th Doctor could've used a bit more of this arrogance but the pendulum swung too far the other way and the 6th Doctor was just an obnoxious jerk. There was, by all accounts, a plan. Colin Baker wanted his Doctor to start as more unlikeable but over the course of his time as the Doctor, he would recapture his connections to humanity. Not a bad plan, perhaps, except the Doctor had been forging his connections to humanity since Ian Chesterson first stopped the Doctor from bashing in that caveman's head in with a rock.* (*Er, spoliers?) Each actor gets to bring his own spin to the Doctor's persona (that's what makes seeing different actors in the role so fascinating); but the character itself is NOT new. There is a shared history and experience that extends across the life of the Doctor, no matter what face he may be wearing. Colin's approach was not a new set of tires on the Doctor, it was a reinvention of a wheel that didn't need reinventing.
Still, maybe we could've given the 6th Doctor more of a chance, even we this sudden whiplash change of personality, if we had seen more of the Doctor's heart beneath the bluster and more of his heroism underneath the ego. Instead, one of the first things the Doctor does is try to murder Peri. By strangling her. On the floor of the TARDIS. OK, his regeneration was a bit wobbly; that goes with the territory. But really, murderous impulses? Really?
But even with all that, we had THIS working against the whole package:
Much has been made of the 6th Doctor's outfit. Apparently the marching orders to the costume designers were to "make it as tasteless as possible". And if that was the case, then mission accomplished.
The Twin Dilemma was the end of the season. Unlike from Tom Baker to Peter Davison where we had a build up of anticipation about what the new Doctor would be like, we now had a period of desperate hope that things would get better and a dark dread that no, they would not.
I think owing to the fact that we had other things to do with our time than watching 13 straight hours of Doctor Who, Leslie and I did not catch all of the episodes. (She later commented that the time we did put in to this was a bit much. I agreed.) I do remember seeing Attack of the Cybermen and being a bit impressed with the atmosphere of the show. The Doctor was still too much of a blowhard but the scene where a human, being converted to a Cyberman, asks the Doctor to kill him, the Doctor's anguish over this situation was palpable. There may be hope of this Doctor after all.
If you put a gun to my head, I could not tell you if I watched any part of Vengeance on Varos or Timelash but I know I saw at least some parts of Mark of the Rani, The Two Doctors and Revelation of the Daleks. I remember
not particularly liking the Rani episode. What I saw of the Two Doctors, I enjoyed, particularly seeing Patrick Troughton as the 2nd Doctor and Colin Baker out of his mishmash Doctor coat. And I can only recall seeing the first part of the Dalek episode; I remember thinking that Colin & Nicola were finally clicking a bit better than before.
My overall impression of what I did see was that maybe Colin Baker's Doctor deserved a chance but, like Peter Davison, he needed better stories and he needed a wardrobe change really, really badly.
But if there was a chance to revisit these episodes when they did come to American television, I did not avail myself of it. I was out of college and I had the real world to face. I found myself working for a financial firm which was NOT what I had envisioned for my life but there are bills to pay. Leslie had 1 more year of college; she was still in that rarified atmosphere of university life and I was out in the world. The distance between the two of us began to widen.
And meanwhile, Doctor Who was appearing on the screens of North Carolina Public Television less and less. At one point, NC Public TV was airing a Doctor Who episode twice a day and a collected serial on Saturdays. By the time I was out of school, I think it was down to just the Saturday showings and my work schedule kept me busy even then.
I remember seeing one of the 6th Doctor adventures air one Saturday. I don't remember which one but I couldn't bring myself to watch all of it. No, it really wasn't that bad. It was just I had let it go. The joy of discovering and exploring the world of Doctor Who was part of a life that was fading faster and faster in the rear view mirror. To be blunt, Doctor Who wasn't any fun any more and that was NOT Colin Baker's fault. It was all on me. I had grown up.
What a terrible thing to happen to a person.
Fall 1990. The 7th Doctor and Ace have been victorious over the latest schemes of the evil Master. The Doctor finds Ace and asks if she's ready to go.
"Yes," Ace replies. "Let's go home."
"Home?" the Doctor inquires.
"Home," Ace says with a smile, "The TARDIS!"
As the two stroll away, we hear this from the Doctor:
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace — we’ve got work to do!"
It was the end of Doctor Who. This episode, originally aired on the BBC in 1989, was the last new episode broadcast.
Of course, it was not the end forever. 2005 saw Doctor Who revived***** and this time I was the leader as I guided the new found Whovians who were my wife, daughter and new friends through what this show was about and its rich and imaginative history.
*****Yes, there was a movie in 1996. (Pause). And we move on....
Later catching up on Doctor Who reading, I discovered more insight into Colin Baker.
- He suffered an ultimate tragedy for a parent, the death of his infant son in 1984; at the same time he had to assume the mantle of a British entertainment icon, one particularly appealing to children, a burden that must've proved to be a considerable strain.
- I learned more of the reasons behind Colin's choices and the decisions over which he had no say or power; despite all the pressures and turmoil associated with being the Doctor, Colin remains a passionate and enthusiastic supporter of Doctor Who.
- And without the handicap of having to look at that god-awful outfit, Colin's turns as the 6th Doctor in the Big Finish Audio productions have been very well received; in the area of these audio plays, Colin is regarded as the best of the Doctors.
If I am of a mind to rank Doctors, I still list Colin Baker as last but I do so with regret; Colin deserved so much better.
In reviewing these Journeys With the Doctor: My Stories of Doctor Who, I am astounded to realize how much time has passed since those early innocent days of passing through my college's student center and watching "the silliest TV show I had ever seen" and my subsequent embrace of that show. Sometimes watching the new show, I miss the friends I had in college and it makes me a bit sad that we lost touch. And even now, my heart still aches a bit for that lost love. But I would not have had friends and loves to miss if it hadn't been for Doctor Who.
That is life, the good times with the bad; we can try to cut out the bad things but we will inevitably damage or excise the good. As the 11 Doctor put it once, "The pile of bad things should not cancel out the good things."
Thank you for reading and sharing my journey.
Coming up for subsequent Doctor Who posts on Saturday:
- More Untold Tales of Doctor Who
- The Great Paradox of the Eighth Doctor
- The World of Who According To ME!
- The Doctor Returns!
- The Worst Thing You Can Say to a Whovian
- And many more surprises (well, surprises to me as I haven't thought them up yet.)
- All leading up to the return of....Doctor Who Is New in November as we witness the long awaited and much anticipated 50th Anniversary Special!