Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ten Years Since We Knew Who Was Coming Back...

Is that right? It’s ten years since the announcement of the return of Doctor Who to TV?

I was at UEA, lecturing in Creative Writing, with an office door plastered with the book covers of my own Doctor Who books. The first thing anyone saw when they knocked at my door was the cover of ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen.’ I got a bit patronized by some of the more earnest souls in the place, I guess – but I was glad to fly the flag in those days before anybody in the ‘real world’ cared about Doctor Who.

I always had an inkling Russell T Davies would be the one to bring it back. And I always, always knew that one day it would come back. Even when people laughed at me for saying so. The most surprising people would say that it was dead and gone forever. But I think I always knew. It’s like saying Robin Hood will never return, or Merlin, or Sherlock Holmes.

The night before the strange, muted announcement, I’d been at a friend’s and he was introducing me to the wonders of DVD. I’d never even seen a DVD played before and he chose the recently released ‘Earthshock’ as my entrée into this digitally versatile and pristine world. And how shiny and new it all looked! And how wonderfully the story held up – and I could remember so clearly the excitement of that particular show going out in 1982, when I was twelve. Its twists and revelations – and the feeling of Doctor Who as an ongoing series and a going concern and a shared public narrative.

Watching Earthshock that night I had a feeling. An intuition, if you like. I knew something was about to happen. I really did. And then, the next day, I think it was the BBC Cult site that I looked at – and there was a little announcement. Telling me – telling us all – to keep calm, sit down and have a cup of tea. Wait for it. Here is the news. RTD. Six hour-long episodes. Classy reinvention of a much-loved cult favourite. Expected in 2005.

It seemed like the world suddenly became a better place. In a flash. I’m not retrospectively hoiking up my reactions and over-dramatizing. I really felt like that. Doctor Who had vanished – had abandoned me! – in 1991, when I was on the brink of adulthood and finishing my degree and not having a clue how to go about the rest of my life. He’d been gone for all those years.

Now I just want to remember that moment in 2003, when Autumn was starting in Norwich and we knew that the Doctor was on his way back – again.

I’ve had my ups and downs with New Who in the years since. Sometimes frustrated at its brashness and its sentimentality. Sometimes in thrall and in love with its writing, sometimes less so. But I’ve always loved the fact that it’s here and it’s beloved by everyone again.

Ah – and to the person who put a comment on my blog recently about me being ‘bitter’ because I’ve never been asked to write for it?  Well, I’m not bitter, thanks, lovey – but of course I’ll always be disappointed. Of course I will. It’s something I was made to write. I know I can write Who stories like no one else can. (By which I mean – my stories are like no one else’s at all…!) But, you know – never mind, eh? I’ve got lots of things to be getting on with – and part of that has been writing little bits and pieces of Who around the edges of the cultural monolith our little old series has become, while meanwhile getting on with my own made-up worlds.  

I’m still glad Doctor Who is back. It’s all still new to me. All the time, every time. I know that I’ll never start to take it for granted.

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