My son is a HUGE Dr Who fan going right back to its beginning in the early Sixties. You can ask him absolutely anything on Dr Who. Who wrote the episode when Tom Baker first appeared? When did the Doctor first meet the Cybermen? Who produced the episode in which Sarah Jane Smith first acted? Etc … I’ve tried to get him to go on Mastermind as his general knowledge is also strong, but he is far too shy for that.
I am no longer a fan of Dr Who. To me it stopped being good when Tom Baker – the fourth Doctor, left. In fact, even when I have seen reruns of old episodes, it never seems to be as good as it was when I first watched it in the Seventies. Back then Dr Who was undoubtedly the best show on television and there was something wonderful about watching it from behind the sofa, terrified out of my mind, on a Saturday night. I still have nightmares about the Tom Baker episode, The Brain of Morbius from 1976, in which I can clearly remember seeing a brain in a tank. That brain has continued to haunt me over the years.
The first Doctor that I can remember was Jon Pertwee. To me, he will always be The Doctor, with his debonair style of dress and his somewhat action man Doctor. He played the role from 1970 until 1974.
Jon Pertwee came to visit Nottingham once, whilst playing the role. My Dad took me and my brother to meet him at the Goose Fair site on Forest Road. This was an age when celebrities were grateful to their fans and didn’t charge a small fortune for fans to meet them. Jon Pertwee had visited the city, as the man who built the Who-mobile came from Nottingham. Jon spoke to my brother, who was called Sean- exactly like Jon Pertwee’s son, and so he invited Sean and I to have our photograph taken with him. I sat on his knee and I remember him being very kind and gentle. Sadly, although we had that photo for many years, we mislaid it and have never been able to find it again.
One of Jon Pertwee’s companions was called Sarah Jane Smith. She was played by the actress Elisabeth Sladen, who sadly died in 2011. I loved Sarah Jane Smith. For one thing the actress who played her, spelt her first name with an ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’, and this was just like me. She also loved ballet – just like me and I adored the character of Sarah Jane Smith, as she was very independent and strong-minded. Sarah Jane was an investigative journalist who first met the Doctor while trying to break a story on a top-secret research facility, and subsequently became his companion on a series of adventures for four seasons of the show. At times she could be quite vulnerable. We used to love playing ‘Doctor Who’ in the playground at my primary school, where I would always pretend to be Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane Smith was the most popular companion for many years and it is easy to see why. In an age when women were mainly still portrayed on television as secondary characters to the main male lead, Sarah Jane Smith showed that women could be equally brave as well as intelligent and strong. She was like Emma Peel; a woman who women admired and aspired to be.
I have a lot of affection for the show since it has been instrumental in my son’s life and has helped him so much. It has encouraged him to read and to find out more about history, as well as science fiction and fantasy in literature and film. He’s learnt about script-writing and has even won a competition with his writing. The Doctor has also helped him with more important life skills such as how to navigate change and how to deal with anger. Yet for me, Dr Who now seems to be far too removed from its original format. Children don’t want clever plot twists and political correctness. They love to be scared, but only if they know that they are still in a pretty safe environment. All children want is the archetypal Goody versus Baddy. The idea of evil monsters and diabolical masterminds trying to take over the World, or even the Galaxy and the good old Doctor managing to vanquish them time and again. Not forgetting that old faithful – the odd brain in a tank, that comes regularly to haunt you in your nightmares!