I am taking a break from politics for the first in the 5 months since I started this blog.
I am going on my annual Pilgrimage tomorrow.
So my blog will be inactive until Monday, Mar 1st.
No Politics today (well maybe one shot later…)
I am going to talk about my actual favourite subject. 🙂
Gallifrey One #21, The convention, starts tomorrow (see gallifreyone.com)
But it will be a more personal journey in some ways so it’s part gushing fanboy and part me.
Doctor Who is quite simply the best TV show ever.
It is also the Longest Running Science Fiction Show in the history of Television.
The Holder of Two Guinness Book of World Records.
1. The Longest Running Science Fiction show in the World 1963-1989,1996,2005-Present.
Season 31 starts at Easter this year.
Seen in this country on BBC AMERICA (bbcamerica.com/doctorwho)
It’s British. 🙂
2. “Most Successful” science fiction series of all time, in terms of its overall broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, iTunes traffic and “illegal downloads.” Presented to the Doctor Who Producers at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con by the Guinness people themselves.
On the program it all started in a junkyard in London where two teachers followed a strange young girl to her “home” a junkyard with a Metropolitan Police Box in it.
This was the TARDIS, Time And Relative Dimension In Space.
A Time machine that can go anywhere and anywhen.
But the beginning of this story starts November 5, 1981. 7:32pm
I remember it that precisely.
It was that significant.
I am a college student at Central Michigan University.
I live in a Dorm with my hand-picked roommate, John Doyle.
He’s a Yupper, Eh. 🙂 (that’s Michigan-speak for a person from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).
He’s a great bloke, unlike my first roomates.
I turned on the TV. It happened to be set to the PBS station for whatever reason.
Back in the day, Doctor Who, a British TV institution was relatively new to the shores of America so it was on PBS. It ended up being on 100’s of them for most of the 1980’s then it disappeared.
It disappeared off PBS here in Phoenix in December 1990.
PBS has never gotten a dime from me since.
My roommate and I sat down, turn on the TV and what I would find out later was called a Wirrn (A large insect creature) fell dead out of a closet on a space station.
My roomate and I both said, “What the hell was that?!”
And 23 Minutes later (because we didn’t know at the time that this was Episode 2 and we’d missed the recap of Episode 1 and the Title sequence) we just had to know what the hell we just watched
Not in Horror, like when I saw the pilot to Lost.
It was quirky, low budget, but the imagination and creativity was amazing.
It was Doctor Who.
It started in 1963 the day after the Kennedy assassination.
It ran for 26 years before the BBC canceled it.
It had a TV Movie that was partially funded, and most ignored, by FOX in 1996.
Then it was revived as a full TV show in Britain in 2005.
It is now the #1 Drama (not “Sci-Fi” show) in Britain that isn’t a Soap Opera.
It has been for many years.
The Show has won the BAFTA (Think Emmy) for Best Drama 5 years in a row!
The lead actor has won for Best Actor 5 years in a Row! (and there has been 2)
Now try doing that with Star Trek!! 🙂
Or any science fiction show in the US.
Science Fiction here gets no respect.
But you have to respect a show that will be entering it’s 31st Season at Easter this year.
It has survived this long on many things. There are many scholarly articles and books on the subject.
But the biggest comes down to Regeneration.
It’s 1966, your lead actor is retiring and the show’s a big hit.
What do you do?
Well, he’s an alien from a race called The Time Lords (though that would not be revealed until 1969) so like the program itself, you come up with a clever solution to a limitation.
He Regenerates. He completely replaces he’s body, due to illness, age, or damage, and he’s reborn as the same character but different.
Different, because a new actor has taken over the role. He plays it differently. But the core of the character, the moral center is still there.
You can see the previous actor.
You can see The Doctor.
He is not “Doctor Who”.
He is The Doctor.
Just The Doctor.
The first actor to play the Doctor after the First Doctor (William Hartnell) was Patrick Troughton.
He was The Second Doctor.
He was a roaring success.
And I maintain that it was his skill as an actor that sold people to this day on the idea that The Doctor changes and he continues.
Patrick Troughton left in 1969.
Jon Pertwee was there from 1970-1975.
Tom Baker from 1975-1981.
Peter Davison 1982-1984.
Colin Baker 1984-1986.
Sylvester McCoy 1987-1989.
Then the BBC canceled it.
They hoped for good.
Even though it was cultural icon, The BBC hated the damn thing.
NBC and Star Trek, anyone? 🙂
And they managed to kill it off.
But the fans would not let it die.
Enter “The Wilderness Years” as we fans call it.
So when I joined the program it was nearing the end of it’s run.
But I had no concept of that.
I lived in a town of 24,000. 18,000 of which were college students.
I was lucky to here about the outside world at all.
Civilization was effectively 66 miles away in Lansing, the capital and home of Michigan State University in East Lansing.
There was Bay City and Midland that were only 30 miles away, but they were small, just not as small.
But it was in Midland in 1984 that I bought my first ever VCR from a JCPenny’s.
The Reason: I wanted to record the Doctor Who’s that I had been watching for nearly 3 years.
They were all Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) episodes, none of the others. But I didn’t care.
I had learned of a Fan Magazine in 1983, Doctor Who Magazine. I have subscribed to that since November 1983.
It just celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary last year.
My first “Doctor Who” convention was in 1983. It was a Star Trek/Doctor Who Convention.
I was then and am now a Star Trek Fan. I am the current newsletter editor for the United Federation of Phoenix – the oldest continuously running Star Trek Club. It started in 1975.
I guess I like good old things. 🙂
I don’t dismiss Star Trek by any means, but it’s not Doctor Who. 🙂
This convention was heald in Detroit, a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive.
And it was the wierdest convention experience I have ever had.
You had the Trekkers all wonder who the wierdos in the scarfs were (a trademark of the Fourth Doctor) and the Doctor Who people wondered who let the Trekkies in.
It was a bit like the Republicans and Democrats today.
But I’m not doing Politics today.
Then I attended one in Columbus, Ohio. The first time I had to do the whole hotel thing.
Then there were two massive convention in Chicago where thousands attended.
There were more stars there from episodes I hadn’t even seen, but had read about, than ever before.
I was in heaven.
But these ended after two years due to economic malfeasance by the owners of the convention.
This lead, in 1986, to the longest trip to date to a convention.
A 10 hour drive!
Destination: Madison, Wisconsin.
One of the starts of the show, Louise Jameson, thought I was “crazy”.
But I got to talk with the then-Producer of the show, John Nathan-Turner.
Try that in this country.
But in 1987 I moved to Arizona.
So all that stopped.
But I kept watching.
I found fans in 1990, oh god that’s 20 years ago! 🙂
The Arizona Regional Doctor Who Interest Society (TARDIS).
I have kept watching and I keep watching, collecting, and obsessing over it to this day.
Because I am a fan? yes.
But it’s deeper than that.
Doctor Who saved my life.
Really, it did.
In those darker days of the early 1980’s I was different person.
I was very depressed, many including I, would would say chronically so.
And suffered from extreme persecution paranoia.
I was a mess.
I tried to commit suicide on March 22, 1985.
March 22, 2010 will be the 25 year anniversary.
And at the crunch point what was the thought that popped into my head unsolicited?
“If I kill myself I will miss the next episode of Doctor Who”
And my life has never been the same since.
It’s been a slow climb uphill with it getting so much better the last 5 years.
Which, I don’t think was meant to coincide with the return of Doctor Who in 2005,but the symmetry is eerie.
The BBC killed it off.
They had hated it for years.
They were embarrassed when the BBC had there 60th anniversary gala and a poll of the best of the BBC for those 60 years and Doctor Who came in 3rd.
They complained of the polls being spiked.
They hated it that much.
But the fans would not let it die.
They became the producers effectively.
Through books, fanzines, fan made videos (see BBV), fan-made spoofs (the most famous being written by the new producer of the show itself- Stephen Moffatt, called The Curse of the Fatal Death starring Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean)),and more.
We took the program over.
The BBC licensed a new book line for original novels and many fans became professional writers because of it.
An original audio book company, Big Finish, started up by fans had official BBC license to use to the show to make new “episodes”.
They are still in business today over 10 years later and even with the show on TV.
One of those people, Gary Russell, was the Editor of Doctor Who Magazine, and in 2008 was the Script Editor for the show itself.
The fans became the program.
Jan Tranter, a savvy BBC Director had the thought of bringing it back.
She turned to one of the country’s hottest writers, Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk).
He was a massive Doctor Who fan as well.
As geeky as I am. But he grew up with it.
He brought it back.
The producers were fans. The writers were largely fans. Even some of the fans who started out in the novels became TV Scriptwriters.
Christopher Eccleston (most recently scene in America in GI JOE) was the 9th Doctor.
Yes, the show began anew with it’s history intact.
No Hollywood “re-imagining” where you gut everything but the name.
And even though the show renowned for wobbly sets and wobbly monsters (but the biggest heart and the most creative show out there) had CGI and a much more cinematic look and was very 21st Century, it was still the same show.
It was re-invented for the 21st century audience, but was 1963 reborn in reality.
And that was intentional.
And most uber-fans like me can see it.
And now, in 2010, the show is a national treasure likely to out live even me.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.
But it’s magnificent.
It’s all about Matt Smith.
The Eleventh Doctor.
I have an alarm clock that’s older than him!
But he’s The Doctor.
And I can’t wait.
So, I’m off tomorrow and for the weekend, to my own person Hage to Mecca, at the LAX Marriott Hotel.
It’s Gallifrey One.
And there aren’t 3 more joyous days of the year.
So see you on Monday, when I can get back to the depressing Orwellian world of the Obamanation.
Winston Smith is going on holiday. 🙂