Doctor Who and the Old School

I’ve grown up watching Doctor Who. Dad used to wake me up to watch it in the wee hours of the morning on ABC. Mum soon put a stop to that because I was too tired and irritable to get ready for kindergarten!

A few years later I began hiring VHS tapes from Williamstown Library and this escalated to purchasing DVDs and more recently I have inherited my uncle’s collection.

My earliest memories of watching this science fiction British television series though is seeing the Watcher in Logopolis, Tom Baker’s final story. The Watcher was a pale white character who ‘watched’ the Doctor from a distance and finally merged with him during regeneration (fans of the new and old bicker over how Tom Baker regenerates as a result of falling from a telescopic dish whereas David Tennant arguably fell a greater distance and in his own final story and that wasn’t what killed him … but let’s not go there because Doctor Who is fraught with inconsistencies).

So, Tom baker’s incarnation was coming to an end. Tom Baker is the most recognisable and memorable—you could say iconic—incarnation with his long scarf and hat, curly hair and loony demeanour. Tom Baker ruled the show from 1974 to 1981 (seven years, so far the longest stint an actor has stayed in the role) and so you can understand why he was so popular. Also, when Doctor Who was first transmitted in America the audience were treated to Tom baker stories.

By the end of Logopolis Peter Davison became the new Time Lord.

My favourite Doctor of all time is Peter Davison because he is the Doctor who (pun intended) I grew up watching. Number five has been criticised for being more vulnerable compared to his predecessors and this was only natural as many fans didn’t want to necessarily embrace a new direction for the show. I think Davison’s innocent charm and method of stumbling into situations is comical and highly entertaining, especially when he wins.

Of all of the fifth Doctor’s stories, I always revisit The Five Doctors. This particular adventure was a 20th anniversary special and was first broadcast on televisions around the UK to commemorate 20 consistent years of Doctor Who. It runs at around 90 minutes and has been released as a special edition DVD for quite some time now.

The plot is horrendous when I discuss it now but when I was much younger I thought The Five Doctors was awesome. Essentially, previous companions, some baddies (Cybermen, Dalek,  Yeti etc) and the Doctor’s past selves are captured by a time scoop and they are all dropped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey except for Tom Baker (who was bitter about leaving the show and so he refused to make a cameo appearance. Instead stock footage from the un-televised serial Shada was used instead. Apparently the fourth Doctor was stuck in the time scoop thing and was later freed). Meanwhile the Time Lords task the Master with rescuing the Doctor and so it goes.

The master’s arc is entertaining in this story. He befriends Cybermen and knowing that they will murder him when they reach their destination, the devious renegade Time Lord leads the metal men to their doom. When the First Doctor (played by Richard Hurndall) and Tegan Jovanka emerge from hiding, Tegan protests at the carnage. The Master says: ‘”In one of the wars on your miserable little planet, they used to drive sheep across minefields—principle’s the same.’

If you’re a fan of the show then you will already realise how ludicrous this all is. Why would the Master willingly accept an invitation to meet with the Lord President to help the Doctor? If the same President can offer a new regeneration cycle then why doesn’t he just use that instead of going to the trouble of seeking ‘immortality’? Why would the Doctors assume that there are only five of them around (these guys are time travellers, what if future incarnations are skulking about)?

I love watching The Five Doctors because not only is it nostalgic but it I also find something new to question. I could bore you with my growing list of questions but isn’t that the joy of watching Doctor Who?

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