Day 7 of Walking and Blogging. Uhhh. Okay. Maybe just Blogging today.
So, on day 7 I failed to get my 10,000 steps in. I have two excuses. One, it is stupidly hot and humid, and I am tired of being drenched in sweat. And two, a new game was released today for the iPad. It’s called Doctor Who: Infinity, and I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. Besides the fact that it’s a gem game, which I like, it’s been reported to be an astonishing collection of Doctor Who stories, written by professionals connected to the show, and starring the voice talents of several actors from the show.
And if you didn’t know, I’m just a bit of a Doctor Who fan. And by “a bit of a fan,” I mean I’ve been obsessed for most of my life.
It started when I was seven. I was sitting in the living room in my parents’ house, sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 on a weeknight, and I was flipping channels. The old-fashioned way, with the knob right on the television. This was before we had cable, so we had four stations, and I turned to WVIA, channel 44, the PBS station out of Wilkes-Barre. I saw something very strange. There were people in a desert, and a woman in a pink coat was stuck in some kind of tube. She was unconscious. Another person, a man wearing quite a long colorful scarf, was trying to get her out. I had no idea what this was, but it was intriguing. Absolutely intriguing. I looked in the TV listings in the newspaper, and saw that it was a show called Doctor Who. I wanted to see it again the following night. And I did. And the next night. And the next. And the next. And the strange sights that I saw that first evening were replaced by others: men with green blobby heads, minotaur-like creatures, vampires, mathematicians saving the universe. That first night, I caught the tail end of “Destiny of the Daleks Part Three,” as I’m sure you could tell by my description. And from then on, I was hooked for life.
Doctor Who was a revelation for me. It was several years until we had our first VCR, so it was appointment TV for me. Every weeknight, 6:30. Eventually that changed to 7:30, right after Dark Shadows, which I tried to watch, but just couldn’t fathom. A soap opera about a family of vampires? I just wasn’t cultured enough for that. I’m still not. But I was cultured enough for Doctor Who. I started to try to learn more about it. Without the internet, this was tough. I learned what I could from the things the PBS people said about it during pledge breaks. Eventually, my aunt bought me a book for Christmas, called Doctor Who: The Key to Time, a kind of history of the show. And I ate that book up. I learned that Doctor Who, like Dark Shadows, was a show produced by the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation. I learned that it had been on the air in Britain since 1963, and that the person I knew as “The Doctor” was actually the fourth actor in the role. I learned that this was actually a big part of the show’s format — its changeability. Every few years, the lead actor would change. Every few years, the whole production staff would change. Every few years, the style of the show would change.
But a few things were always constant. The Doctor was a Time Lord, who had left his planet and his people, possibly out of boredom, possibly out of fear (depending on what episode you believe). He had a time-and-space machine called the TARDIS, which was supposed to blend in with its environment. It was stuck, however, looking like a blue “police box,” an old phone-booth sort of job from England in the 1950s. He often traveled in the TARDIS with “companions,” usually young women from contemporary Earth, but sometimes aliens. He fought evil with good, rarely resorting to violence, always using his wits and his intelligence to solve problems. The Doctor, like other Time Lords, has a special trick to avoid death: when his body is on the edge of death, he can “regenerate,” which rejuvenates every cell in his body, but also changes them so he looks different, and has (to some extent) a different personality. This is what enabled four different actors to play the role. (Or actually six, when I read The Key to Time; or actually thirteen by 2018; or if you really want to be pedantic, somewhere between sixteen and twenty, but we’re really in the weeds at that point.)
WVIA, like many PBS stations across the United States, played old episodes of the show over and over and over again. I saw the Fourth Doctor’s tenure a dozen times as a child. Eventually, they bought other packages from the BBC, and I was able to see both older and newer episodes. I started collecting books — our local WaldenBooks often had a small section. There were nonfiction books about the show. There were novelizations of the episodes. There was even a role-playing game. I spent so much of my allowance on these books. I convinced my parents to become members of WVIA so I could get the Doctor Who-related perks. I convinced them to take me to the station’s parking lot when the touring “Doctor Who USA” exhibition was parked there for a few days. I even met the actor who played the Seventh Doctor there, and got his autograph.
But then, WVIA stopped carrying it. And then, I found out that the BBC was canceling it. I was about 14 when I found out that the show was over, after 26 years on the air, after seven Doctors. And as a teenager, I was starting to develop other interests. I still had all the books, and I still knew as much as I ever did about the show, but I found I wasn’t as interested as I’d used to be.
Eh, this is getting long. Maybe I’ll write more about Doctor Who some other time. There’s a lot more to tell. Spoilers: the show eventually came back, and so did my interest!