“I’m writing a computer virus. Very clever, super fast, and a tiny bit alive, but don’t let on. And why am I writing it on a phone? Never mind, you’ll find out.”
Very, very occasionally, I look back and think about how I got into all of this – the Doctor Who thing, I mean. I always resolved to write about it, because I’m terrified of the memory fading and – even worse – warping (I’m slightly concerned that it already has). When I realised the 11th April 2015 was upon us, I knew that it was now or never. So, ten years on from the beginning of the New Series and five years on from the beginning of my love for it, it’s time to tell my Whovian story.
The 11th of April, 2010 – the day after series five, episode two was first broadcast in the UK. I’m 95% sure this is the day I became a Whovian.
On that very day, I didn’t want to watch Doctor Who. “Come on, I think you’ll like it,” they said.
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think I will.”
“We’re going to watch the second episode of the new series tonight, so you might as well watch the first one now.”
“Really, I’m good. Thanks.”
“It’s a brand new Doctor and everything. It’s a really good place to start watching.”
Why didn’t I want to watch it? Put simply, I’d already written it off. Sometime in 2009 I’d been scouting for a new TV show to watch and decided to give this ‘Doctor Who’ thing a few people had been talking about a try. Naturally, without doing any research first, I sat down and watched Rose. Moving mannequins, a girl with a plastic boyfriend and weird British aliens? Thanks, but no thanks. I concluded that Doctor Who was ‘too weird’ for me.
So I was, in some ways, ‘forced’ to watch The Eleventh Hour. And as you’ve probably worked out by now, I absolutely loved it. The second Eleven explained that he was “writing a computer virus” on a phone and completely off the cuff, I was 100% hooked. A funny looking (but goofily cute) alien and an annoying (but interesting) Scottish girl invited me on the ultimate journey, and I couldn’t say no.
But when I think about it all these years later, I think I fell in love with the Doctor first and developed a fondness for the show itself a little later on; and I think I’ve pinpointed when, but we’ll get on to that in a minute. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t hooked on to Rose – not because it was ‘too weird’, but because I struggled to relate to the characters.
But regardless of all of that, this whole time I’ve upheld that The Eleventh Hour was all it took to drag me in to the show. But just yesterday I realised there was another factor that I’d never considered before – that night we also watched The Beast Below. Maybe, just maybe, if that episode didn’t exist I may not be a fan today.
There’s this book entitled The Brilliant Book 2011, which is essentially a basic guide to series five aimed at the tween-to-teen section of the show’s target audience (which, five years ago, included a 15-year-old me). The Beast Below section by David Bailey has a really interesting section entitled “What We Learn About the Doctor”:
We’re not really the ones learning about the Doctor this time, but Amy starts to understand a great deal. As exciting and interesting as the adventure is, for Amy it’s about trying to figure this man out – and its always exciting so see someone new make that journey. Plus it’s crucial to the story, and how it resolves, that Amy understands the man she’s run away with.
So just after watching a brilliant story that introduced me to the Doctor, I watched one where all the crucial questions a new viewer might have were answered. If you’re an alien, why do you look human? Why are you the last of your kind? Are you a parent? And, perhaps most importantly, are you a good man?
So maybe it wasn’t just The Eleventh Hour that made me fall in love with the Eleventh Doctor – The Beast Below played a part too. But I said before that I’m pretty sure I fell in love with the Doctor first, and my fondness for the show lagged behind. Where does the general love for all things Doctor Who come in?
Sometime in May 2010, I got around to watching episodes four and five of series five. At this stage I’d done some research on the show and understood that it had been going for 47 years, had relaunched in 2005, and Matt Smith was the Eleventh Doctor. However, I had no explict desire to go back and watch any pre-Smith episodes – I was perfectly happy to simply continue watching where I’d started week-by-week. But after the episodes with the Weeping Angels, all of that changed.
I have a special connection to The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, because that was the story that transformed my superficial love of the Eleventh Doctor into a deeper love for Doctor Who itself. Within the first week of viewing them I watched those episodes again and again, because they’d finally helped me to realise what the show was truly about. The thrill of the Doctor fighting to save his companion’s life in the space of two minutes, the enigma of River Song, the small group of people trapped in a cave and fighting stone statues to stay alive, the Doctor rattling off a series of witty lines in order to outsmart the enemy…I finally got it. I understood why people loved this show so much, even when the actors came and went and the settings changed from week-to-week. This was the point where I finally decided to go back to Rose and watch the show from the beginning. The 11th of April may be the day I was reeled in, but that day in May – and I honestly wish I knew which day it was – was the day I decided to commit. After that, I never looked back.
So that’s how my love of Doctor Who started. I intended for this post to be a one-off to celebrate the five year anniversary of me ‘becoming Whovian’, but telling this story has made me realise how much more there is to tell – how I reacted when I watched David Tennant become Matt Smith, what it was like to be a Whovian in 2011, how I got into the Classic series…
Maybe, one day soon, I’ll tell those stories, before they too are at risk of becoming warped by the fabric of time.