DWM 458 The Doctor Ordered…
My husband and I recently started a mission: to watch all of Doctor Who. In order. From the start. Now, those of you with long memories may possibly recall that I’ve done this before, with my lovely chums Peter, Clay and Richard. But it’s the 50th anniversary! Somehow it felt like a good idea to do it again. So, while others may have been sleeping off their hangovers on New Year’s Day 2013, we were watching An Unearthly Child. (One day, can documentary makers please track down those two giggling girls and the boy who does the Kenneth Williams impression right at the beginning? Unsung heroes of Doctor Who, they are.) At one episode a day, we’re not going to reach the right place by the anniversary itself (although the task shouldn’t take as long as the original Time Team – ten years of our lives, people, ten years of our lives!), but hey, it’s the thought that counts.
Watching (a) everything and (b) in order. The desire for classification and completism isn’t a universal fan trait, or an exclusive one. But there’s something so attractive about experiencing the entirety of something in the way in which it was (at least chronologically) intended. Honestly, if you’ve never done the ‘Time Team’ thing, I recommend it. Enjoyable, enlightening and rather satisfying.
Captain Hastings used to say of Hercule Poirot ‘order and method were his watchwords’. From this, I have concluded that Poirot was a Doctor Who fan (Fun fact: TV Hastings Hugh Fraser’s first TV role was as a non-speaking militiaman extra in The Smugglers – at least we’re fairly sure it was that Hugh Fraser; I even contacted his agent to check – don’t say I never do anything for you – but they failed to reply. But don’t worry, if I do eventually get a response, I’m sure Tom will add it to the magazine’s cover in the form of a giant STOP PRESS). Taking the Poirot thing a step further I reason that our lovely Fan Twin may grow up to be a detective with a big moustache – yes, yes, the logic doesn’t follow but I live in fear of one day being arrested for a crime I didn’t commit (we’ve just reached the Sentence of Death episode of Keys of Marinus in our watch-through, so don’t try to tell me that never happens) – so the thought is a comfort to me. He has long since embarked on his own Time Team experience, although sadly for me as a history buff, stories don’t always hold his attention for long unless there are monsters and he may skip episodes. Skip episodes! That almost does not compute. I mean, is that allowed? Nevertheless, he wants to experience every story, even if he’s doing it in the lamentably slapdash style of a small child. When he was off school recently we watched the censor clips (and a big thank you from me to the Australian censors for concentrating all the most exciting bits together in one place there). Actually, as he was off school for a while we got through all the orphan episodes as well. Nothing like a bit of The Celestial Toymaker to take your mind off the norovirus. By far his favourites were the surviving bits of The Wheel in Space. Now that’s a story that’s often been dismissed as weak and dull, which just goes to show that sometimes it really does help to see things through a child’s eyes, cos watching it with him, seeing his excitement at the Cybermen, I found it utterly thrilling.
Order and method applies to physical objects as well as the stories themselves. You wouldn’t believe how many different ways there are to categorise DVDs. One day, they’re grouped according to monster, or subject. On another, they’re grouped according to how many episodes a story has, and boy did that cause problems with Resurrection of the Daleks (Season 22 didn’t go down too well either). Sometimes the audio CDs of missing episodes go in their chronological spot among the DVDs, other times they are arranged separately. Witness the scenes when husband gets home to find the DVDs rearranged again and I can see his haunted eyes and twitchy hands as he tries to hide his desperation to get everything back into broadcast order immediately… Actually, eventually husband got worried that the DVDs might get damaged, so we have instead donated the more complete set of our combined Target collections to Fan Son instead. This is not the ideal solution, as neither of us had the rarer books such as The Wheel in Space (awkward, considering it’s now a favourite story) or The Rescue, and of course there’s the age old problem of a lack of Douglas Adams and Eric Saward stories as well as whether ‘Mission to the Unknown’ should count as its namesake and be filed before The Myth Makers, or whether its 1:6 ratio of Mission to Masterplan should put it afterwards. Luckily, however, there has so far been no problem with the spine inconsistency of Evil and Power of the Daleks, or the awkwardness of having Mawdryn Undead and Arc of Infinity as hardbacks (one was an ex-library copy, one in the WH Smith’s sale, I wasn’t made of money as a child, you know). Anyway, Fan Twin can now rearrange and categorise to his heart’s content.
Oh, and we can read them together too. That’s also fun.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Hugh Fraser’s agent may not have taken my query seriously, but since when has that stopped Doctor Who fans in pursuit of facts? Hugh himself confirmed it was indeed him in The Smugglers – see my Who blog here: https://delegatedetective.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/the-cornish-mystery/ !
And of course there now are novelisations of the Douglas Adams stories, and bloomin’ brilliant they are too. Shada by Gareth Roberts and City of Death by James Goss, with James’s novelisation of The Pirate Planet to be published in 2016.