DWM 460 Family Fortunes

According to Plato, every soul knows everything that has ever existed, even prior to birth. By this reckoning (and to twist a philosophical concept to breaking point merely to serve the interests of this column), at the moment I was born I had seen every Doctor Who story up to The Time Monster Part 5, it was just that I couldn’t remember them, even if I tried really hard. Irritating. I thought I’d made a breakthrough recently when I managed to recall an entire episode of Galaxy 4, but it turned out that was less a prenatal experience summoned from my subconscious and more an actual extra on The Aztecs special edition DVD. (I wasn’t too disappointed, as the episode was surprisingly brilliant. I especially loved how Steven, having taken over lines meant for Barbara, also adopted her cardigan and big hair look.)

But putting aside the Ancient Greeks, thanks to the goodness of videos, DVDs and repeats, everyone is now able to see all the Doctor Who from before they were born, apart from the still-missing 106 episodes. So when we sat down as a family the other weekend to watch Doomsday – the last episode broadcast before our sons were born – it shouldn’t have been much of a big deal.

Except it was. It brought home the difference between pre-child and post-child Doctor Who, because rather ironically for the last story we saw as a childless couple, Doomsday is one of the best family experiences across the whole of Who’s fifty years.

Every fan knows that Doctor Who is family viewing. It’s drummed into us. ‘Are you still watching that silly kids’ programme?’ an ignorant acquaintance may sneer. ‘It’s not just for children!’ we are taught to reply. ‘It’s a family show! It has layers!’

And here, in Doomsday, is the proof of that. It has something for everyone. Here are our examples…

Fan Twin’s Favourite Bit: DALEKS VS CYBERMEN! Well, of course it had to be. This scenario has featured so often in playground battles and home-drawn comics that people quite often assume it was happening on TV all the time; it is the most exciting Doctor Who event that any child could imagine. Fan Twin was SO excited that he was running around the room being both Daleks and Cybermen and yelling EXTERMINATE! DELETE! EXTERMINATE! DELETE! for at least half the episode.

Non-Fan Twin’s Favourite Bit: PETE RESCUES ROSE. The Doctor always saves his friends. Always. Except this time he didn’t. Rose was lost. And then Pete appears, and snatches her from the jaws of doom. How reassuring is that, when you’re a child? That trust that your mum or dad will save you, no matter what; that your dad is even more super than the actual superhero. In this case, Rose’s father has even come back from the dead to save her. It’s an enormously powerful moment.

Husband’s Favourite Bit (in his own words): ROSE TELLS THE DOCTOR SHE LOVES HIM. Because this is the culmination of two years’ worth of human drama. Everybody knows that Rose loves the Doctor, Mickey knows, Jackie knows, the viewers at home know. But Rose hasn’t been able to express it, because she can’t risk altering the status quo. But this is Doomsday. This is her only chance to say what we’ve all at times been both simultaneously terrified and desperate to. I love you. Gut-wrenching pain in three words. Forget Daleks vs Cybermen – this is what this story is really about.

My Favourite Bit: JACKIE SEES PETE. Oh oh oh. I have watched this bit again and again and again, and every single time it makes me cry with happiness. Oh, I’m welling up now just thinking about it. Her husband was dead. His wife was dead. Then they found each other again… To anyone who’s ever lost someone they loved, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful moment. It would have been so easy for this scene to be mawkish or saccharine, but the writing is perfect. Jackie’s lines are funny, because we know her so well. Pete seems almost callous for a moment as he tries to be realistic about the situation – but love triumphs.

There. Every member of the family has their entertainment needs satisfied, whether action or emotion, comedy or tragedy. (Of course, its appeal is wider than just those four examples. Watch a story with any group of people – old or young, straight or gay, male or female, parents or non-parents – and you’ll find it speaks to them in different ways.) And on top of that, I’ve learned that my beloved husband is a soppy romantic. Doctor Who. The gift that keeps on giving.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article is now of course hopelessly out of date. Not because I’ve changed my mind about Doomsday – that’s never gonna happen – but because there are now only 97 missing episodes! Here’s hoping that this author’s note will soon be out of date too…

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