DWM 463 Guess Who?

The free gift in this week’s (at time of writing) Doctor Who Adventures is ‘Doctor Who?’, a version of the children’s game ‘Guess Who?’ but with pictures of the Eleven Doctors replacing Alfred with his droopy moustache and flower-hatted Claire. The boys had a lot of fun with this, as did I listening in to their questions, which were necessarily slightly less straightforward than the standard ‘is it a man?’ or ‘are they wearing glasses?’ etc. My particular favourite was Fan-Twin asking ‘Does he look startled?’, and on being told ‘no’, discarding the picture of the Third Doctor. Questions about eye colour and hair colour led to much peering at the tiny pictures, although worse for me was ‘Is he wearing a brown coat?’ which gave me flashbacks to my time working on the Eighth Doctor book range at BBC Books, when some people got very irate that we constantly described the Doctor as wearing a green coat. Apparently it’s actually brown and only looks green. No, don’t ask.

Also this week, husband and I reached The Tenth Planet and The Power of the Daleks in our watchthrough (although obviously ‘watch’ is not the most accurate term for most of the episodes). William Hartnell has been our Doctor for over four months now, and it’s going to be difficult to come to terms with someone else at the TARDIS controls. Terrance Dicks, when talking about writing for different Doctors, says they’re all the same person. Yes, they are – we know that, but at the same time it’s almost impossible to get your head around it. The First Doctor and the Second Doctor are just too different – and as for, say, the Third Doctor and the Tenth Doctor, or the Sixth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor, well, it just does not compute. If you extend the game of Doctor (Guess) Who? to include characteristics other than physical ones, there’d be very few descriptions that would fit more than one Doctor. (Is he irascible? Does he behave in a manner reminiscent of a cosmic hobo? Could his sartorial choices be described as dandy-like?)

Fan Twin and Non-Fan Twin are dissimilar to each other in almost every way. One is blond, one dark. One is freckled and fair, the other olive complexioned. They are several centimetres different in height. (And I’m not even going to start listing the ways their personalities differ.) And yet we are still asked, with alarming frequency, ‘Are they identical?’ It’s almost the exact opposite problem to Doctor Who. Fan Twin and Non-fan Twin – two people who are complete individuals, yet others always want to bracket them together and assume they’re exactly the same. Eleven Doctors (or is it twelve? We’ve just watched The Name of the Doctor) who are the same person, yet it’s hard not to think of them as separate individuals.

Ah yes. The Name of the Doctor. That caused a few problems. Some people think six is too young to watch Doctor Who. And of course it is, for some children – every child is an individual in exactly the same way as the Doctors aren’t. We know ours are pretty resilient when it comes to scares, although we still keep a close eye on what’s going on. But there was another problem we hadn’t considered. Our children are used to being told the truth. They are used to consequence following action. They had been led to believe that they would discover the name of the Doctor in this episode – and it didn’t happen. We’d tried very hard to manage expectation in the excitement leading up to Saturday evening because we were fairly sure that no name would materialise, but it didn’t stop the excited speculation – in their minds, it had been promised that the question would be answered, so our concerns were brushed aside. And then, of course… no name. No promise had actually been broken, but they didn’t see it like that. Disappointment and confusion abounded. Especially when they read the caption ‘introducing John Hurt as the Doctor’– was ‘John Hurt’ the Doctor’s real name? (After all, it’s quite appropriate – the Doctor’s often called himself John, and he gets hurt a lot.) Again, explanations had to be made. So we’re all a bit out of love with modern Doctor Who this weekend and were pleased to get back to our primitive black-and-white telesnaps and soundtrack of Daleks and a strange little man who muses to himself ‘What would the Doctor do?’ and wears an exceptionally big hat.

Dandelions are dotted all over our lawn, and Non-fan Twin often picks some to give to me. On the morning following The Name of the Doctor he explained to me how the yellow flowers regenerate into fluffy white dandelion clocks. I rather liked that. The Tenth Planet, The Power of the Daleks, The Name of the Doctor. With regeneration, Doctor Who has made it easy for children to understand change.

They’ve decided that the Doctor’s real name is Albert, though.