DWM 459 My Cool Craze

I need to make a confession. Right now, this column is coming to you under false pretences. You see, just at the moment, my children are just not that into Who.

It’s not a big deal. They haven’t turned against it. They don’t suddenly hate it. Our dustbin isn’t overflowing with discarded Daleks or scrapped sonic screwdrivers. It’s just that other things have overtaken it in their affections for the moment.

This has happened many times before. It’s happened to me, it may well have happened to you. The latest craze comes along, eclipses everything in its path, and then, sooner or later – usually sooner – goes again.

At the time of writing, new Doctor Who is more than a month away – and will only be around for seven weeks or so anyway. For those seven weeks and probably a few extra weeks on top, I am pretty damn certain that the children will be talking of little else, playing at little else and making up stories about little else – just as The Sarah Jane Adventures and Wizards vs. Aliens were all-consuming during their times on air (actually, Wizards vs. Aliens is an exception as it claimed the imagination for a long time, post-broadcast, so perfectly crafted was it for six-year-old boys).  The current fad in our house, however, is Moshi Monsters. Where Moshi Monsters win out over Doctor Who right now is that they’re forever changing. Every day you can log on to the website and do different stuff. A constant stream of novelty, compared to eight hours of drama to last you for a year.

It’s easy to play the ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’ card, but goodness me, it really wasn’t. Even less was it like this back in the Sixties, where they averaged 42 episodes per season, had only two other channels in competition, and almost certainly hadn’t heard of online worlds of adoptable pet monsters. New Doctor Who just kept on coming. But now its few hours of televisual brilliance have to compete with all-day dedicated children’s channels, DVD box sets, Wii, X-box, online games, all with characters who want to be – or perhaps actually are – the next big thing, the thing that everyone talks about in the playground, the thing that gets a thousand spin-offs, a sackful of merchandise and its own comic complete with a dozen free gifts sellotaped to the cover.

The difference between a craze and a passion, however, is that the passion endures. For many of us, Doctor Who is always there, underneath, long after temporary devotion to Rubik’s Cubes or the Spice Girls or Tamagotchis has faded away. It isn’t tied to age (there’s a reason we get DWM every month but the once eagerly awaited CBeebies Weekly is no longer on the shopping list). It doesn’t matter whether it’s on air or off. It doesn’t matter if everyone else in the playground/office/internet is watching it, not watching it, loving it, slagging it off. You’ve probably heard some variation of the saying, ‘real friends can go for years without seeing each other, then pick up again exactly where they left off’. That’s how it is for the Doctor and Sarah. The Doctor and the Brigadier. The Doctor and River Song. And Doctor Who and us. Will it be the same for our children and Doctor Who? Maybe, maybe not.  Maybe they’ll find some other interest to be their BFF. We won’t mind. Although they’re going to have a hard job finding something as creative, as life-affirming and as all-round brilliant as this silly old telly show that we all love so much.

(You’re always supposed to suggest a solution if you mention a problem. So here is my plan to keep Who uppermost in children’s minds all year round: Moshi Doctors online universe! Choose and customize your own Doctor. (How about the First Doctor dressed in the Sixth Doctor’s costume, or Doctor Ten wearing a question-mark pullover?) Decorate your TARDIS. Roundel wallpaper, perhaps? Or would you prefer those washing-up bowl walls from The Time Monster? Complete missions and earn grotzits to spend on accessories – ten will buy you an ormolu clock, twenty gets you a hat stand, and for thirty you can become the proud owner of a food machine that needs to be regularly restocked with over-salted bacon. Complete your ‘companion collection’ – Uncommon:  John and Gillian, Dodo; Rare: Grace Holloway, Katarina; Ultra Rare: Jeremy Fitzoliver, Olla the Heat Vampire. There. That should do it.)

Addendum: in the two days since this column was written, Fan Twin has asked to watch Daleks in Manhatten, Human Nature and The Sound of Drums, and played two games of Doctor Who chess, while Non-Fan Twin has had fun terrorising people with a Character Options Reaper. So I guess the bit where I said I was writing under false pretences was actually written under false pretences. Oops.