DWM 467 That’s What Counts

Last week husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We felt ridiculously proud that we’d continued to like each other for an entire decade, although you may be disappointed to hear that the occasion was celebrated with pizza, rather than teaming up with our past incarnations to defeat a revered figure from the history of our race who had sadly gone mad (and I’ve never quite got why the Second and Third Doctors deferred to the First Doctor in The Three Doctors, it’d be rather like my hanging on the every word of the teenage me who went to discos and drank alcopops, and I strongly suspect she never said anything worth listening to).

‘Mummy and Daddy met in the shower,’ Fan Twin informed a carful of people recently. ‘No, darling, we met in Bath,’ we hurriedly corrected. A Doctor Who event in Bath, to be precise, was where we first met, although our relationship didn’t begin until sometime later.

Scary, really, how much of our current lives have their roots in Doctor Who. Despite having ‘grown out’ of the programme before I started university, I still retained enough knowledge to be the only person in the room at a Sci-Fi Soc event to correctly complete the quiz tie-breaker ‘Finish the following sentence: “There’s nothing you can do to stop…”’, after which I suddenly found I’d made a lot of new friends. Through those friends – who are still some of my dearest friends today – I then discovered a whole new world of conventions and New Adventures, and made other friends, and through various paths and connections and coincidences ended up meeting my husband and therefore also having my children. All that, just through having once watched The Trial of a Time Lord! It’s that Sliding Doors factor, how the tiniest difference in the past that could have led to an entirely different present.

If you read much on the history of Doctor Who, you’ll realise that the chances that it would survive to its fiftieth birthday are microscopic. Amazing, really, that it lasted a single year. All the things that nearly scuppered it even before broadcast! Would it be recommissioned past the first thirteen episodes (what if someone had called the production team’s bluff when calling for it to be renewed or cancelled)? The Daleks were probably the key to its success – but what if Verity Lambert had taken the ‘no BEMS’ rule to heart? What if Ridley Scott had designed them instead of Raymond Cusick? Eeek! Hardly bears thinking about, the idea that if one BBC employee had stepped on a butterfly back in 1963, I wouldn’t be writing this – you wouldn’t be reading it – DWM wouldn’t even exist.

My Uncle Dick actually watched the first episode of Doctor Who on broadcast. He remembers it well, watching with his girlfriend and her family, thinking that this was a programme unlike anything that they’d seen before. Obviously he didn’t wonder at the time if it would still be going fifty years later, but he did realise it might be something special. I wonder if there’ll ever be anything like it again. Will I be telling my grandchildren, as they listen wide-eyed in amazement, that I actually watched the very first episode of (checks Saturday night schedule) That Puppet Game Show or I Love My Country? I don’t think so.

The earliest years of Doctor Who still feel special. The other day, our lounge was the TARDIS. Fan Twin (aka the Doctor) designated me a companion, and let me in. Non-Fan Twin wanted to come in too, so he also became a companion. Then husband requested entry, and became companion number three. ‘I know!’ said Fan Twin. ‘Mummy can be Barbara. Daddy is Ian. And you –’ to Non-Fan Twin – ‘are Susan.’

‘I’m not going to be Susan!’ declared an affronted Non-Fan Twin (we’re at the stage where anything ‘girly’ is anathema to them). ‘I’ll be the one with the motorbike.’ After a few seconds of thought I hazarded ‘Mickey?’ (Yes, I know Mickey didn’t have a motorbike, but I was temporarily thrown.) ‘Yes,’ agreed Non-Fan Twin. ‘I’ll be Mickey.’ Fan Twin looked outraged. ‘But Mickey isn’t a companion! He doesn’t count!’

So then we got on to the who counts/who doesn’t thing, leading on to the what counts/what doesn’t thing (shhh! Don’t say ‘canon’!) Now, I prefer The Crooked World to Underworld and The One Doctor to The Three Doctors, but do they “count”? Honestly? I’m not sure. And I don’t care. I enjoy them, and that’s what counts to me. Fan Twin, who has just watched The War Games, now wants to learn all about ‘Season 6b’ as well as read the comics where Patrick Troughton’s Doctor became a celebrity and was forced to regenerate by some scarecrows. Do they count? Maybe, maybe not. But you know what? We have fifty glorious years of Doctor Who. There is so much to choose from that it’s really an embarrassment of riches. Not just so much lovely telly, but also books, audios, spin-off series, comic strips, feature films… That’s something to celebrate. Here’s to fifty more!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A big shout-out to Paul, Liam, Phil, Noax and our dear and much-missed late friend Peter of the University of Nottingham Sci-Fi Society who started this process.

Also, I now have absolutely no idea what ‘That Puppet Game Show’ or ‘I Love My Country’ were.