I realised that in my first post which talked about what I would blog about I mentioned that I was somewhat of a Doctor Who fan. I lied. Somewhat is a bit weak. I am a huge fan. Always have been, probably always will be. I had a bit of wobble in the 80s (the Second Baker Era), but I’m still going strong.
I’ve been trying to describe what living with Doctor Who is like to a friend of mine recently. I’ve only recently admitted just how much of a fan I am – and stopped being embarrassed by it. But it all started a long time ago…
I must have been 4 years old when I first saw Jon Pertwee regenerate into Tom Baker. The concept of regeneration has kept the programme going for years and, when you think about it, is a stroke of genius. They effectively get to recast the entire show every so often, change the lead, change how he behaves and acts and thinks, in fact they change it completely and yet keep it exactly the same. It’s genius – really. Such a simple idea and yet a whole mythology has grown up around ‘regeneration’ (look up Doctor Who and regeneration on Google or Wikipedia and you’ll see what I mean).
And then they started incorporating the mythology into the programme – adding to the background of the mysterious Gallifreyan called The Doctor. How many times can a Time Lord regenerate? Can a regeneration life cycle be restarted? Why is it some Time Lords can regenerate at will, and for others it’s a bit haphazard, hmm? Are they effectively immortal, these Time Lords? And so on – really, there’s a whole load of people out there who could tell you more.
But as a fan, a viewer, regeneration brings a certain amount of trepidation. After all, you get used to a Doctor – ‘my Doctor’ (all fans have one) was Tom Baker, he’s the one I grew up with. At the tender age of 11 it was difficult to believe the Doctor could be anyone else. And yet, he was – different, the same, new, old.
Each time the Doctor regenerates there is speculation about who the new Who is going to be. This was the case back in the 70s and 80s and is true again now. Blimey, Christmas 2009 there was a whole hour long programme on telly devoted to introducing Matt Smith as David Tennant’s successor. A. Whole. Hour.
That’s some press coverage.
And then the speculation, the wondering, the trepidation begins – ‘he looks like a mutant’, ‘he’s too young’, ‘he’s a good actor, though’ etc. The fans go through it every time (I remember thinking ‘who the bloody hell is this David Tennant?’ only to have a tear in my eye as he regenerated into Matt). And I went through this with Matt Smith.
A few weeks into the new show and, well, I feel somehow dirty saying this, but I have forgotten that David Tennant was the Doctor (I was a huge Tennant fan). The Doctor is Matt Smith is The Doctor.
And that’s regeneration. The same man, different face, different way of being the Doctor, but still the Doctor. And Matt Smith’s is a good one – particularly for a long term fan like me (I can see bits of Patrick Troughton‘s Doctor, William Hartnell‘s and my Doctor, Tom, in his portrayal). As Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart once said, ‘Wonderful chap. All of them’.
I agree. They are all good. I don’t like all of them, but they are all him. As a fan, I have no choice but to live with the line: The Doctor is Dead. Long live the Doctor.
Even if I’m somewhat ashamed at switching allegiance so quickly…
*I have to thank my good friend David for the title of this post.