Doctor Who: I Remember... "40 Fun Filled Years - The Confessions, Lamentations and Aspirations of a cradle Who fan"
By Ian D. McArdell
Well, I've only been around for about three-quarters of them, but I guess I'm qualified to comment. The first thing I positively remember is Leisure Hive - Tom and co on Brighton Beach (yes - that does mean that I'm a child of JNT, or at least a child of his era), but there you go. It had always been on in the house - and with Logopolis I remember being terribly excited about a new Doctor. I knew of such things through two older brothers and parents who watched the series, and knew of Peter because "All Creatures" was also a family favourite. Mum thought he was too young. Later Dad was pleased when Adric bought it and we were all suspicious of Turlough. As I said, it had always been on...
Around this time I also picked up the novelisation of 'Carnival of Monsters' at a school jumble sale and that started my collection. The Zarbi were found lurking on the living room bookshelf, as were the Cave Monsters and lo a collection was born. "The Changing Face of Doctor Who" legend on the inside of the novelisations helped maintain an early chronology. Klaak!
The Five Faces repeats were a real highlight and books came thick and fast - "Doctor Who - A Celebration" was a treasured 10th Birthday present, although I waited until June '84 for it. The advent of a second television in the house soon eased the clashes with sister and Mum - and eventually became invaluable in the war against Coronation Street.
Jumbles, birthdays and eventually Middle School followed. Being a good reader I soon got through the reading schemes and was in 'target' freefall. Words like 'dimensionally', 'transcendental' and 'gelatinous' appearing in my spelling list to the dismay of Mrs. White, the rotund and mildly perturbed form teacher.
Middle school also re-acquainted me with a playgroup chum, the erstwhile curator of this place, and his enthusiasm added to mine. Our fanzine 'Arc of Infinity' has a somewhat limited readership, and yet was great fun winning a Head's award for initiative.
One spring I remember parlaying for the Terminus book rather than an Easter Egg. The price had risen to £1.50 and my pocket money was not keeping track with this inflation. A paper round helped keep pace and allowed me to be sure of a copy of DWM without the need for a delivery and the danger of the newsagent writing '8 Bedale' across Peter Davison's head each month. Trust me, these things were important at the time. As were spending five minutes in 'Hooks Books' putting what they had in transmission order... really. Gaining the trust of the fan and Deputy Manager in later years paid dividends as I was privy to release info from Target and even scored a small cardboard Dalek cut-out on one lucky Saturday.
I also threatened to leave the Cubs when it was announced that Season 21 was to be on Thursday and Friday nights. No video at this point so I had to rely on the Radio Times and school friends to pick up the gaps. (We were slow to the world of VHS late Trial, I believe). Missing the first and third episodes of Androzani was a crime... with Frontios and The Twin Dilemma, not so much. Thank goodness for Resurrection of the Daleks on a Wednesday...
A Membership to the DWAS followed with visits to charity shops to assemble my own Tom costume... and poor Mum was landed with a lengthy knitting task for one Christmas. Wearing said costume in public, walking to a friend's house I remember being beeped at my traffic... not so good.
An attempt to set up a local group came and went - with a photo in the Crawley News to boot. With a converted garage to meet in but membership we thought we were set, but sadly membership never grew past two and a half - younger brothers couldn't manage the society subs and thus remained a junior member. It did put us in touch with a loose crew of Sci-fi fans though lurking about under the dubious name of the 'Schizoid Squad'. They role-played, drank and visited London... some of them swore sometimes and had their own houses. At fifteen I was bowled over and, after parents checked them out, we joined.
This led to Carousel '89 - my first convention proper (though we had been on the Harwich-Hook of Holland Ferry convention in '87). On a floor in sleeping bag, helping as a steward and having access to the guests in hospitality - these were great times. I remember vividly sitting with Cy Town looking at his photos from the set of 'Fenric' and being teased by Nick Courtney as to whether the Brig was to finished off in Battlefield. Heady days and later exploits at conventions as just an attendee always paled in comparison. Fortunately, I did manage to graduate to sharing a room and breakfasting inside the hotel by the mid-nineties!
More costumes followed, getting in with a sci-fi retailer of moderately well known renowned. I was heartbroken to find that I was too tall for a Dalek, spent time as a moderately uncomfortable Ice Warrior - but was thrilled to discover that I had attained perfect Cyber-height. Various comic fairs at Chesunt followed and I spent many house practicing phrases like 'Excellent!', 'Take the Patrol Across' and the classic 'Promises to Aliens have no validity!'
Later years brought Alcohol and cynicism in equal measure... yes, I began to attend the Fitzroy Tavern in London's glittering West End. Realisation dawned that not all fans were actually that nice to each other and some people really did hate certain stories and even Doctors. There was always an elite of 'fans' who laughed at those in costume or those who weren't so 'with it' or were still a bit wet behind the ears and would believe any rumour - I was guilty of this too on occasion but it never sat well with my world view... or did the homophobia that pervaded the place either. Mind you, the beer didn't always sit so well with me so perhaps I should be a little more gracious. Saying that - some months it was deeply unfashionable to blather on about the series or if it was ever coming back. The commercialisation of the series put me off for a while as well - I've seen the harsher side of fandom and the extent some will go to make cash out of others.
During University I enjoyed my wilderness years... worked hard and played hard too, mourned Who and fell for the charms of Babylon 5. At it's best it has all of what keeps you coming back to the TARDIS - great stories and compelling characters. I've developed a strong interest in films too and root this back to Who as well. I work in the technical side of television - led there in no small measure by an interest in special effects and production. I wonder where that started?
These days, at the ripe old age of 29, the Doctor is still very much with me. B5 holds a strong place in my affections and I dabble at Trek... but Who is still the tops. I bailed on the New Adventures after a few years after I felt they'd strayed too far from the heart of the series and have only picked at the BBC books and Big Finish. I enjoyed the TVM - loved McGann's Doctor, Grace and was amused by Eric Roberts but wished the plot had made more sense and had the guts to leave people dead and the past where it was. DWM is not still on my list of must-buys, though I often browse it and use the .net to keep abreast of things.
'Scream of the Shalka' is a diversion and Richard E. Grant will be fantastic if he gets to throw himself into the part - and if the part allows him the space to do it. Yet I can't help chuckle at the irony of the summer being spent on this animation and a series announcement sealing the wind from its sails. I have high hopes for the relaunch and hope they use writers who have strong ideas and good follow through. Gatherings of Who fans are notoriously difficult to please and all have opinions over what should and shouldn't be done with the series. I hope the new producers have the courage of their own conviction and produce good quality drama which stands on it's own, rather than pulp sci-fi that is lost in the mess of Treks, Stargate and the like.
Who has been with me since the year dot - I've interviewed Sylvester, chatted with Jon Pertwee and left messages on Nicola Bryant's ansaphone. I've auctioned Who underpants, and waited outside cold theatres for autographs without seeing the play..... Travelled miles by train bus and coach... been thrilled by chance encounters and been let down by planned ones... been on the edge of my seat, behind the sofa and squirming with embarrassment on it. One thing is sure though... it's been a great ride and it's not over yet... Happy 40th Doctor - you don't look a day over 26 - but who's counting!