Doctor Who: I Remember... (Death in the Afternoon)
By Tony Gallichan
Picture the scene. Christmas, 1973.
I'm at my father's for Christmas this year, (he and my mother took it in turns to have us children at Christmas, d'you see?), I'm only six years old. So, I open one of my presents. So does my older brother, Michael. Both of us get the same thing. The Radio Times tenth anniversary special. I had only been vaguely aware of Doctor Who until then. There are hazy memories of dummies, the devil, Daleks and a bizarre mix of The Time Monster And Curse Of Peladon. Oh, and the Three Doctors. For some reason that always gets mixed in my memories of the time with The Goodies and The beanstalk. I do know that from Carnival Of Monsters on things get a lot clearer. Being surprised at the “twist” in the last episode of Frontier In Space, the trailer for Planet Of The Daleks, watching it through the crack in the door. Planet Of The Daleks is still my favorite Dalek story.
That magazine changed my life.
Now, I know, it wasn't the Bible, or some other earth shattering text. But to a precocious child, looking for escape, it was like entering a different world. My imagination was fired like nothing before or since.
So, you see, blame it on my Dad!!!
He also, a couple of years later, bought me my first Target book. Doctor Who and The Giant Robot by Terrance Dicks (heh, who else?).
Of course, in later years he fully regretted my interest in the show.
The years fly by and memories are plentiful. Playing Doctor Who in my primary school playground with Darren Cornelius O' Toole. (No, really, that was his name!). The exterior window sills are sloped so they look, very little, like the TARDIS console. For some reason the Doctor, (me, naturally - I had blond hair and anyway, he looked and sounded just like a young Nick Courtney), could never get the Ship to work because Sergeant Benton had filled the Console base with banana sandwiches.
Just don't ask.
Watching Tom's first season at my Nans'. Being shocked when I went to my father's one day to find that not only had he moved but he had a colour telly! Watching The Face Of Evil in stunned silence..... wow, colour! I'm at my stepfather's and watching The Stones Of Blood. Finding more Target books in King Street News and buying first The Daleks then Planet and Genesis. Being locked in the car as mum and my stepfather go into town with only The Daleks for company - er, did that come out right? Lol. Getting Doctor Who Weekly.
Then something happened.
I went nowhere the day of the first episode of The Leisure Hive. Playing the BBC Space Themes album then the Genesis of the Daleks album, both bought by myself, beforehand. Being wowed by the new music. Maybe watching The Leisure Hive in black and white is rather missing the point but I liked it. And, after a year or so, (the final part of The Armageddon Factor to be exact), getting a cosy feeling on hearing the restored middle eight. Music was already starting to play a part.
Missing Full Circle part one. Starting to tape record the shows from part four of Warrior's Gate. Listening to those glorious scores.
And then death in the afternoon.
I think it was DWM that said Series Eighteen and specifically Logopolis, were a watershed for some of us. Very true. The age of innocence was gone, somehow.
It was roughly about that time that my mum and stepfather banned me from having anything to do with the show. Everything was taken away, books, Palitoy stuff, DWW/Ms, the lot. I found a copy of The Loch Ness Monster in a church jumble sale a few years later with my name and address in it. (Heh, I used to do that I'm afraid, awwww).
Finally being allowed it but then moving to my dad's. Missing Sea Cadets to watch Series twenty. Doing Doctor Who question and answer sessions for charity. Dad took me to Longleat and we got free admission to the exhibition 'cos of the amount of stuff I twisted his arm into buying for me. Getting loads of abuse at school for liking Doctor Who. Loving Caves Of Androzani. Hating The Mysterious Planet. Loving The Ultimate Foe. Hating Keff's version of the theme.
The nineties and fandom. Alan Toombe's white panama, the Fitzroy Tavern. Bill Cook, Jean Riddler, Paul Cornell. Penny List, Peter Linford, Marcus Judge, Colin Campbell, Gary Russell, Nick Pegg, Nick Cooper, the lads from The Frame, Dreadfully Written Bullshit, The Real Grit Junior, Private Lives, Jeremy Bentham, Carousel, Manopticon, and of course, the Fan Olympiads. Sitting with Cornell, Penny, Jean and Marcus in The Pride Of Pimlico and coming out with that first list of guests.....too much fun. The New Adventures and chapter nine of Timewyrm Revelation. The return of mystery and magic.
Then Crawley. The wonderful Dunns. Purcell, McArdell, Jenner. Roleplaying nights. Far too much laughter then could possibly be healthy. Starting to do some music for the RPG. Then..
Staggering Stories and The Buccaneer Chronicles.
I've recently started to go back to Tavern and it feels like coming home. Friendship, d'you see? Friendship of a slightly different kind to that I have with the Crawley mob. Dunno why, but it is. Less close, yet still so much fun. And SO hectic!
Present day. My father has come over for my birthday, the nineteenth, a few days before the Fortieth. I have to pop into the shops to get this or that. And sitting on a shelf is the Radio Times Fortieth Anniversary Special. I buy it and when we get home I dig out my old, battered copy of the tenth Anniversary special to show him and remind him. I don't know why but in that moment, I felt a little spooky.
And of course, we sit through some old cine films of his and what do we see? Me. At Longleat. Twenty years previously.
It felt odd.
So, here's to ya, Doctor Who. You've been, for good or for ill, a large part of my life.
The Myrka is still shite, though.
Tony Gallichan is a sad, old git. But then, who here isn't? Diddle de dum, diddle de dum, diddle de dum...