Sunday, 6 September 2015

A Love letter to Doctor Who

When I was about 12 years old my parents took me and my younger brother to Blackpool for a weeks holiday. Bastards.....horrible place. For those of you who read this blog outside of the UK and may have no understanding of this seaside town situated on the west coast of England, well, consider yourself lucky. 

The town encapsulates everything I dislike about the notion of a 'traditional' British seaside town with its 'kiss me quick' hats and endless tacky live shows featuring z-list actors who once appeared in a soap that your mom used to watch in the afternoons. If that wasn't enough, to further add to the holidaying 'pleasure' there are the endless array of cheap rides, tourist merchandise stores and slot machines all wrapped up in a nauseating aroma of candy floss and an array of cardiac arrest inducing 'food'. Yes, you may gather that I never liked the place. 

Now I don't want to sound like some ungrateful snotty nosed schmuck who made his parents lives hell for not taking him on holiday to somewhere more likely to satisfy his desires. I know that they didn't exactly have a potful of money to splash around for my desired destination that actually contained some genuine sunshine and culture, so in between my periods of perpetual sulks I did try to enjoy myself as much as I could. I know, I'm all heart. 

As things turned out, after spending a few of days in this hellhole there was indeed one thing that had peeked my 12 year old geeky interest. This thing was a particular exhibition on the ironically named 'Golden mile' which runs along the Blackpool seafront. The Golden Mile, in essence, is a mile of unrelenting 'fun houses', slot machines, fortune tellers, tasteless tourist shops and a plethora of other brain numbing enticements designed to part the eager tourist from their money. In other words, it's not very golden, No, it's bloody horrible.


However, there was one exhibition concerned a particular obsession of mine that by this date in 1980 had also well and truly become not just a British institution, but also had morphed into a genuine worldwide phenomena. This meant that without doubt visiting The Doctor Who Exhibition Blackpool was the one and only thing that I wanted to do on that visit......the only thing at all......the one thing that was going to keep me sane for the week in that holiday hellhole.

Let's face it, the home grown scifi landscape in 1970s and early 1980's Britain was pretty grey and drab relying on the likes of the good doctor, Blake's 7 and, er, well that's about it really. Even the few other shows that did make it to national television quickly floundered, often due to the reluctance of the organisations to spend more than £2.75 on pesky little additions like sets, authentic aliens and special effects. By the early 1980's Doctor Who was too suffering under the BBC's unwillingness to invest in what had become a potential worldwide syndication goldmine. Instead of showing TV based scifi the respect that it deserved the budgets for each series became steadily less, and as a consequence so did the audience figures. 

Yet the core audience continued to stick with the series through thick and thin until that same core found itself (me included) fighting the short-sightedness of the BBC for 16 long years until the triumphant return in 2005. By now the TV and technological landscape had changed immeasurably beyond recognition. Scifi was now no longer being treated by the powers-that-be as some sort of embarrassment to be hidden away on the late night schedules. Finally, the Doctor Who universe was given the financial respect that it had always deserved.

In my time I have experienced ten Doctors, beginning with Jon Pertwee and god knows how many Doctor's companions (though only Janet Fielding is important....). I know, I know, any serious blogger worth his salt would do a little research to count the number of companions and then list each and every one in alphabetical order in an effort to make his/her articles truly authentic and accurate. Well I've been in this blogging lark for a few years and I'm not about to start to get my facts completely correct now - in fact sort of nearish the mark on a clear day is good enough for me. The point that I'm trying to make is that the good doctor, apart from a number of years when the BBC made one of its many customary shamefully idiotic decisions in cancelling the series, has been a constant companion since my earliest of childhood memories. It's been special, very special.

For some reason it is rather nice to know that we will all have our particular favourite Doctor, often being the one of the first that we first encountered and grew up with. Though the redoubtable Pertwee was my first and also featured in my favourite ever story to well and truly scare the living breath out of me (see below), it must be said that the one I think of as 'my own' has to be Tom Baker....so good, so very good. Whether it was Bakers' charm, knowing smile or the 'I know something that you don't ' look in his eye that immediately drew him to me, well I'm not sure. All I know that he for me is synonymous in the part and nobody has ever come quite close to matching his own particular portrayal  - though I have to admit that Peter Capaldi is getting close......very close indeed.

If I had to nail down my top five Time Lord related things, well they would look something like this;

1) Favourite Doctor - Tom Baker

2) Favourite Doctor's companion - Tegan (Janet Fielding) by a country mile.

3) Favourite bad guys - apologies for being unimaginative, but it's always been the Cybermen......scary little buggers.

4) Favourite story - The Planet of the Spiders

5) Favourite Doctor's companion - Tegan (Janet Fielding) by a country mile.

Yes I know I mentioned Janet Fielding as Tegan twice, but I really had no choice. The early 1980's were a strange time for me for a number of reasons, often magnified by the fact that I was about to enter my teens and, well, we all know what that means.........ahem. While it is fair to say that Peter Davidson was always going to struggle in following in Tom Baker's magnificent footsteps, for me he never quite achieved a level that would put him in the upper pantheon of 'great Doctors'. However Davidson's tenure, in particular between the years 1981 & 1984), included one factor that will forever keep in in the forefront of my own personal favourite Time Lord lore......

It's probably something of a good thing (both for Janet's state of mind and for my legal team) that the Internet, and with it the delights of social networking, didn't exist in those heady days of the early 80's. I'm far too much of a gentleman (no, really) to go into details, however all I will say here is that the very very lovely Tegan was responsible for an endless array of teenage fantasies in this here blogger......sorry about that, Janet. Well at least I couldn't ply you with endless emails and requests for signed photos beginning with " My dearest, Stuey....."

Hmmm, that reminds me to find Jenna Coleman's contact details...........................

The resurrection and subsequent renaissance of the series, has resulted in a very different feel in the shows featuring recent regenerations of the good doctor. Gone are the days of shaky cardboard filming sets and less than convincing polystyrene aliens with the BBC seeing the error if their stupidity and actually spending some meaningful money to make an authentic science fiction series. Eccleston was fine, Tennant at times was brilliant, Smith though I found difficult to warm to whilst Capaldi's casting has proved to be nothing short of genius.

Anyhoo, getting back to that less then enjoyable holiday experience. After seeing the outside of the exhibition on the first day there immediately became nothing more important in my little world than for me to visit it. Yes, even back in those day it was all me, me , me....my egocentric behaviour has often been a little wayward to say the least. So, "what was this exhibition thing?" I hear you ask. Well, according to tardis.wikia.com. The description is as follows;

"The Doctor Who Exhibition Blackpool was located at 111 Central Promenade, on the busy Golden Mile, a prime location for visitors. It ran for 11 years until the lease on the building it resided in expired. Through a TARDIS-shaped entrance visitors followed the exhibition through a range of various displays of props, costumes, and models towards a working prop of the console room with console, before reaching the shop at the end. Displays were regularly updated with new exhibits as new stories were aired and also included a display of small scale models of landscapes and spacecrafts. Davros, Daleks, Cybermen and K9 were among regular exhibits."

Sounds good, eh? The problem was that it wasn't until the the 4th day of the holiday that I even knew the exhibition was there and by that point I had spent the whole of my weeks allowance. Well what can I say? I was young, single ....... and had spent my time attempting to eat the equivalent of my own body weight in burgers, hot dogs & Cherry Coke. I knew how to live. It was going to take every ounce of my charismatic winning charm to persuade my parents to lend 'sulky boy' money for the Doctor Who experience. I know, I was in deep trouble.

As it turned out, my task to get the necessary funds (I can't for the life of me remember just how much it was) was far easier than I thought it would be. My dad simply responded to my whining request by stating that there were two conditions; Firstly, that I immediately changed my sulky ways and stopped wandering around with a face like I'd been slapped with a wet fish while muttering " I wanted to go to Spain" under my breath. Secondly, that I take my younger brother along with me. If I agreed to this then he would like me go to the exhibition on the the morning of the day we returned home. Even though my brother had never bothered to watch an episode in his life and was something of a cry-baby if truth be told, I said It was a done deal and discussions were sealed with a bag of fish & chips.


The day of the visit finally arrived with my dad walking (marching) me along the golden (sic) mile, while my mum was left to do the packing back at the holiday apartment - which seemed a good deal to the both of us. The day before I had managed to purloin a brochure of the exhibition and had planned with meticulous military precision just where and how much time I would spend in each area. At the same time providing an inciteful and entertaining commentary in order to educate my younger brother. This also nicely fitted in with my parents instructions "not to spend the whole bloody morning in there!" as we were on a strict timetable and my dad could only drink so much coffee while waiting for me - there was no chance he would want to come in to see the exhibition, lets just say that it wasn't his scene.

So in I went in trough the Tardis-like entrance and paid my money with a feeling of almost overwhelming excitement. We rounded the very first corner to be met with a room full of life-sized and VERY loud Daleks threatening to all sorts of exterminating to ourselves. My brother screamed, I almost wet myself in fear and we both ran at lightening speed through the corridors of the exhibition until we reached the exit...... and a very surprised father who hadn't even had the chance to light his first cigarette. 

"How was it?" he asked.

"Rubbish and not worth the money" I replied, at the same time silently agreeing with my brother that we would never tell the world that we had been too scared shitless to stay. Well until now that is.



This article can also be found with a great deal of other goodies on the 5D. The Fifth Dimension website at http://stuartandrew86.wix.com/fifth-dimension?_ga=1.199674286.1864646412.1375958493
















2 comments:

  1. I remember the exhibition in Blackpool really well, from the late 70s onwards, and visited it many times as a kid - it was exciting! It's a shame that you need to rubbish Blackpool in general as a 'hellhole', considering that it had this treasure (it had lots). You seem to disregard the idea that you might have been taken there as a 'treat' by your parents, whether you perceived it as that or not.
    What was it about your home town, with its lack of Dr. Who Exhibition (and similar charms, presumably) that you found so preferable? Evidently not your home life, considering your disdain of your parents' taste. Did you eventually find anything more to your taste in the Spain which you allude to, or had you become a disappointed adult yourself, by then?
    The whole page here reads, sadly, as nothing other than what it is - a typical geek who thinks that 'knowledge is power' and everyone else is to blame for...whatever.
    It's always interesting when someone who has no social standing whatsoever in general terms refers to other people as 'z-list' in a dismissive way; as you do here. Perhaps consider that those you refer to are (or at least have been) someone to somebody at some point - usually a lot of people. Now think about the fact that this is currently the first, and only, comment on your really important blog - a half year since you wrote it. Now tell us about those 'z-listers' again, big man.

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    1. Hey Stranger
      Thanks for the comments and the sterling work you're doing on behalf of the Blackpool tourist board and psychological analysis. Good to see that we agree on the Dr. Who exhibition - It was and is exceptional!
      Would love to hear your thoughts on the actual point of the article (occasionally I do have actual points) - namely the good Doctor.
      Thanks again for taking the time to write!
      Stu

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