So, “Doctor Who” has reached its 43rd birthday. What condition it’s in depends on your point of view. For years, long-term fans hoped for its return, me included, and now it’s up-and-running some of us feel it would have been better left alone. I still don’t feel as though the programme, as I think of it, is actually back. It’s “Doctor Who”, Jim, but not as we know it! Anniversaries should be a time of celebration but not necessarily if the recipient is terminally ill. “Doctor Who” has rarely been more popular than it is now, maybe because it’s an altogether different beast from the show that ran between 1963 and 1989, in that it’s supposedly much slicker in its present state, or maybe because the marketing machine that persistently tells us it’s brilliant is simply better oiled than previously, even than what now seems like the halcyon days of John Nathan-Turner back in the Eighties.
Russell T Davies has produced nothing that remotely touches the quality of “The Caves of Androzani” or “Revelation of the Daleks” despite hiring the same director to work on Tennant’s opening year, presumably hoping that some of Graeme Harper’s magic would rub off on the new format. Even when RTD has got close, the executive producer seems intent on throwing a spanner in the works. In “The Empty Child”, for example, in an otherwise inventive two-part story, the only thing this supposedly creative production team could come up with, when Nancy blackmails the homeowner, was a homosexual extramarital affair with the butcher. Does Russell really think it’s hip to fill the minds of ten-year-old children with what boils down to indoctrination through crappy writing? Playing with fairies at the bottom of the garden, in amongst the prickly roses, is perhaps left better to shows that go out later, shows like “Torchwood”.
I suppose it could be argued that “Caves” goes over the top with its violence or that “Revelation” was too explicit in Jobel’s intentions towards Peri. If that is the case, why don’t these stories leave a bad taste in the mouth like some of the scenes in new “Doctor Who”? It doesn’t surprise me that Michael Grade has given the new series the thumbs up. I am surprised that Colin Baker is a fan. There are four serials I would much rather watch from season twenty-two than anything that has been produced in the last couple of years. Maybe I see “Doctor Who” in 1985 through rose-red ruby-tinted spectacles because these were the first serials I had the opportunity to video. But despite retaining these recordings, I’ve still purchased “Revelation”, “Vengeance on Varos” and “The Two Doctors” on DVD! Now, what I want to know is when is “Attack of the Cybermen” going to complete this quartet?!!