Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Doctor never loses

There will be a new episode of Doctor Who this weekend. There will be a new adventure in time and space. And I can’t wait. Even though I know I will bawl like a baby through those opening credits.

It has happened damn near every time I’ve watched a new episode in the past five years. Those opening credits spark up, a new Doctor Who episode starts and it quite literally moves me to tears, every single time.

I can't help it. From the moment it starts with that screech, (that one that still sounds like it's coming from the end of time), I get that weird chill down my spine and the horrible lump in my throat. By the time the logo comes up, I'm wiping away the tears. It's sad and pretty goddamn pathetic, but it happens every time I sit down to watch a new episode.

A lot of it is that music, a simple enough little tune dreamed up by Ron Grainer and the suitably scientific sounding Radiophonic department at the BBC more than 40 years ago.

With a thudding bass line and unearthly wailing, the theme has, fittingly, stood the test of time. It can be endlessly reworked while still remaining unmistakable, and in its own way, manages to sum up much of the appeal of the show itself.

The solid rhythm that underlines that theme can – if the point is stretched just far enough - be seen as the most basic and oddly linear of plots that almost all Who stories adhere to in a strict episodic format. All that high-tech blaring that goes with it represents the craziness that gets slapped on top of that plot, all the outrageous sci-fi concepts and characters that the writers delight in dreaming up.

Then again, it could just be a fucking good tune. That, at the very least, is hard to deny.

Even harder to deny is how well it goes with the visuals in the opening credits. Apart from the period when the show was produced in the eighties, the credits have featured a display of something truly out of this world, showing a trip through the time/space vortex, broken only by the sight of the Doctor's beaming face or credits spinning up through history towards the viewer.

All of this is enough to make the credit sequence once of the greatest in television history, but for this sad, pathetic viewer, it's so much more than that.

The thing is, when I sit down to watch a brand new episode of Dr Who, I know what I'm going to get: A tale with heavy science-fiction and horror elements featuring a time-travelling force for good who never, ever loses, although the cost can sometimes be more than even those Gallifreyan shoulders can handle. It will be a story with humour and humanity, compassion and action, a girl with a nice arse and lots of running down corridors, death and sheer, glorious life.

Of course, my love for this programme doesn't completely blind me to its faults: A history of dodgy acting and dodgier sets, undisguised plot padding and stretches of dull dialogue. That's okay. What is more remarkable is that the new series often lives up to the expectations built up by that opening piece, with whole episodes of sheer fucking genius like The Girl In The Fireplace, to little moments that fill me with emotions I sometimes forget I have, like that bit in The Parting of the Ways where the Doctor's recording is talking to Rose after he made her go home in the Tardis and it turns and looks RIGHT AT HER.

And there is even more to it than that for me. Doctor Who has always been my favourite television show, even though I didn't always acknowledge it. Right from the time when I was a really little kid and thought there were two different versions of the show, one with that white-haired old guy who fought dinosaurs with judo chops and one on another channel with the curly-haired guy with the scarf finding disembodied hands in quarries.

From there, I was hooked for life. Reading the Target novelization of the Dalek Invasion of Earth over and over again and never once getting sick of it; throwing a massive tantrum because I was missing the second episode of a repeat screening of the Mind Robber to go to a stupid school production; realising as I got a bit older that Wendy Padbury and Katie Manning actually looked damn fine in those mini-skirts; becoming massively obsessed with reading the New Adventures, just as Virgin lost the rights; subscribing to a goddamn fanzine; hearing about this new series and even though I knew it was in good hands, getting pleasantly surprised by how well they pulled it off.

I love, love, love everything about the new series. I can see why people get annoyed by the overblown pomposity of it all, but the sillier and madder it gets

So now, here I am, on the far side of 30 and married and responsible and all that, with all the little pressures and big stresses that go with adult life, and it all falls away when I sit down to watch Doctor Who.

Because when I sit down and watch The Waters Of Mars, all will be well with the world.

Just a little bit, it all goes away and all that matters is the enjoyment of watching a television show I love more than anything else ever screened. Because Doctor Who is off on another adventure in time and space.

1 comment:

Nik said...

I've only become a Who fan since the new series premiered (the old stuff just never aired in the US in my area when I was a kid), but I agree with the theme music -- there's something really evocative about it, promising adventure and mystery. I hope they don't muck it up too much with the next Doctor.