By Warwick Gray
Thanks to the first TSV Listener Special I can pinpoint the exact date I first encountered everyone's favourite Time Lord. It was 19 October 1969 when a young lad not quite four years old sat glued to the TV screen, engrossed in a bizarre scene. A soldier was braving an Antarctic storm, trying to break into a large wooden box. Strange, tall figures emerged out of the haze. Shrugging off his gunfire, the leader struck the soldier, killing him instantly. The story was The Tenth Planet... and the Cybermen had finally arrived in New Zealand. I made a bee-line for the back of the sofa...
...And ended up spending the next couple of years there. What followed was the Patrick Troughton era, easily one of the scariest periods of the show's history. There were monsters galore - the Cybermen, the Daleks, the Yeti - how could that little chap with the Beatle hairdo possibly stop them? I can recall that the Daleks' screeching voices were their worst aspect for me. I coped with them by turning the sound down on the TV, and ended up watching The Evil of the Daleks as a silent movie! Other memorable scenes included Salamander being sucked out of the TARDIS and the chaos that followed in the control room, and Jamie and some soldiers trapped in the underground by the Yeti.
Tense moments indeed, and I think they illustrate why Doctor Who has such a strong hold on people's childhood memories - a show like Star Trek may have been exciting, but it was never really frightening. The villains were far more monstrous in Doctor Who, and the outcome was never so certain - the odds always seemed to be so overwhelming for the Doctor and Co.
I was nine years old when Jon Pertwee first stumbled out of the TARDIS. Despite the chilling Autons, I was now old enough to watch the show on the sofa, not behind it. The new Doctor was a big hit at my school - everyone seemed to be imitating the Autons and the Silurians. My first Who drawings were produced at this point - I could never have guessed that I'd still be doing them seventeen years later!
The Pertwee era was only given a brief exposure in the Seventies and we were soon on to Tom Baker. I became a hard-core fan then, buying the Target novels and watching the show avidly. A scarf, which had previously been a sissy piece of clothing, suddenly became very hip! The years went on and I stayed with the show, losing interest only during the dire Key to Time season.
In 1987 a friend put me on to a Doctor Who fanzine with the odd title Time- Space Visualiser. I'm proud to say I was Paul's first South Island customer. Once introduced to Who fandom I learned many intriguing bits of information - that 'Behind the Sofa' was a popular catchphrase, for example. Like so many other fans, I had always assumed that I was the only person to watch the show that way. I also sadly discovered that I would probably never get to see those Patrick Troughton stories again.
Ah well. At least thanks to the miracle of VCRs (and the generosity of Chris Noaro) I was able to watch The Tenth Planet again, twenty years later. It was an eerie experience witnessing that same scene once more - the man could grin as the Cybermen appeared, but the four year-old boy inside him wanted to go and hide again...
This item appeared in TSV 27 (February 1992).