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Discovering Who

Past Life Experiences

By Alistair Hughes

A doll coming to life in the back of someone's car... An inflatable chair which smothers people... Alien killer Policemen...

My claim to fame is that I was one of the original terrified British tots who was talked about in the House of Commons in 1971, when Terror of the Autons was first screened. At the time I had somehow confused the 'Policeman' with the Brigadier, so the apparent transformation of this stalwart Doctor Who 'goodie' into a faceless monster was almost too much for a quivering four year-old to bear.

Isn't it funny how recollections become jumbled? Many years later I remember speaking to two fans who swore blind that the Second and Third Doctors lifted Omega's mask to reveal - the flame of singularity! Interesting concept; presumably everyone was then to travel through the flame by kicking the 'Big O' in the teeth?

My family immigrated to New Zealand the day after episode one of The Sea Devils was screened in Scotland. I had to wait thirteen years to find out that the hoarsely-breathing figure confronting the Doctor and Jo at the end of that episode wasn't a Sea Devil after all! Already missing 'the stone devil' (Bok), 'the big, hairy bear thing' (Aggedor) and those 'baldy gorillas' (the Ogrons) like old friends, my biggest misgivings about moving to New Zealand was 'would Doctor Who be on TV down there?'

Spearhead from Space arrived in New Zealand in 1975, and as the familiar theme music began, I was completely unaware that this was New Zealand's first glimpse of the Third Doctor. I had no idea that when my friends had been talking about Cybermen and Yeti (during one of my many 'Who-based' conversations which I instigated), that they were also talking about a completely different Doctor!

Around this time a newspaper clipping was sent to me by my relatives in Scotland. It showed a 'pop-eyed', wildly grinning man with a huge scarf, and beneath the photograph, an unbelievable, impossible caption: 'Tom Baker, the new Doctor Who'.

Deeply shocked and stunned, I was taken aside by my parents and given a little talk which had all the delicacy and gravity of a first 'sex education' chat. Revelation followed revelation - not just one, but two Doctors before Pertwee, a new one in Britain, a Film Doctor... It embarrasses me now to think that practically anyone on the streets these days is familiar with the concept of regeneration!

Soon afterwards I discovered Target books (does anyone else remember the dilemma of the early Baker years when the novelisations became available as the story was being screened, thus giving you the opportunity to ruin the ending for yourself?). I met Jon Pertwee during his second trip to New Zealand, subscribed to Doctor Who Magazine, and even joined the NZDWFC, in later years.

From my childhood worries about whether there was any Doctor Who in New Zealand or not, it's quite ironic to see that, having returned to Britain, it seems to me that the Doctor is in some ways more alive in NZ than he is here!

This item appeared in TSV 30 (September 1992).

Index nodes: Discovering Who