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Discovering Who

By David Hamilton

As one of the fans old enough (just!) to remember watching the first episode of Doctor Who on New Zealand television in 1964, I sometimes find the excesses of fandom rather bemusing. Nevertheless I did become an ardent fan right from the outset and have remained so through the changing Doctors and the rather haphazard attitude towards the programme by television in this country. In the early days the NZBC (as it was) did not seem to understand that the show was a serial - even the last episode of a story would end with a cliffhanger into the new story. I remember being intrigued by 'Next week: The Web Planet' at the end of The Romans. Sadly we skipped that story. I was finally able to see The Web Planet on video a couple of years ago when I won a copy in a Doctor Who Magazine contest (yes me, the person who almost never enters contests and wins them even less!).

My earliest memories are somewhat fragmentary and are now being clouded by the availability of early episodes on video. We didn't have a sofa I could get behind, but I did make quick exits into the next room from time to time! I do remember the powerful effect of the Daleks and particularly two scenes: the end of the episode where the insides of the Dalek are removed and the final shot is of a claw reaching out from under the blanket used to remove it, and the end of the second to last episode of that story where Antodus falls into the chasm and is left hanging on the rope. This latter episode haunted me for years due to the regional nature of television in those days. Our family went on holiday to Wellington where the following week I saw - yes, episode 6 again! I only found out what happened when I bought a copy of the novelized version a few years later.

To me William Hartnell is the quintessential Doctor, and I'm pleased to see Colin Baker's tenure coming under a more positive reappraisal. His portrayal seems to come closest to the original conception of the role: somewhat aloof, irascible and easily irritated, but with a warmth and sense of humour under the forbidding exterior. Perhaps the recent period of the show I enjoyed most was from the later stories of the Fourth Doctor through to the Sixth Doctor's untimely departure. These stories often possessed intelligence and were based on intriguing ideas. The ensemble casts of the period harked back to the original TARDIS crew of four.

I have never warmed to the Seventh Doctor, both because of his personality and the direction the programme took under Andrew Cartmel. My one abiding hope for the programme is that the Sixth Doctor will wake up and realise that seasons 24, 25 and 26 were just a bad dream! Of course, that would mean the return of Mel...?!

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).

Index nodes: Discovering Who