Scribblings from the hard shoulder of the Information Superhighway

Who’s Next

(Okay, I try and keep to a song title meme, but this is an album title, and it is appropriate)

Last evening, in an unprecedented blaze of self-congratulatory publicity, the BBC announced that Peter Capaldi is to play the next Doctor Who.

I don’t normally comment on TV programmes, but this was ‘an event’, I saw FaceBook comments saying “Hurry up, it’s 4am in Australia and we’re waiting”. The BBC had ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ in the schedules, and the whole project had the code-name ‘Houdini’.

I have to claim an interest.

It’s coming up to fifty years since the first ‘Doctor Who’ broadcast, the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, in Dallas. To be precise it was at 5:16pm on Saturday November 23rd on BBC1; remember back in those days UK TV was in black and white, and there were only two channels.

I’ve written before that I remember that first episode vividly, we were visiting my paternal grandmother in her new flat at Boleyn Road, East Ham. We used to visit regularly and my memory tells me that that same evening we enjoyed our first Chinese take-away, but that might be my memory playing tricks.

Of course, at the tender age of six(and a half) I was part of the BBC’s target audience, the original concept was that the series should be educational. It was no coincidence that The Doctor’s first three companions were a schoolgirl (his ‘granddaughter’) and two schoolteachers – played by Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton.

In fact conventional wisdom has it that the programme’s original ruling guidelines were: “no tin robots, no alien planets and no bug-eyed monsters”.

Well those guidelines survived for four whole episodes until the arrival of the Daleks on December 21st.

To be fair, that first series interleaved ‘historical’ stories with science fiction. During that first series The Doctor and his companions visited the Stone Age, the French Revolution, Aztec Mexico, and even met Marco Polo.

Of course the series fell by the wayside between 1989 and 2003, but its resurrection under the guidance of Russell T. Davies and Stephen Moffat has been both inspired and inspiring. There have been episodes where, as someone who aspires to write, I’ve sat back and said “I wish I’d written that!” or perhaps more accurately “I wish I could have written that!”

As for my ‘favourite’ Doctor? Well I’ve watched them all; my favourite always used to be Tom Baker, but I have to say that David Tennant absolutely nailed it, and Tennant was blessed with better scripts, better effects and bigger budgets.

Matt Smith brought more maturity than his tender years would lead one to expect, and River Song was the only character I’ve ever enjoyed watching Alex Kingston play.

And Peter Capaldi? Well, I never saw him in ‘The Thick of It’ – but loved his performance as ‘The Angel Islington’ in the TV Series of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere‘. He’s in his mid fifties, which surely means there’s hope for those of us that won’t see forty again. We should also be spared any ‘relationship’ distractions with his assistants, at least one would hope so, Peter’s a full thirty years older than Jenna-Louise Colman, that would be creepy!

Steven Spielberg has commented that “The world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who.”

Who am I to disagree?

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