Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Doctor Who!

It’s finally upon us, the day many of us doubted would ever happen – tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the first time we saw the strange man with the secret and that dimensionally-transcendent police box that took us away on so many adventures.

Doctor Who was first broadcast November 23, 1963, and in the decades since then it has survived replacement of its lead actor, changing heads of broadcasting, cancellation, film destruction and attempts at Americanization, to come out as one of the most popular shows ever created.

I didn’t start watching it then, of course — I wasn’t born until it had been on the air for over six years — but I did start early. It’s a bit hazy, I think I was about six, I remember a big eyeball wearing a shower curtain so it might have been Curse of Peladon. I don’t remember watching it faithfully until maybe Death to the Daleks aired a year later (TVO didn’t think airing stories in order was very important), and then I was hooked. It helped having older brothers who were watching, and of course I wanted to do everything they did at that time. (I also got heavily into KISS at that point, but that’s something I won’t thank them for now.) I joined them in pulling my hands into my coatsleeves and pretending to be a Dalek.

I don’t think it shocked me greatly when action-star-Doctor Jon Pertwee regenerated into teeth-and-curls-Doctor Tom Baker — although I suppose it should have, since I had no idea that could happen.

See, that was before spoilers.

Fans of Doctor Who
If someone had told me it was going to happen, it would have spoiled the surprise, the excitement, the pure joy of a new experience.

[warning: a few classic series semi-spoilers are coming now]

What if I was told about how Adric was leaving, would his departure have been as shocking? What about Romana’s change? Would the answer to Rassilon’s riddle been dull if I’d known it before seeing the episode? If someone had let slip that the Daleks were going to terrifyingly levitate themselves out of the cellar, would I still have had the shocked, wide-eyed response to it? No.

There are certain things I can be spoiled on without it bothering me, of course. Story titles, for example (as long as they’re not spoilers themselves), authors, directors. But there are other things I don’t want to know. Plot twists, of course, but major guest stars too — I cut myself off from Facebook two days ago after one of my friends posted a rumour about a possible star in the upcoming anniversary special: la la la I don’t want to know!

[further warning: already-aired 2005 spoiler, which you probably already know, coming]

When Doctor Who came back in 2005 I was giddy. Finally, after one little TV movie in 1996 (starring Paul McGann, combining my favourite incarnation with a dodgy script) that never went anywhere, my beloved show was returning: and with an awesome actor in the lead role. The announcement of Christopher Eccleston in the lead role wasn’t a spoiler to me, it’s the kind of thing I didn’t mind knowing. I suppose if I had already known who Billie Piper was I might have been irritated by her announcement, but as I was unaware of her it made no difference to my enjoyment of the show. What did irritate me, though, was finding out that Eccleston was going to leave the show at the end of his first series. Not the news itself, no — that I found out before even viewing the series premiere, on the other hand, coloured my view of Rose, and the rest of the season for that matter. And since then I’ve tried to be careful about what I allow to make its way into my brain.

Doing the design and layout for Enlightenment, for example, has made it hard for me, too, as I usually need to read the content in order to complete the layout. This means I have to very lightly skim WhoLine, the news section, as there are always spoilers of some sort in there. Not usually something I would be irritated to know, but sometimes…

[yet another warning: already-aired current series minisode spoiler about to happen, avert your eyes]

Last Thursday, The Boy sent me an email with the subject line: WATCH THIS NOW!!!!! Now, that’s not his usual style, so I was very worried to even open the email, thinking his account had been hacked and I’d find an unsavoury image inside. But my curiosity got the better of me, and when I opened the email there was a YouTube link. I prevaricated a bit, then followed it through, to find an anniversary lead-in minisode, so I was both relieved and a bit excited, and started watching it. Only to get the best surprise ever: my favourite Doctor, the amazing Paul McGann, had returned! I’m sure people on the other side of my floor heard my exclamations of delight, and I was a wreck for the rest of the day (during which I watched it four more times).

My point is this: if anyone had told me this was going to happen, yes, I would have been happy for the news, but I wouldn’t have had the heart-pounding, nerve-shredding excitement his appearance brought. In fact, as The Boy has pointed out to me, I had been told of rumours of this happening twice this past summer, but my wish to remain unspoiled was so strong that I blocked them out so completely that I still have no memory of them.

Which brings us to today. One more sleep before the big anniversary special. I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not even talking to any of my other Who friends until tomorrow. Are you as excited as I am? No spoilers!

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