Last night I was one of the millions who turned on for the fiftieth anniversary episode of Dr Who, and tuned out the world. For seventy-five minutes I was lost in story. Yes, I’m a fan, have been as long as I can remember.
What’s not to love about the idea of time travel, in a box that is bigger on the inside than the outside can contain? Even without a quirky character in control it’s the stuff of dreams. Throw in a main character who shape shifts, just after we’ve settled into the idea that this is how he is, and I’m hooked.
I do miss the old Doctors, all of them, and most of their companions too. I like to think they had more adventures than we saw on the tv, or heard on the radio, but I’m glad that there’s a turn-over in personalities. This seems like a variation on the oral tradition of story, where tellers remould their material to suit each audience, reflecting the concerns and circumstances of the day in their approach and content. In this way, stories stayed fresh.
Cinderella, for instance has been losing and finding her shoe for more than two thousand years. Versions of her story have been found across the globe in some of the earliest writings of various civilizations. But here’s the rub: for most of us, despite the various writers who’ve reworked the story during the past hundred and fifty years or so, Cinderella remains held in the 1697 limbo that Charles Perrault created when he set her inside the pages of his Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals.
In 1893, Marian Raolfe Cox proposed that there were three hundred and forty-five variants on the Cinderella story. That’s a lot of Cinders, and she hasn’t always gone by the same name, of course. But she’s still the pretty, put-upon step-daughter and sister who wins a handsome husband when her missing footwear turns up.
Just as The Doctor is sometimes a joker, sometimes an action-man, sometimes grumpy, according to incarnations, and yet remains always The Doctor. Some purists are bemoaning the more recent ‘up-grades’ of his personality. They liked the old aloof doctor, who rarely even held hands with anyone, much less kissed or was kissed by a companion. I’m glad he’s moved on.
And that goes for the side-kicks too. I can watch the old episodes, with dippy, even silly, screeching companions prone to fainting or cowering in a corner, because they belong to their age. That’s not us today, I tell myself.
Of course, in reality, if I was faced with weeping angels, cyber-men or any other more feasible invasion situation, I probably would scream then go hide in a cupboard and wait to be saved. But this is fiction. I want main characters who are active, who face up to the action and react positively, even if they are not the title protagonist. I want them to get out there and work things out, together.