Monday, 14 March 2005

If you're a Timelord, you can make a comeback whenever you want

I find myself with mixed feelings regarding the imminent comeback of Doctor Who. Sure, Christopher Ecclestone is an excellent actor (Our Friends In The North being one of the greatest pieces of television I have ever seen) and Billie Piper also shows great promise (see the recent updating of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). Crucially, bubbly blonde Billie gives the new show the same Dad-appeal the old series had when Louise Jameson paraded around in not too many clothes during the Tom Baker era's post-Grandstand Saturday afternoon slot. Add in the blue police box, scripts by the acclaimed Russell T. Davies and a comeback for the Daleks too (although I always preferred the Cybermen) and everything seems to be in place.

So what am I worried about? Well, I'm not convinced that today's kids are going to buy into Dr Who in the same way that my generation did. Despite the best efforts of the BBC, I feel fairly confident that most kids will be able to find better visual effects in their PlayStation2 and XBox games. As for being scared by hordes of freakish aliens, will 21st Century teens hide behind the sofa at the sight of an actor in a knobbly rubber suit? I hope so, but I doubt it; I doubt even primary school kids will be peeping through their fingers. Why? Today's kids are so much more shockproof than we were and is it any wonder, given their televisual diet? So the fear-factor is out.

So too is the oddball appeal, I fear. Jon Pertwee had frilly shirts, a velvet blazer and a classic car called Betsy. Tom Baker had a floppy hat, Jelly Babies and the world's longest scarf. Peter Davison always looked like he had either just come from the cricket pitch or was just going boating, plus he had question marks on his shirt collar. Ecclestone's Doctor wears a leather jacket... so let's hope he has some, as yet undiscovered, curiosity value, something cool or bizarre, or preferably both. At long as he doesn't have visible tattoos...

I guess my biggest problem though is that this feels like tinkering with my childhood. Dr Who was finished, allowing us all to grow up and look back at it with a kind of lazy nostalgia, mistily reminiscing about Sonic Screwdrivers, Gallifrey and K-9, before debating who was the "best" Doctor (Davison by a nose, for me). But now it's back, thus forcing us to re-evaluate what has gone before, maybe even face up to the fact that a lot of it hasn't aged very well. Although the Dalek's might have looked cool, it's time to admit they were rubbish. A sink plunger is not a scary weapon. Being outwitted by stairs is not cool.

So that's it really, another childhood memory brought into sharp focus, another sorry realisation. So will I be watching when the new series starts in a couple of weeks? Of course I will! And not just because of the aforementioned Dad-appeal either! But I'll be doing so with a wry grin, as I inevitably recall the somewhat puzzling schoolboy crush I had on Tegan, the Doctor's Australian air stewardess assistant... sigh...

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