Never too late to see the doctor
By T.K. McNeil
There are decisions one makes in life for which there is no good reason or account. A weak “seemed like a good idea at the time” being the best that can be mustered. I have have had my fair share of these like the most of humanity, most unaccountable, and downright embarrassing of these being the semi-conscious decision to avoid seeing more than a few minutes of Doctor Who.
Unlike many current fans for whom Christopher Eccleston was the Beginning, my slight antagonism toward the Gallifreyan space adventurer began much earlier, round about 1987 when I first spied it by accident while flipping through channels, my attention span being short even for a seven-year-old. Unfortunately in this case as I had barely watch five minutes before considering the proceedings rather dull, mostly due to the lack of guns and changed the channel. While popping up now and again, my exposure to “Classic Who” basically began and ended there.
My discovery of “New Who” was just as accidental, in the form of a promo on the Canadian channel that was carrying it. It may be a bit shallow, but this incarnation looked a lot more interesting then the, let’s admit it, slightly campy original version. Then again I was the type to prefer NextGen Star Trek over the Original Series (please send all hate mail to the email address below), despite the special-effects not improving much. The fates seeming to have taken a dislike to me, I wasn’t aware that the 21st-century incarnation was not a direct continuation of the much older one and there seemed to be far too much back-story to jump into the story in the middle. Despite my initial reaction, I always had the sense there was something really big going on with the good Doctor and, unlike many adults during the original run and non-Geeks nowadays, was reticent of writing it off as a simplistic kids show, my respect growing mostly by osmosis, based on the idea of the thing rather than the thing itself. Then came Captain Jack Harkness.
Video-stores, back when they still existed, could be quite wonderful places. Especially the independent shop I haunted in downtown Vancouver, known for underground curios and works from foreign climes, particularly Britain. There among the stacks one day, somewhere between Dead Man’s Shoes and The Wickerman was the first season of a show called Torchwood. Cool, interesting and scary, it was all the things I liked most.
Imagine my shock when I realized that Torchwood was a spin-off of The Doctor. Still, this was not enough to make me want to take a stab at the Gordian Knot t hat had become the Whoverse. That came nearly four years to the day later when I saw a listing for Doctor Who on the Space network. Prepping a mixing bowl of popcorn, and steeling my resolve, I held my breath and dove in head-first.
Despite leaving it until Peter Capaldi was piloting the TARDIS for reasons varying from youthful apathy to fear of losing the plot in the most literal sense, I was instantly hooked. There were two episodes on that night, the two-part finale of Capaldi’s first season, leaving me right where I always feared I might be. In the end, trying to figure my way through. It didn’t matter though. By the credits rolled over that now iconic theme song, I was a full-fledged Whovian.