Happy Doctor Who anniversary! Our favourite TV show officially turns 57 this week – specifically, the 23rd November 2020. And what a 57 years it has been.
I’m Alex, by the way – your Lovarzi blog writer. I’m a self-confessed sci-fi fanboy who came to work for Lovarzi through a series of coincidences, exterminations and spurious manipulations of the time vortex. As we all pull together to mark this special Doctor Who anniversary, I thought I’d look back on some of the joy (and pain!) of being an ardent Whovian.
Now, I became a Doctor Who fan in 1997, right after the BBC ran its one (and only) series of Crime Traveller, written by the estimable Anthony Horowitz. Its premise utterly captured my imagination, with these two London detectives – played by Chloë Annett and Michael French – solving crimes using a time machine that was tucked away in the living room of a suburban flat.
In fact, one of its episodes – ‘Death Minister’ – stars Ken Bones, who would later go on to play the Time Lord Kenossium in ‘The Day of the Doctor,’ a different Doctor Who anniversary altogether. In Crime Traveller, he just so happens to have a model police box sitting in his office – in addition to the full-sized police box sitting in his back yard. Plus, the episode also stars David Neal – the president from ‘The Caves of Androzani.’ Coincidence? I think not. The time lines are converging.
All of these police box shenanigans ultimately led me to my local video shop where I rented out the newly-released Doctor Who TV movie, ad nauseam. (My dad recommended that I give Doctor Who a try as I loved Crime Traveller so much.)
But as I quickly discovered, getting your hands on Doctor Who videos in those days was no easy task. Oh, they were available – there were surplus copies of certain stories (such as ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ and ‘Planet of Evil’) at my local HMV, but for some reason the BBC deleted some of the more exotic titles (like ‘Logopolis’) almost as soon as they were released. Getting my hands on certain stories seemed impossible – especially as a nine year-old boy, with limited pocket money and no internet.
Had I not persisted, I may never have made it to the 57th Doctor Who anniversary. But a sympathetic fan came to my rescue in the form of fellow Whovian Francis O’Reilly, who responded to my SOS in the magazine of the Blake’s 7 Appreciation Society. (Yes, I’m a fan of that too.) He very kindly ‘lent’ me some copies of literally dozens of rare titles – mostly Hartnells, which were my favourites. Honestly, every time a package came through the letterbox, it was a like a mini Christmas.
And he was such a font of Doctor Who knowledge; you might say, he “taught me everything I know.” For instance, it was Francis O’Reilly who broke the news that I should expect a “longer than usual wait” to see the classic adventure ‘Marco Polo’ – as it no longer existed. Along with 103 other episodes that been similarly incinerated. Oh the agony.
But yes, it’s fair to say that Francis kept me afloat during the interminable Wilderness Years when Doctor Who was absent from our airwaves. (Are you still out there, Francis O’Reilly? I’d love to speak to you again. Email me.)
I’m probably exaggerating; I’m sure I’d still be celebrating the Doctor Who anniversary if it hadn’t been for Francis. But my journey would have been harder, and much duller. Thankfully, the gradual DVD releases of the early 00s kept me afloat, and then of course – come 2005 – we had actual Doctor Who back on our TV screens – something I never thought I’d see.
And then inevitably, at the age of 18, you start having ambitions of actually getting to work on the show – the aspiring writer and actor that I was, and still am. And I came close on a number of occasions. I played the pivotal role of Second Guard in the 2005 stage production of ‘The Trial of Davros’ starring Terry Molloy and Peter Miles. Honestly, hanging out with Peter Miles in the stalls of an obscure theatre in Ashton-under-Lyne was a weird ambition I never knew I had. Can we resurrect this show for the 60th Doctor Who anniversary, please?
I then produced my own Doctor Who-inspired radio comedy called Menston Green. You see, this is the genius of commissioning your own projects. Not only do you get to cast yourself in the lead role, you also get to cast Colin Baker as your guest artist – which I did! And he was very accommodating, and lovely. I’ve vlogged about my experience in the video below, if you’d like to know more.
Of course, I’d always dreamed of writing for the actual show. When I first became a professional writer, I emailed Nicholas Briggs at Big Finish to see if there were any opportunities, and he sent me a lovely personalised reply encouraging me to look out for upcoming competitions. But I never entered them. At the risk of sounding like a diva, by this point in my life I was too busy with actual work to be entering competitions, “darling!” But I did write my first ever piece of fanfiction for the Doctor Who fan site Kasterborous and, more recently, I co-wrote the Lovarzi Loose Threads anthology. (You should download it to celebrate today’s Doctor Who anniversary! Go on, it’s free…)
And what of professional work? These days, I write for The Sooty Show – it’s not quite Doctor Who, but it’s close enough. And interestingly, my co-writer is a man named Richard Gauntlett, who just so happens to have played Urak the Tetrap in ‘Time and the Rani’ – fulfilling another ambition I didn’t know I had. (The other writer, by the way, is a man called Wink Taylor from Big Finish’s ‘The Natural History of Fear.’ He’s also written a Lucy Wilson novel, and he’s an excellent Doctor Who impersonator. See his videos here.)
Additionally, I was tasked with script editing one of Richard Gauntlett’s Sooty episodes – ‘Jurassic Lark’ – in which Sooty builds a time machine that’s bigger on the inside, with a blue light on top. (I’ve no idea where the idea came from…) It’s fair to say that I had a little leap of joy as I got to type the words, “Sooty’s time machine tumbles through the time vortex…”
So yes, ‘Jurassic Lark’ is canon. And what better way to mark this Doctor Who anniversary than with a Lovarzi exclusive? Sooty is a pre-Hartnell Doctor. It’s official. You read it here first. You’re welcome.
But will I ever get to write Doctor Who for real? Obviously, I would be delighted if I could take over from Chris Chibnall (call me, BBC.) But in the meantime, I’m having such a blast being able to write for the Lovarzi Blog. Honestly, it’s like being paid to be a fan – which is, essentially, what’s happening. It’s such a joy to be able to indulge in fanboy goodness everyday, and interact with fellow Whovians and cosplayers on social media. Thank you for making my job extra wonderful.
Now – how to celebrate this week’s Doctor Who anniversary? What have you got planned? In truth, I haven’t decided yet. At the moment I’m leaning towards a re-watch of ‘An Unearthly Child,’ but ‘The Day of the Doctor’ might just pip it to the post.
That being said, I’m also tempted to sit down with the Doctor Who TV movie. After all, that’s where it all started…
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