Yes, it’s true. If I were writing a story about the Doctor I’d make him more of an explorer and less (much less) of a superhero. I’d forbid him from towing planets with the TARDIS, or penetrating the lower atmosphere on a motorbike (whose idea was that, exactly??) I’d swap fantasy for proper science fiction. I’d bring back the cliffhanger, or at the very least introduce ninety-minute episodes that could explore deeper concepts on a broader canvas and thus removing the irksome necessity of having everything resolved (too often preposterously) in the last five minutes. I would love to write a companion with a life of his or her own, desires and ambitions that did not centre directly around the Doctor, decisions to make other than which bloke they most wanted to spend their life with.
But isn’t that the glory of Doctor Who? That you can imagine, or re-imagine it for yourself? That the nature of the story actively invites you to do so? That the concept at the story’s core is that simple and that personal? A traveller in space and time, the places he goes and the people he meets and the things that happen. There’s nothing new in this and that’s its beauty. The idea of the Eternal Wanderer is as old as story. What makes it new is – you.
When I came upstairs yesterday evening after watching The Day of the Doctor, I found an email from my dad, asking if I was still hiding behind the sofa after all these years and telling me he was thinking of me. And to think that millions of similar emails, messages, tweets were being exchanged by millions of others in that same moment, all over the world – that alone would make the show something special.
I started watching Doctor Who when I was six years old. I was passionately committed to it from that first unbelieving encounter right up until I left home for university. I have never entirely shaken off the secret belief that the programme was created especially for me. There are good episodes and there are bad episodes (oh, and then some), but it was Doctor Who that first opened my imagination to the realms of the fantastic and for this reason alone I could never not love it.
I thought The Day of the Doctor was a true classic, a worthy and joyful celebration of these past fifty years in the TARDIS. It was funny, moving, knowing, it looked gorgeous, and most importantly of all it was beautifully scripted. (Any script for Doctor Who that gets the Priestian seal of approval – ‘Yes, there were some bits that were really quite good’ – can’t be half bad!) I thought John Hurt was marvellous, a Doctor to die for, and it’s just a pity he can’t stay on for a season or two, or ten…
Tom Baker’s cameo brought real tears to my eyes. The quiet dignity of it, the very physical reminder of thirty years passing, that this is what time does, to all of us.
It’s been a wonderful weekend of celebration, which deserves a huge and heartfelt thanks to everyone involved, past, present and future. As our own contribution, here’s a little missing fragment of Whovian history, a hint at what might have been, what might still be..? Yes, those two scripts still exist, I’ve read them, they’re good. Imagine on that.