So, while we’re all busy celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, another anniversary almost passed me by. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for 30 years. And to celebrate my Pearl Jubilee I’ll self-indulgently share a few of my earliest memories of the series. These are some of my earliest memories – vivid images, which have stuck with me through the years – the bits of Doctor Who that are hardwired into my DNA.
I’ve often said my earliest memory is of Tom Baker regenerating into Peter Davison. Thing is, there are at least three occasions I could have seen this – the end of the original broadcast of Logopolis in March 1981, or its repeat 9 months later as part of the Five Faces season. Or, far more likely, in the recap at the beginning of Castrovalva on 4th January 1982 – just short of my third birthday. The reason I’m pretty sure it would have been at the start of Castrovalva is that my next clear memory of Doctor Who is…
The Jon Pertwee title sequence and the beginning of The Curse of Peladon, from the Doctor Who and the Monsters repeat season. This was broadcast on 12th July 1982, and I clearly remember being absolutely enthralled by the red howlaround titles and the creepy stone tunnels – before my mum firmly sent me to bed as it was “too frightening” for me to stay up and watch. My dad was a fan of the show before me, so I’m pretty sure I would have been watching it on his knee. This is my most vivid early memory of Doctor Who, and – amazingly/sadly – my very first memory I can definitely date.
I can also pretty clearly remember Adric’s death in Earthshock – specifically him tearing up the reed belt as he contemplated his fate. I don’t remember anything else about the story, so perhaps it was from a contemporary news report. Certainly I can’t really remember anything else from Season 19, and at barely four years old, I was probably a bit young to be watching it.
I remember snatches of Turlough wandering round some corridors, but that could be from practically anything in Season 20. I do very clearly remember 16th March 1983 and the second episode of The King’s Demons with the Doctor encountering Kamelion sitting on a chair surrounded by straw. And I believe that I was watching it after we’d painted the sitting room as the beige sofa was pulled into the middle of the room, and I was sitting on the arm when the continuity announcer said, “That’s the last in the series of Doctor Who”. It was followed by A Question of Sport (with the classic red, white and blue titles). I was vaguely concerned that this meant that Doctor Who had finished for good, so by this point I must have been a proto-fan. I was five.
And then, like everyone else, I remember The Five Doctors being shown as part of Children in Need, introduced by two men in suits. This was the first recording I had of a Doctor Who story, as we had it on Betamax cassette for years. I can also remember being incredibly thrilled at receiving the Radio Times 20th Anniversary special, and obsessing over the colour photo of the Yeti and the White Robots. And around this time I pretty consistently had A Celebration borrowed from the children’s section of Pershore Library, and always flicking past the full-page photo of the decayed Master.
This was my year of Doctor Who – Season 21, for all its flaws, is my series, and Peter Davison in orange trousers is THE Doctor.
I remember getting home too late to see most of the first episode of Warriors of the Deep, and being quite upset. Subsequently, the Myrka smashing through a door to get at the Doctor was a vivid memory. Obviously, to a five year old it was a vast, terrifying dinosaur with rage-filled eyes and not a pantomime lizard. But whenever I watch Warriors of the Deep (not often) I can still see that metal door rending, and the ravening beast’s eye appearing in the gap to search out its prey. Possibly that’s why I remain much more well-disposed towards this story than I probably ought to be.
The Awakening is also pretty vivid, especially the mini-Malus invading the TARDIS and vomiting snot all over the floor – a gloriously gross image for a boy.
I loved Frontios as well. As an only child, I spent a lot of time making up my own adventures, and having a very lasting image of the cliffhanger of the Doctor and Tegan being surrounded by a circle of Tractators, I took to putting the blue plastic wash basket on my back and becoming a Tractator myself.
Then, a week later Resurrection of the Daleks aired, and the wash basket became Davros’s wheelchair. I know I was obsessed by the Daleks – drawing them all over various exercise books – but the thing I remember most clearly is Davros being defrosted, and probably being more fascinated by him than by the Daleks themselves.
I turned six just before Planet of Fire – but oddly, I have no memory of it at all. I do, though, remember The Caves of Androzani, especially the continuity announcement, the Doctor desperately clambering through the caves to find the Queen Bat, and the regeneration itself.
And then, I have a complete blank for The Twin Dilemma. And for a lot of the subsequent season…
I can remember the TARDIS as an organ in the junkyard from Attack of the Cybermen, and enough brief bits from Vengeance on Varos (corridors), The Mark of the Rani (the Doctor on the trolley), The Two Doctors (Chessene being bounced about in the capsule like in one of those rides at supermarket checkouts), and the outside scenes and the room of human-Dalek experiments from Revelation of the Daleks to know that I watched the series. But by this stage I was voraciously reading the novelisations – borrowed from Pershore Library or picked up at jumble sales – that the TV series itself became less important. I developed a grading system of 1-5 (for the B&W stories) and stars (for the colour ones – even at this stage, you can see I was far gone).
I watched the Trial. I remember the Vervoid story and the Fun Factory bits (and the cliffhanger on the beach), but far less clearly than the Peter Davison stuff.
And suddenly, the memories flood back: Mel in a bubble; the Tetrap caves; the pool cleaner; the green baby; the dragon; the Daleks; the Cybermen; the Kandy Man; watching Greatest Show at a friend’s on my own in the parents’ study (everyone else was being sociable); the whole of Season 26 and especially that cat. By this stage I was a hopeless fanboy, and swapping The War Games novelisation and discussing the Season 26 trailer with the one other fan at my school. My first New Adventure, in 1995, was Falls the Shadow. I watched the TV movie on the portable set in my parents’ bedroom so they didn’t talk over it.
And by that stage, there was no way out…