Friday, January 11, 2013

 

My Doctor Who Thirty-Eighth Anniversary and DWM

Instead of Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary, this evening I’ve been thinking about a more personal event. It’s thirty-eight years exactly since little three-year-old me was first captivated by Doctor Who with Part Three of Robot, Tom Baker’s first story as the Doctor. I’ve analysed with enthusiasm Doctor Who’s Twelfth Season that filled the first half of 1975, as well as raving about that year as the series’ best ever as a result – and, happily, the new Doctor Who Magazine printed a letter from me saying just that, just yesterday. But to see my punchline, you’ll have to read on…

It’s one of the perils of writing for someone else’s publication that you face editing – and though under 250 words is a snip by my standards, it still got snipped. Now, usually I’d still be very happy to see it printed (and I am) without any pedantry to follow, but for me it loses something without my last line – which I’d intended as the point of the whole thing, and dropping it completely reverses the meaning.

One of DWM’s regular features is A Battle of Wits… in which Toby Hadoke and Johnny Candon, at least one of whom, improbably, I know to be a real person, debate obscure Doctor Who controversies and then invite readers to take sides. In last month’s issue, Toby argued that the best year ever to be a fan was 1983, because there was lots of stuff going on but you could only do it if you tried really hard, and though curiously he praised very little about the actual TV series that year, it was special because it had never yet been cancelled (so, Doctor Who was special because it was hard, and simultaneously because it was easy). Johnny, on the other hand, praised the series’ great return in 2005, because suddenly it was back, it was popular, and it was good. Whereas my instinct was the same as when I read Tat Wood’s long essay in About Time Volume 3 on why 1973 was, entirely factually, the greatest year ever for Doctor Who: marshal all the arguments you like to ‘prove’ it; it’s really not about the series, but about you. So, read on to the punchline:

My Letter in Galaxy Forum, DWM 456
So, Toby, 1983 was the best year to be a fan? [See A Battle of Wits in DWM 455.] How about 1975 as Doctor Who’s most brilliant year instead? A massive 35 weeks of new episodes – still the most in any year since the series went colour. Fantastic stories including two in every fan vote top ten (Genesis of the Daleks and Pyramids of Mars), a favourite of both twenty-first century showrunners (The Ark In Space), all part of the first full year of Tom Baker, the twentieth century Doctor that everyone remembers. For fan-pleasing returns, Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans. For creativity in space and time, Davros, Sutekh, a fabulous Robot, an amazing jungle, Zygons and their ship that seemed grown, not made. Who can doubt that 1975 was the best? It’s completely objective truth!

My Original Letter
So, Toby, 1983 was a great year to be a fan because it was hard to do the fan things (A Battle of Wits… DWM 455)? Or because however good, bad or middling the series was, at least it was just always there? I find Johnny’s 2005 more convincing – a thrill beyond hope for old fans like me, a marvellous start for new fans, and one of the most marvellous seasons in the programme’s history. What could possibly beat it?

How about 1975 as Doctor Who’s most brilliant year instead – for fans and everyone else? For quantity, a whole 35 weeks of new episodes, still the most in any year since the series went colour. For quality, the fantastic stories include two still in every fan vote’s top ten results (Genesis of the Daleks and Pyramids of Mars), a favourite of both Twenty-first Century showrunners (The Ark In Space), all part of the first full year of Tom Baker, the Twentieth Century Doctor everyone still remembers. For fan-pleasing returns, Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans. For creativity into space and time, Davros, Sutekh, a fabulous Robot, an amazing jungle, Zygons and their ship that seemed grown, not made. To take home, not just shiny new Target novels but even The Doctor Who Monster Book, with the most thrilling pictures ever.

Who can doubt 1975 was the best? It’s completely objective truth. And by pure coincidence, it’s when three-year-old me started watching. I bet Toby and Johnny were just as objective.

Now go out and buy DWM 456, which features an adorable* Doctor Who alphabet (surely begging to be a poster), a comic strip with one of their most memorable ‘WTF’ splash-panel endings, features on the both the last and the first of Doctor Who in the ’80s (both rather brilliant), and lots about the new (and, for me, much-improved) TARDIS design. Just don’t look at the spoilertastic pictures from the new version of The Reign of Terror (due on DVD on Richard’s birthday in a fortnight) if you don’t know the story…


*Favourites include 1975’s Zygons, obviously, Quarks, J is for Julian Glover, doing the sort of thing I do and cheating with two for R… But, most of all, another from 1975 made me go ‘Awwhhhh!’ H is for Harry Sullivan. From Trumpton.

Labels: , , , , ,


Comments:
It's not about 'proving' anything: it's about complicating other people's attempts to say you can't possibly be right because they are. And anyway, I've just spent 7000 words not-proving that 2006 was the 'Annus Mirabilis'. Again, it's about looking for ways to get beyond a subjective position I know to be taken from a weird starting-point.
 
Your piece, or mine?

I thought your 1973 essay was fascinating, and I'll give you that it also hedges more than the DWM two, but like any such example, also doomed. Not least for me because it opens with that (counter-) sneer about how horrible Manchester is...
 
Not a sneer, just disproving their 'the 70s were crap' thesis (although, as someone living in Brum as the whole 'Madchester' thing got sour I think I'd be allowed a sneer). What's interesting is that you and Fluffy seem to think I genuinely believe 1973 to be the Annus Mirabilis. In fact, in keeping with the whole hatchling-chick thing, I believe anything that isn't like 1968 to be a weird aberration and probably wrong. I've spent eight books and counting trying to compensate for this clinamen. With Lawrence messing up Volume 2 I think it may have been over-compensated-for.
 
I've now read this month's Pravda and I think your complete letter would have been more in keeping with the rest of the issue. Certainly more interesting that the original confected debate that inspired it.
 
It's a far cop - you were a good enough devil's advocate that you had me. So is 1968 your year for Who, or for everything? I'm fairly sure I'd go later than 1975 for most other things in life (simply because I remember them better)...

I can see why you came to particular blows on Volume 2 now, too.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?