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Jul 02, 2005

That was the season that was

It’s time then for some thoughts on the series just gone as a whole. Everyone else seems to be doing them, and I don’t want to be left out! It’s two weeks now since The Parting of the Ways sadly faded from our screens, so enough time perhaps for at least the beginnings of some sort of perspective to be able to be brought to proceedings.

For almost as long as I can remember, the return of Doctor Who as a regular series seemed like the best possible thing that could ever happen. Season twenty-six came to a close when I was five years old, and the memories of watching it as a five year-old still longer powerfully to this day. I suppose if I had to analyse my fandom for the show, one of the deep-seated psychological reasons might be that I have some rather sad (in the traditional sense of the word) desire to harken back to those more innocent times when you could get away with such things as going in the fancy dress section of your village’s bonfire night parade dressed as the TARDIS. Alas, such days are of course long gone and can never be regained…

Nonetheless, all through my childhood and into my teenage years I desperately wanted it to come back, I think more than I ever wanted anything else in the world. It’s very strange in a way – every new video I bought was a new story for me, and the early 1990s BBC Two repeats which got me well and truly hooked on the show gave me the experience of seeing an episode a week on television, but even then, even experiencing those episodes for the first time, I knew it wasn’t the same.

Sadly, during the time when most people supposedly have their formative experiences of the series, between about eight and twelve, I only got one single piece of new Doctor Who, the TV Movie. It was good – I still think so, to this day, not perfect but still entertaining enough – but of course it was a false start, and as exciting as it was it burned only briefly. So the years went by, and for a little while in my very late teens I even fell out of love with the show a bit. There were other things to do, other things to experience…

Fortunately I was well and truly back in the fan frame of mind by late 2003, when the announcement came, and it’s hard to believe we spent a whole 18 months waiting for the series before it finally made it to the screen. When it was over it seemed to have passed by far more quickly than it had seemed it ever would, but in retrospect how did we survive a whole year and a half? I’m surprised more of us didn’t explode. Perhaps we did. Spontaneous combustion of Doctor Who fans. There’s a thought…

Anyway, enough of this self-indulgent waffle. What of the new season itself? After sixteen years, was it worth the wait? I said in my review of Rose that in all those years we’d all built up at least a subconscious idea of what ‘new Doctor Who’ should be like, and it was always going to be impossible for the new series to meet all of our hopes and dreams and expectations…

But it did a bloody good job.

There were elements I didn’t like. I think the Earth-centricity was a mistake, although I do understand the reasons for it and I don’t think it really harmed the season too much. Some of the humour seemed a little misplaced – yes, I’m talking about you fart gags – and after having had the joy of one of my all-time favourite actors cast in the leading role, to have him leave after just one season – and to have that announcement come after just one episode had been broadcast, and in such a cack-handed manner – was devastating.

But the show survived this blow. It survived everything, even whatever ITV could throw at it, eroding the third channel’s audience to such a degree that in weeks seven and eight its highest rated opposition actually came from BBC Two and then Channel 4 respectively. It garnered critical acclaim like nobody’s audience, was never defeated in the ratings, and more importantly than that it made the show an icon, a touchstone of popular culture once more.

Amazing, eh?

The writing was almost uniformly impressive, and acting superb, the production values amazing… Possibly the most consistent season of Doctor Who we’ve ever had, and in The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances gave us one of the all-time classics of the series from its entire history.

I suppose the only bittersweet side is that I’m a little sad this couldn’t have all happened when I was about eight or nine years old. But them’s the breaks folks, and at least it happening now means I’m old enough to be able to share my thoughts on the whole thing with anybody who’ll read them. Although sharing them in the playground of Clapham & Patching CE Primary School might perhaps have been rather nicer, in some ways.

It’s not solved all the world’s problems of course, and it hasn’t made everything in life suddenly all right just because it was there, although like all the best popular entertainment it does help make you forget the rest of life for a little while. I’m still just the same person as I ever was, but you know what? That doesn’t seem to matter so much, I can make it through all that because it’s only six months until The Christmas Invasion

Two more years of this. It’s almost hard to believe. Let’s hope it doesn’t flash past too quickly, and that there’s still plenty more to come afterwards too. As I said in a post a short while before Rose was broadcast, we’ll never have it as good as this. Enjoy it while it’s here, because like all good things it won’t last forever.

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