There always seems to be one question in every Whovian’s mind: Should I go back to the beginning? What did I miss? Do I really need to watch anything prior to the 9th Doctor? Many wish they could just ask a viewer who did go back…who knows. I’ve spoken to Americans and a number of Englishmen on this topic. I am no stranger to 1960’s television. I knew, if I started in 2005, I would not be able to go back to 1963 and see things the same…and I am so glad I did.
On 10 January 2016 I went back to 1963 and began a journey I never thought would impact me as much as it did. Over the last 11 months, I have ranted, raved, laughed, bitched, and jumped in excitement over the journey I’ve been on…I’m still on. All that came to an apex last night.
I’m staring at the keyboard, trying, in just a few short words to explain to you what I know. How do I summarize 53 years of a man’s life in just a few short words? Last night, I watched “Dalek” from 2005. I screamed. I jumped. And then I cried. Long after the episode was over, I cried. Not for the Doctor or the Daleks, but for Leela, the 4th Doctor’s companion who was left on Galifrey. For K-9—the original K-9—who elected to stay with Leela. For Romana who most likely returned to Galifrey. For Galifrey herself. To me she was a living breathing culture. I saw their laws, their courts, their high society parties. I saw their quirks and ancient stiffness with the 2nd Doctor. I saw their contradictions and their election process with the 4th Doctor. I saw their desperation and their errors with the 5th Doctor. I saw her ups her downs…To me, Galifrey was a living breathing culture that no one viewing from 2005 and on can possibly imagine. Galifrey was a character understood only by those who saw her.
I recall the first time the Doctor, in his first regeneration stumbled upon Skaala. We met the Thaleks who told of the history of the clans: the Thals and the Dals. How a radiation imbalance forced the Thals underground, while the Dals remained exposed to the radiation. Instead of killing them, it mutated them into the Daleks. We then met Davros, the father of the Daleks, who designed the race in the likeness of his own mind: conquer, destroy, preserve the race. More lethal, more cold and heartless than the Borg. Borg don’t seek out vengeance. If they did, they would be the Daleks. I was there when the Daleks first learned of the Doctor and oh, did I count the many ways the Doctor foiled their plans. I recall the time he wiped out 10,000 Daleks in one move. I know why the Daleks declared the Doctor their mortal enemy. I was there the day the Daleks screamed, “The Doctor is our mortal enemy! We shall hunt him for all time!” I remember the day they learned of his ability to regenerate. And I remember the day the Fourth Doctor stood there, with a push of the button the whole of the Dalek race would be spared. But the Doctor. Couldn’t. Do it. I screamed at him, “Why? What are you doing, Doctor!?” You see…the Doctor never killed. Never carried a weapon. And hates being called “Doc.”
Every time I speak to a Whovian, they all have their “favorite.” Mine is the Second Doctor portrayed by Patrick Troughton. But watching all of them, from one to now, I walked away with a single belief. There are not 9 Doctors or 12 Doctors. There is only “The Doctor.” The One Doctor…he just happens to have 12 faces. There really are only four personalities of the Doctor. Each regeneration creates their own mixture of those four. While I watch Christopher Eccelstein stroke an alien harp, I can smile and say, “There’s Patrick. The Doctor who brought music to the role. Since the Second Doctor, each Doctor always, always does something musical. When the 9th smiles and waves, “Hello,” I smile and say there is the 4th! And when the 9th gets angry, there…there is the 3rd.
Watching from 1963 to now, I see three very clearly defined eras. There is the Classic Doctor Who from 1st to 4th regeneration. There is Retro Doctor Who from 5th to 8th regeneration. And there is Modern Doctor Who from 9th to now. My favorite of these is still the Classic era. The Classic era was filled with mystery and adventure…and a whole hell of a lot of rebellion. The Doctor got bored, went rogue, stole a TARDIS from the museum…an old shitty model like a type 40 that had long since been retired, and ran from Galifrey for a bit of adventure. He meddled and Galifrey would summon the Doctor, scold him, exile him, punish him, imprison him, elect him president—yes, president—then chase him across all of time and space. Every episode was spent wandering, “How far can the Doctor push before Galifrey’s High Counsel jumps in this time?”
And oh, did the Doctor love talking about his home. There was no secret, no shame in telling the whole human race, “Yes. I am a Time Lord. I come from Gallifrey, wonderful planet, beautiful in the spring. You should visit sometime if you pay no mind to the elders. Stuffy sort of folk. They mean well, but have forgotten how to live and have fun (I heard all that in Jon Pertwee’s voice).”
I had such fun watching the Doctor get in and out of all sorts of trouble. Sometimes he pushed the limits to his meddling. Some days he would turn to the Master and say, “Oops. I think we’ve gone a bit too fat this time, don’t you?” And they call in Galifrey to clean up the mess. Yes! This was the Classic Doctor Who experience.
The Retro Era was more about 1980 politics than it was about the science fiction of Doctor Who. There was nutrition, exercise, women’s rights, chauvinism, ethics, morals, television viewing content. Gallifrey started to the turn to the Doctor for aid. “We have a rogue! We need a rogue to capture the rogue!” I felt like Doctor 5, 6, and 7 spent more time preaching to me about propaganda than anything else. Now I’ll be the first to tell you, this does not mean the actors did not portray the character well. This includes the 6th Doctor. The writers and the producer of the 25th and 26th season made the 6th Doctor horrible. Not the actor who portrayed that regeneration. The show is only ever a reflection on the producers and the writers of the show. It was the producer who designed the 6th Doctor’s wardrobe. Colin Baker hated the outfit. He wanted to wear a suit made of black velvet to reflect the Doctor’s unknown darker side…that side you see very much of through the 9th Doctor. The producer insisted on—Let’s see now. How did Colin put it?—the “rainbow explosion in a clothing factory.” The retro era was one I was thrilled to see gone, and the era I will return to the least.
The Modern Who Era was definitely present in the Doctor Who Movie of 1999. There was more romance—definitely more romance. More adventure. More mischief. More…Doctor! I could feel the end of the Retro Era and the start of what I knew would come. It did not prepare me for what I would find when I got there. I walked straight into a traumatized version of the Doctor. Oh, it was the same Doctor, but different. Not different in the sense that Christopher didn’t capture the role. Different in the sense that this Doctor was clearly two hundred years older (The 7th Doctor was last reported to be 750 years old while the 9th Doctor boasted an age of 900. Clearly, two centuries of the Doctor’s life is missing).
This Doctor had clearly been traumatized. I first noticed a change when he became tight lipped about Galifrey. I raised my brow, “What happened. The Doctor has never shied away from talking about his home. He adores his home passionately. Since when does he not talk about it.” It wasn’t a mystery to me like it was to all others I’ve spoken to. It was a red flag—a huge red flag that something was wrong. When we first learn that Galifrey had been destroyed, I cried with the Doctor. Not for his loneliness. The Doctor has always been lonely. We clearly saw this with 1st Doctor, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th…you get the idea. The Doctor is no stranger to loneliness and he knew for an infinitely long time that he would be alone.
No. I promise you. If I know my Doctor—and I do—he didn’t cry for his loneliness. He cried for all those lives lost on Galifrey. For Leela who he left there because he thought she would be safe. For K-9—the original K-9—who insisted on staying with Mistress Leela. For Romana who most likely returned to Galifrey and for that K-9 (The second model), who had insisted he stay with Romana. For the High Counsel, the culture, the planet, the people…all gone. For the millions of lives lost. I had no doubt who would do such thing as to destroy an entire planet.
Only the Daleks could be so cruel as to destroy Galifrey. And I had no doubt, not for a moment that the Daleks did this to destroy the Doctor. I knew the Doctor would very much blame himself. Blame himself for not pushing the button and destroying the whole Dalek race when he could have back in his 4th—or was it his 3rd?—regeneration.
What I have taken in from these previous years of Doctor Who is, when I look at the Doctor now, what I see is a man no longer careless. No longer running carefree and reckless through time doing as he pleases, knowing “The Time Lords will clean it up,” or “What’s the worse they can do to me? Exile me? Well they already did that, now didn’t they!” Now I see a side of the Doctor who is forced to keep his own meddling in check. He appreciates more. Cares more. And hates more where the Daleks are concerned.
“What is this! Sympathy!? For a DALEK!?” I screeched when I saw them torturing the Dalek. What a confusing episode. So confusing to feel pity and sympathy for something you want dead. So confusing.
Yes, it is worth watching the previous years. No, I don’t regret it one bit. Yes, you missed a lot. So…so much. And no, if you did skip the early years, you will not feel the impact nor quite understand the meaning behind a lot of what is happening. You didn’t come into the middle of Doctor Who (That was 6th regeneration). No. You skipped to the end. There is no Doctor Who from 2005 and on or Classic Doctor Who. There is only Doctor Who. By not watching Doctor Who from 1963, you have lost the meaning to the decisions, the actions, and the experience of the Doctor.
To you it is just a mystery. To me, it is a journey I am only still on…a journey I started all the back on Totter’s Lane in 1963 alongside two school teachers and their student. The moment they first stepped into the TARDIS, I went with them. I watched them leave and return to Earth in 1965. Companions have come and gone, K-9 came and went…and came and went and came and went…but I am still there beside him…invisible and unseen by the Doctor. Silently watching from the distance like a secret admirer on Galifrey. He doesn’t know I’m here. He never will. I’ve watched him laugh, plan, plot, run, and now I have seen him cry. I too have cried, Doctor. I too understand the grandeur of what it is you have lost.