John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

  • Mood:
  • Music:

Happy Birthday to You Who

Today is the 39th anniversary of one of my favorite shows of all time: Doctor Who. I'm not going to say that Doctor Who is necessarily one of the greatest TV shows of all time -- the production values alone knock it down several dozen pegs -- but it will always hold a special place in my heart, because an episode of Doctor Who provided my single greatest television viewing experience in my long, long history of watching TV.

One of the defining characteristics of Doctor Who is that from time to time, a new actor would take over the title role. The practice got its start when the star of the show, William Hartnell, decided to retire. But rather than cancel the show, the producers decided to recast the role. The explanation they came up with was that the Doctor, like all members of his race, the Time Lords, could "regenerate" his body when it gets severely injured or worn out. When I started watching the show in 1980, the Doctor was played by Tom Baker, the fourth actor to play the part.

At that time, information about the Doctor Who was hard to come by. There were a few imported items available in a very few shops, but that was it. There was no shop near me that sold such items, and it's not like I could look up information about the show on the Web, so I knew next to nothing. I'd just turn on the TV every Sunday night at 11 PM and watch whatever episode happened to be on that night.

On one of those nights, my brother happened to be visiting from college. He and my mom were talking in the family room, where I normally watched, so I went to my room to watch. The episode that night was called "Logopolis." The Doctor's arch-enemy, the Master, was up to no good, trying once again to take over the universe. And there was this mysterious figure in white called the Watcher who seemed to be stalking the Doctor. Toward the end of the episode, the Doctor and the Master faced one another over on the catwalk of a giant radio telescope. One thing led to another, and the Doctor ended up falling off the catwalk and plummeting hundreds of feet to the ground.

The Doctor's friends ran to his side. He looked up at them. "Don't worry," he said, "this moment has been prepared for." The Watcher came out of nowhere, walked up to the Doctor, and their bodies sort of merged into one another. The Doctor's face disappeared, as if covered with thick cobwebs. And when the cobwebs cleared, there was another actor there. I had just witnessed a regeneration, one I'd had no idea was coming. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Twenty-two years later, I've still only seen a handful of things that even came close to it.

So that's why Doctor Who is still such a big deal to me. And it's why I'm generally anti-spoiler. "Logopolis" is a good episode regardless, but it would not have had anywhere near the same impact had I known at the start it was Tom Baker's last episode. The unfortunate thing is that I'm unlikely to ever have that kind of experience again. If Sarah Michelle Gellar decides not to do an eighth season of Buffy, it's going to be impossible to avoid the news. Sure, I won't know how the series will end. But it won't be the same.

  • Tomato soup

    My church holds Vespers services on Wednesday evenings during Lent and Advent, and those services are traditionally preceded by a simple communal…

  • Gloriae

    I always enjoy choir, but it's starting to be even more enjoyable than usual, because we've started preparing in earnest for the two major works…

  • Biblical literalism

    As I do on the second Sunday of every month, yesterday I went downtown to Pres House to set up and host the communal meal my church provides to the…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.