23 November 2002 @ 11:18 pm
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.
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Buffy - "Sleeper"
Rustyrustydog on November 23rd, 2002 09:53 pm (UTC)
Surprise... Innocence
That is so interesting. When I think back about purely transcendent moments in my television watching experience, they really were before I got involved in internet communities. I'm severely spoiler-phobic, and I've been surprised by everything in Buffy seasons 6 and 7, but... I don't know. I have so much practice analyzing and discussing and speculating that it's like I'm not just a viewer anymore. I'm a non-creating participant. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but there's certainly something to be said for that innocence.

Happy anniversary, Doctor Who!
John Heaton: tvjheaton on November 24th, 2002 06:46 am (UTC)
Re: Surprise... Innocence
For me it's not so much a question of innocence, but of emotional involvement. I tend to remain kind of detached when I watch most TV shows; there are only a few shows I've cared enough about to enjoy on a purely emotional level. Doctor Who was one of those; Melrose Place and Buffy/Angel are among the others. I watch a lot of other shows, but they don't mean anything to me.
McHottiemrbig1316 on November 24th, 2002 01:35 am (UTC)
John... You are my new bestest friend!
Happy 39th Anniversary to Doctor Who! I thought I was the only person to really even care about that fact! In fact, over dinner I was talkign to my wife about it and we decided we needed to watch An Unearthly Child to celebrate. Just the first part as parts 2-4 are kind of lame (and I'm a huge Hartnell fan!) So we came home and did watch it.

Its so nioce to know that someone else out there that I KNOW likes Doctor Who and cares enough to know its anniversary other than me! Cheers John!
John Heatonjheaton on November 24th, 2002 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: John... You are my new bestest friend!
Well, it's an easy date to remember, since it's just one day after President Kennedy's assassination.

As for me, I'm watching part one of The Leisure Hive as I type this ... because that's the episode that happened to be on Maryland Public Television last night.
McHottiemrbig1316 on November 24th, 2002 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: John... You are my new bestest friend!
True about the dates. But most people I know don't care. Cutest thing is that my wife was not a Whovian when we met and only became one because she saw Peter davison and went all non-verbal. Thens he started watching all the time. Funnier still, she forgot about Kennedy but remembered about Doctor Who. Hmmm?

I hate that somewhere in the US a PBS Station is playing Doictor Who. *sobs* I have all the stories on VHS and am in the process of getting them all on VCDs. I just burned THE LEISURE HIVE about 2 weeks ago thanks to the Doctor Who newsgroup! You shoudl check it out. Quite fun in there!