Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Fish Custard (2)

Doctor Who is watched at several levels in an average household. The smallest child terrified behind a sofa or under a cushion, and the next one up laughing at him, and the elder one saying 'sh, I want to listen', and the parents saying 'isn't this enjoyable'.
Tom Baker

It's all about expectations, isn't it?
If you go to a Bob Dylan concert expecting Mozart [*] then you might find Bob a bit simplistic -- decent melodies but not very much happening. But if you expect Mozart to be like Dylan, then you might find him a bit fiddly and showy offy, not enough tunes and too many notes. I myself spent many years thinking that Bob Howard wrote bad fantasy; I recently discovered that he wrote the best pulp fiction in the whole wide world. (Starting to think of him as Bob rather than Robertee helped, I have to say.)
I've talked before about the two different Doctors Who – the Who that exists in the mind of the fans and the Who that exists in the nostalgic memories of people who used to watch it on television in the 1970s. The former is all Time Lord politics and back story, maybe Harold Saxon is the Monk, maybe River Song is the Master, if James Bond is Rassilon then who is Omega? The latter is Basil Brush and Marmite and Frank Bough and the dividend forecast is very good.
And by all means, make a hobby out of the Dalek Civil War and the Other and that peculiar confection in which baby Time Lords are knitted and the Doctor has a pet Badger. By all means believe that some kind of golden age came to an end when Ernie Wise died and they replaced the BBC globe with the BBC hippopotamus. But just occasionally, sit down with Horror of Fang Rock and remind yourself what it is we are talking about.
Which is the real Doctor Who, after all? The one we remember from when we were twelve? The one invented by fan-fiction writers? Or the actual DVD we watch on our actual television?
If I was going to write about The Prisoner remake, and I might, then I could safely talk about it as if it was a telly programme; quite interesting in places but no substitute for the real thing. A bit dull in the middle...Jesus was a bit wooden....Gandalf saved the'd have to have had a heart of stone to watch the scene in which [SPOILER DELETED] tops himself without laughing. I wouldn't waste ten words saying "Bugger all to do with Patrick McGoohan, though". My reader would probably send me a comment along the lines of "Well, duh!"
If you like modern Doctor Who, well, 10 to 1 you'd like anything with the Doctor Who label on it on general principles. Running back to the TARDIS is the equivalent of grasping a favourite teddy bear, quite harmless, possibly, but not a valid basis for a critical response. If you don't like modern Doctor Who, then, 10 to 1, you're one of those fanboys who's still sore at Jon Pertwee for leaving and thinks that everything should be in black and white. And don't dare try justify your position by referring to specific strengths or weaknesses in specific episodes. Only the geekiest of geeky geeks would quote facts about a TV show, and we really shouldn't pay much attention to what geeky geeks say. Simpsons Comic Book Guy. Simpsons Comic Book Guy.
We may have differed by a star rating here or there; we may have dissented about whether Blink really put that much of a dent in the reputation of Phillip K Dick and why The Satan Pit was so quickly forgotten but there was a pretty broad consensus on New Who Seasons 1 – 4. Started well...Chris and Billie...Dalek...gas masks....Tennant...Bad Wolf bay...started to lose the plot....Torchwood....Olympic Torch....dragging the earth....please god, make it stop....John Barrowman...John Barrowman....John Barrowman. But this time, there seems to be a definite split, and I find myself on the wrong side of it. Both my readers have surfed here because they want to listen to me doing some witty pithy slagging off and I'm on the defensive. Not since Deadly Assassin have I felt so guilty about the fact that I'm, you know, a Doctor Who fan but I'm, you know, how can I put this – really enjoying Doctor Who...


[*] Or Bob Dylan, admittedly, but let's not get bogged down in the first paragraph.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider buying a copy of The Viewers Tale or Fish Custard which collects all my writings about Doctor Who to date.

Alternatively, please consider making a donation of £1 for each essay you have enjoyed.