Friday, July 02, 2010

Fish Custard (14)

I usually try to translate cultural references as I go along. I know that I have literally several readers in America, and it worries me that they may not know that "the tube" is "the subway" or that "pavement" is another word for "waistcoat".

It's a good exercise. Assumptions, as a very wise man once said, are things that you don't know you are making. Everyone in England instantly understands that "bobby" means something different from "policeman" and that "Tory" means something different from "Conservative", but it's hard to put into words what that difference is. The Union Jack "means" Britain, and the Stars and Stripes "means" America. I am pretty sure that the Union Jack means something different to a British person from what the Stars and Stripes means to an American, but I couldn't articulate what. Nor cold I articulate why I chose to write "British person" rather than "Briton" or "Brit."

So, before moving onto the one in the flat, I need to ask: what is the American cultural equivalent of "Marmite"?

I remember an article in a Doctor Who Appreciation Society fanzine: TARDIS, maybe, or Celestial Whatnot. It was probably by Jeremy Bentham who I don't think ever really concealed the fact that William Hartnell was "his" Doctor. (There was much less history in those days.) He took it for granted – all fandom agreed with him – that what was then "new" Who, the Phillip Hinchcliff seasons were an appalling travesty; nothing at all to do with the Doctor Who we grew up with, and quite open about the fact that it wasn't meant for children any more. (Whenever you see an episode of New Who that you aren't quite convinced by, remind yourself that what you feel is mild compared with the sheer, visceral hatred that the President of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society directed at the Deadly Assassin.) But Bentham didn't think that fandom was being quite fair. Granted, seasons 12, 13 and 14 had nothing very much to do with the series we all loved: granted all this horror imagery was more suited to a Hammer Horror movie than Doctor Who, granted Robert Holmes had wrecked the Time Lords irretrievably. But at least Doctor Who was still travelling round the universe in a TARDIS. So fans were faced with a Dilemma. Embrace the new series, or give all your love to the early seasons: Hartnell and Troughton and Pertwee. Well, Hartnell and Troughton. But if we choose to stay behind in the past we may very well regret that staying until etc. etc. etc.

So now it comes: the parting of the ways, the day of choice that we have so long delayed.

Does it bother you that the Thing At The Top of the Stairs made absolutely no sense at all, didn't even pretend to make sense and was in any case the product of a Blue Peter "design a TARDIS interior" competition?

Leave. Leave now. Doctor Who is no longer your show.

And that's fine. It's okay to find it ridiculous when fat ladies who sing when they should be talking claim to be 15 exactly, when they are obviously 53 if they are a day. It is ridiculous. So stay away from the opera.

Your hour will come round again. 40 years from now the widening gyres will bring in a world where Inferno and Ambassadors of Death are the latest word in modernity. Until then, there must be no regrets: just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me etc. etc. etc.

You are so not meant to be looking at the wibbly wobbley timey wimey thing at the top of the stairs. You are so meant to be looking at the Doctor and Craig and Sophie. Well, at Craig.

At me. At me.

What if Dr Who came to my house?


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