It’s probably too strong to say I grew up hating Doctor Who. I’d only seen bits and pieces in the wee hours of the night on PBS. Not nearly enough to form an opinion other than “this looks cheap” or “plungers aren’t scary”. I’m no snob. Or, I should say, I wasn’t back then. Now I only dress myself in the finest silks and drink nothing but coffee brewed from beans that have passed through the colons of the world’s most dangerous endangered species. But as a kid, I’d just as soon soak in the big budget spectacle of Star Wars or David Lynch’s Dune as reruns of the ‘70s Spider-Man show, with its spandex and wires and everything.
More than anything, I was frightened of Doctor Who. Intimidated, you might say. My second home was in the mall, in the back corner of Waldenbooks where I’d thumb through Star Trek novels and use the lead-based sword tip of an elven mage figurine to scratch the days of my virginity into the laminate floor. I was always turned off by the shelves and shelves of books with the same logo repeated on all their spines—those huge series that had been published continually since the time of Gutenberg. (Steve Gutenberg, that is. Which translates roughly to 1983 or so.) Like today’s target demographics, I preferred trilogies. I liked my epics to be manageable. And the mountain of Doctor Who books weren’t so much an invitation as a threat for anyone thinking about picking one up. Because I’m slightly autistic (i.e. a dork), I would have had to start at the beginning and finish them all. There’s just no way. I only had the summer, and I needed to beat Shadowgate before I had to return it to National Video.
Even if I’d wanted to look beyond the tin foil sets and hazy videotape look of any BBC TV production, the decades of Doctor Who backlog seemed like too much of a burden. Even as a geek in a Highlander t-shirt, this is probably why I felt I could look down on Doctor Who fans. These people had too much time. They were all old and pudgy and tended to be permanent students in the history department of the local university. They all wore tiny backpacks and rode bicycles with corrective saddles. They were full of faulty, useless trivia and had mustaches flecked with food. Just gross.
So when my friend Bill (hi, Bill) first told me I needed to check out the latest Doctor Who reboot—the one that ditches the tin foil and amazing Technicolor scarves—I just ignored him. Our tastes usually overlap. Mostly. We both love Goodbye, Uncle Tom. I could take or leave Cannibal Holocaust. But I knew he’d been a Doctor Who fan since he was a kid. He’d put in the time. He’d sipped the Kool-Aid and couldn’t be trusted.
But it’s funny how you can call in sick to work fully intending to spend your day masturbating to porn from pay sites to which you’ve stolen passwords from message boards, and you end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Browsing through torrent sites for more free illegal porn (we all have our edgy fetishes), I came across a package deal of the first three seasons of the new and improved Doctor Who. What did I have to lose?
It’s a good thing my neighbor’s unprotected wifi network is to fast, or I wouldn’t have been able to fire up the first episode before my surprisingly hot girlfriend came home from work. When you don’t have to constantly suspend your disbelief in the foam rubber monster suits and soundstage-y clop clops whenever anyone walks across the screen—when you’re forced to mainline the core quirks of Doctor Who without much of an external cheese filter—damned if the thing doesn’t have a great hook. A goofy Brit, his cute female sidekick, and a space/time machine that’s bigger on the inside than out. Sure, that first episode is fairly clunky (the Doctor fights walking mannequins), but the show ambles by with a swagger and a grin. As a kid, I’d watch Robocop and walk around the house for days with stiff limbs and a humorless scowl. I’d watch Moonraker and pretend I was a pompous, skydiving pre-geriatric. Back then, I pretended the broomstick I didn’t ask my mom if I could saw off was a lightsaber, and now every slightly cylindrical object I hold in my hand momentarily becomes a sonic screwdriver. It annoys my surprisingly hot girlfriend when I’m waving a ballpoint pen at the lock on our back door while she’s stumbling behind me with two armloads of groceries, but it’s worth the scowls to feel like an uncritical kid again.
Doctor Who isn’t the best show, and it’s not even my favorite. The stories run the gamut from pure goofball cheese to heart tugging pathos, but it never really takes itself seriously. There are other shows that work my adult love muscles (Buffy, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, The Real Housewives of Orange County), but there’s nothing else on the air right now that can burrow through all the silk-clad, gourmet coffee-infused cynicism of my ever-rotting flesh to find the neglected childish joy inside.
I want a ride in the TARDIS. I wouldn’t mind a robot dog. And I’d fucking kill to snog Madame de Pompadour.