When I sat down to watch the first run of The Day of the Doctor yesterday, my wife mentioned her greatest joy as getting to see more David Tennant.
"He’s my doctor," she said.
Her comment reminded me of my initial reaction to DT. I had somehow, some way, avoided the advance and public knowledge that Chris Eccleston was leaving after one series when I finally got around to seeing the first series in September 2006. Watching in order, I loved his doctor. And when he regenerated at the end of Parting of the Ways, I seriously had no idea it was coming. I was in utter shock and before the credits rolled I was yelling “WHO IS THIS ASSHOLE I WANT CHRIS ECCLESTON BACK” while my wife did her best to ignore me in the other room.
But Eccleston wasn’t MY doctor.
That would be Tom Baker. Kind of. Or, more accurately, not at all.
The first Doctor Who serial I ever saw, the first one I can actually remember seeing, was via PBS in the early 80s. My parents were out, my grandmother was watching my brother and I, and I was flipping the dial on the TV (pre-remote control era) looking for something to watch on what I think was a Saturday night.
I stopped on channel thirteen. A guy with wild hair and a really long scarf was struggling against a big plant monster thing.
I liked Star Trek. I loved Star Wars. Plant monsters attacking people seemed like something in that vein.
"What is this?" my grandmother asked.
I remember very clearly getting the TV guide, flipping through pages, and reading aloud “Doctor Who.”
I figured the guy in the scarf was named Doctor Who and settled in to watch it with my grandmother and three years younger brother.
With that, Seeds of Doom part four (or maybe three?) became my first exposure to the Doctor. Over the next few years I’d see the occasional episode, never in order, and always be confused, usually because when I inevitably saw back to back episodes, they were from different serials and didn’t make sense. But I always knew the guy with the scarf and wild hair.
Recently, while watching all of the Tom Baker era, I had at least a dozen “I kind of remember this” moments watching Genesis of the Daleks, City of Death, Pyramids of Mars, Talons of Weng-Chiang, and Brain of Morbius.
But I didn’t really know anything about the show until a few years later.
One of the punishments my parents had for me if my grades were….let’s say less than good….was to ban me from going to my local comic shop. While I was in junior high, I found a way around the problem by stopping at a comic shop on the walk home which my parents never knew existed.
So this must’ve been 1988. I walk in for the first time in a while and there’s this big poster of some guy in a hat with an umbrella and a vest covered in question marks behind the counter, and a logo says DOCTOR WHO.
I was never one to make conversation with people in comic stores but I had to ask.
"Who’s that guy?" I asked.
The guy behind the counter, who I remember being a human version of the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, explained that was the Doctor.
"I thought he had curly hair and a scarf," I said.
"That was the fourth doctor. This is the new one. The seventh."
My frame of reference went to the James Bond films. It must be like that. Different actor, same character. I said as much.
"No. It’s not like James Bond. It’s part of the show. He regenerates into a new doctor."
At that point he proceeded to explain, in that never changing condescending tone uber-geeks can have, regeneration and the previous six doctors and how they all changed and I tuned him out completely because I hate it when fanatics of a show do that to someone as a way of saying “This is our thing and you don’t get it.”
A couple of years later I was in high school. While flipping through channels one Saturday night (with a remote control, thankfully), I came across a weird intro that ended with the logo I’d seen on the poster.
"This must be the seventh guy," I said to myself, and decided to watch. I lucked out: it was part one of a serial called The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, so I would finally get to see something from the start.
I developed a crush on Ace because she was cute and blew stuff up and smashed a Dalek with a bat.
I also decided that Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor.