Liam Rudden: Doctor Who transcends time, space and gimmicks

I CAN tell roughly how old people are by asking them a simple question: Who is your Doctor Who?

Friday, 12th October 2018, 3:53 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th October 2018, 6:34 am
The Doctor

In most cases that’s all it takes, although you can narrow it down further (especially in the case of Tom Baker, who played the role for seven years) by throwing a favourite companion into the mix.

If William Hartnell (the original, you might say) was your favourite then you’re probably very close to 60, if not already on the other side.

Patrick Troughton top your list? Then I’d put you in your late-50s. There are exceptions, of course.

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As a child of the Seventies Jon Pertwee was my Doctor. Naturally. Narrowing it down further, his three year double-act with Katy Manning as assistant Jo Grant was the epitome of what Doctor Who is, action, adventure and just a hint of humour to alleviate the scarier encounters.

Many will disagree, especially the generations that grew up with Jon’s successor, often cited as the greatest Doctor ever. Not something you’ll ever hear me say, though I’ll admit he had his moments (Talons of Weng Chiang).

Just how subjective the topic of the time-traveller is comes across loud and clear when you consider there are those who consider the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy’s eras to be ‘their’ golden age of Doctor Who... despite both actors sharing the ignominy of the show being axed during their reign.

Still, as kids, fans of both were as thrilled by the adventures of garishly clad Six and gurning Seven as I had been by Jon - no, I have never questioned why such an advanced alien scientist would be running around the universe in frilly shirts and Edwardian capes.

Catching reruns of those old episodes, I still don’t, which says a lot for the quality of the writing and production values.

Last Sunday, a new generation of viewers got their very own Doctor with the arrival of Jodie Whittaker in the role.

The first female to play the Time-Lord, or as they would have said in Romana’s day, Time-Lady, her casting caused a bit of a stooshie in some fan circles.

I made a point of watching her debut out of curiosity.

As in recent years, the character is still annoyingly overly heightened, the perfunctory script written with no concession to gender (ie; for a male) and plot and character development are still being sacrificed at the alter of flash-bang special effects and action set-pieces.

That it was watched by 8.2 million viewers - beating the debuts of David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi - doesn’t surprise me either. People were curious.

After all, a gimmick was required to reboot the series after ratings for the last series under producer Stephen Moffat plummeted to less than 5 million.

Gimmick or not (time will tell if the ratings were due to the novelty of watching a female Doctor), for a generation of children tuning in for the first time, Jodie Whittaker will forever be their Doctor, every bit as magical as those gone before.

That’s as it should be. That’s the audience Doctor Who is made, and rightly so.