That was the 50 years that was

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This post is a follow up to last post’s self-indulgent Doctor Who love fest. It’s been a couple of weeks, is that long enough? I don’t want to risk spoilering anyone, but I feel like adding my thoughts about the celebration now it’s all over.

Yeah, okay so that’s an excuse for just being busy and failing to find time to write this down until now. It would have been better at least a week ago; but it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve all been coping without it though.

Anyway …

SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN EITHER THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR OR AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME YET.

(SERIOUSLY, THOUGH? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?)

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Well … I fucking loved it.

All of it.

I saw The Day of the Doctor in the cinema, in a packed auditorium of fans and the experience was amazing. First off there were the odd costume here and there, a smattering of fezes. Then there was the extra Doctor Who-themed adverts and trailers like the Anchorman 2 bit:

The Strax “turn off your phones” lecture and the 3D Zygon-detector introduction by Doctors 10 and 11 (or 11 and 12, as I guess they are now?) really helped build up the atmosphere …

But most of all there was the silence.

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An awed, respectful, eagerly-anticipating-awesomeness type of silence. When the BBFC rating came up, the whole auditorium fell silent – an event so rare and unusual I found myself looking around to find out what catastrophic event had befallen the audience … but it was just an entire roomful of fans staring excitedly at the screen.

That used to happen all the time in cinemas^. Believe it or not, kids, there was a time when people went there to watch films (or for a variety of back row activities which ranged from holding hands to fucking) instead of checking Twitter, making phone calls or discussing what they did last weekend.*

The silence was unnerving … and beautiful.

The episode itself … well, I just loved it. Seeing it in that environment probably helped. Sitting in a room full of adulation is the best way to see something you’re excited about. It is for me, at any rate. I can honestly say my critical faculties just disconnected for the entire length and I loved every second of it.

Well … okay, there were a few niggles – what were those handles for on the bottom of the TARDIS? Why couldn’t they have got people the same body shape as the past Doctors to play the past Doctors in that last shot? Who did that head replacement? Was it a child with some cut out photos and a PrittStick?

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But who fucking cares? I, like everyone else in the cinema, laughed at all the right bits, cried at all the right bits and sat on the edge of my seat for most of the bits in between. I honestly can’t remember ever being in a screening where the entire audience punched the air at the same time over a two second glimpse of someone’s eyes.

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And as for the revisiting the favourite faces bit (I can’t bring myself to spoiler that, even over two weeks later – just in case) … I couldn’t have been happier about that, even if the favourite face in question dropped round my house for a cuppa. In costume. Which he then let me keep.

Overall, I just loved it. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. Which is amazing, because I’m a fussy bastard.

The fact it made to number three in the box office top ten is just the cherry on the cake. This is the show I loved as a kid. The thing I loved when everyone else had forsaken it and the thing I still loved when everyone else thought it was dead and buried.

Number three!

For a programme which was available for free on the TV!

Doctor_Who_-_An_Adventure_in_Space_and_Time_Poster

AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME was similarly superb. Initially I felt like I wanted a little more detail about things like how they decided on a Police Box and a bit more insight into the original committee meeting where they worked out what the show should be before they had the idea … but that was before I realised the story was actually about William Hartnell.

For the first few minutes I thought I was watching a docu-drama about the making of Doctor Who; but (as I saw it) that was actually a secondary story which ran alongside Hartnell’s emotional journey.

And what a journey it was. Again, I have nothing but effusive praise for the programme. I thought it was absolutely amazing and really made my heart soar and weep throughout. The “I don’t want to go” line and that appearance in the TARDIS at the end in particular had me blubbing.

I was so pleased with the result I even resisted the temptation to ring up the two friends I’d mentioned the exact same idea to last year at the BBC Leeds thing ( the guys who LAUGHED IN MY FACE AND TOLD ME IT WAS A STUPID IDEA) and tell them I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO.

i-told-you-so

I resisted that temptation. This is me still resisting it.

Despite, you know, the fact I did.

Tell them so.

Those two programmes and the assorted other bits and bobs scheduled around them were a magnificent and fitting tribute to a very special part of my childhood. Oh fuck, who am I kidding? My life, not my childhood. I’ve never outgrown Doctor Who and I’ve no intention of starting now.

So a huge thank you to everyone involved. You did yourselves and The Doctor proud.

Last post, I went through (nearly) every Doctor Who related moment in my life.

Nearly.

There were two I forgot to mention.

One was because … I just forgot. Sorry. The second has effectively been completed wiped from history (or at least the internet).

The first was this postcard, sent to me by Tom Baker.

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Out of the blue. For no reason. Without me asking or knowing anything about it.

What the fuck?

“Dear Phil, we talked of you at 30,000 feet and now down to Earth, I send best wishes to you from old Doctor Who IV, Tom Baker.”

Seriously … what?

First off, is that really from him? It’s postmarked from France, which was where he lived at the time. It’s his signature. or a very good copy; but … how does he know who I am? How does he know where I live? How does he know I’m a fan?

Turns out, my good lady wife met him on a flight to Toulouse (for she is an air-hostess, don’t you know?). She asked him for an autograph (for me). He apologised for not having one of these postcards to sign (even though she would have been happy for him to sign a scrap of paper) and asked for my address so he could send one.

That is lovely.

What’s more lovely though, is he actually did. He actually put a stamp on this and went to the Post Office to post it.

At least, I’m assuming he did. Maybe he didn’t Maybe he has a specially trained postcard monkey who does all this sort of thing for him? I don’t know. I choose to believe he did it himself because it’s such a lovely thing to do.

Generally, I don’t give a fuck about autographs and would never ask for or keep one. But this … well, it’s special.

Someone else told me (possibly on a comment on this blog, I think I’ve mentioned this story before) he’d done the same for them, so maybe he does this all the time. Which is even lovelier or lends credence to the trained monkey theory. Again, I choose to come down on the side of lovely because it makes the world more magical.

The second was when I actually wrote for Doctor Who.

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Sort of.

Wrote for an ex-Doctor Who in a non-Doctor Who movie, if you must know; but it still fucking counts.

It does!

The film itself was abandoned three-quarters of the way through due to personal politics, incompetence, spite, quality or general muppetry depending on whose story you believe. I have my own opinion, but it’s not worth going into here. Regardless of the actual quality of the film itself, the fact remains Sylvester McCoy once recorded scenes I’d written. He spoke dialogue I’d invented, spouted facts I’d researched and mutilated golf balls in a manner I’d specified with these here very fingers.

That is probably as close to writing for Doctor Who as I’ll ever get.

And no one will ever see it.

The production was shut down, the raw footage (for reasons which escape me) was thrown into a canal. All mention of it on the Internet was expunged and everyone tried to forget it ever happened.

It truly is a lost film. Only about ten people in the world have ever seen the footage and that’s it. No one else will ever see it.

Unless I do something like this:

Turns out, I’ve still got a rough edit on an old hard drive. Out of context, it makes no sense. The footage isn’t graded, there are no sound effects and whatever music cues are on there, like the actual edits themselves, are just temporary. But you know what … I once wrote for Doctor Who and now seems like the right time to share it. Hopefully, posting that video won’t offend any of the people involved.

So there you go. My thoughts on the fiftieth celebration and a little bit of hitherto unseen (sort of) Doctor Who (not really) related footage.

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^To be fair, some of the flea-pit cinemas back in the day were far worse than the modern multiplex.

*Seriously? What the fuck? My daughter is five and she knows how to shut the fuck up when a film is on. A child asking questions about the story I can tolerate; but why the fuck would an adult pay to go and see a film and then chat about how the skirt Tiffany was wearing made her earlobes look fat? Why? Not even when the film is boring, but all the fucking way through. What is wrong with people? Shut up! Show some fucking respect! For your own time/investment if nothing else.

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Categories: BBC, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “That was the 50 years that was

  1. Dave Anderson

    Really enjoyed this, Phil. I agreed with every word. I only saw the anniversary special on TV, but that was wonderful enough for me. They did the Doctor full justice, and then some! It was a total validation of all the years I’ve been a Who fan. And then, as you say, we had that ‘making of’ drama by Mark Gatiss. For me, it was a magical, fun and poignant experience right from that first shot of the Tardis in a lonely field. I don’t think I could have wished for a better tribute to William Hartnell. Thank for sharing your feelings, Phil, and I very much hope that someday soon you’ll get another shot at writing for the Doctor.

  2. Mr Eddy

    Nice one, Phil.

    I really sympathise regarding cinema etiquette. I also recall that time – when the gassing and *$($%ing about would stop in genuine anticipation of what was to come. It just did – you didn’t have to ask for people to be quiet*, and accept a verbal mauling or a risk of being stabbed for the pleasure. Hell, when I was going to the flicks as a kid / teenager / even in my twenties, everyone pretty much STFU for the trailers, even.

    The fact everyone was *just* silent is breathtaking, and must have made it pretty special. I don’t even go to the cinema any more because I / we seem to be in the minority who take offence at talkers / phones and it’s an uphill battle to challenge it.

    * It’s not just kids that do this – my wife and I have had to tell fully grown adults of all ages to be quiet – one pair thought it was funny – ‘oooh we’ve been told off!’. No, you’re not reclaiming some youthful swagger, you’re just a pair of knobs.

    • The silence is so unusual it was actually pretty scary. It was one of those silences which crackles with expectation – exactly what cinema *should* provide.

      To be honest, I tend to go midday midweek to avoid all the talkers/texters now. Which is a shame because it’s other people which make cinema special.

  3. Pingback: 2013 | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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