Thursday, September 01, 2005

Launching my 'Survival' bid

So here's the deal. I am a born-again Whovian and not ashamed of this fact. I watched the original series of Doctor Who in its last days, and enjoyed it briefly until the programme was brutally axed from the BBC schedules when I was only ten years old. I missed it, a little, and then I forgot about it by and large. Oh, of course there was the 1993 Comic Relief monstrosity - sorry, special, 'Dimensions In Time', but that was a mere few minutes of Eastenders-crossed, mixed-Doctor mayhem in a large barren void before the abortive revival that was Paul McGann's sole Eighth Doctor outing, 1996's 'Doctor Who' a.k.a. The Movie. That aired on my seventeenth birthday, and I eagerly watched and hoped for more, but alas it never came.

The next year I came to university in Aberystwyth and immediately became part of a small group of close friends. One of these, let us call him Locus, was a massive fan of Doctor Who, and through continued exposure to his passion for everything Whovian and select viewing of old episodes (I started with 'Battlefield'; make of that what you will) I was born again in my appreciation for this fine old British institution. Eight years on, and I find myself still living with Locus, as well as another friend from those days who I shall call Pip, who has furthermore been with Locus in a more-than-friendly way for two years now - plus another Whovian, called for the sake of argument Tony. In this conducive atmosphere for sampling the delights of vintage Who, I have watched numerous stories over the years (we have been sharing a house for the last three of which) when Locus has popped one into the video player, or, with the new release programme on the modern format, DVD player.

But, here's the thing. I still haven't actually watched that many. All this time with all those videos at my fingertips, and I've viewed no more than a sample of them over the years, really. I've never seen the original Daleks story, nor the classic 'Genesis of the Daleks' or many other early appearances, although I've watched 'Revelation...', 'Resurrection...' and 'Remembrance of the Daleks'. I've never watched Roger Delgado's original Master in action. I've barely glimpsed Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor. On the other hand, with the recent viewing of 'Dragonfire' I've now watched every one of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor stories except for 'The Happiness Patrol' - he was 'my' Doctor when I was growing up, after all. The problem is, the group of us are finally breaking the bonds, upping sticks, moving out and leaving town at the end of this year, and I realised suddenly recently that I'll likely never get such a good chance to educate myself properly in the ways of Who.

On that note I decided that now, with four months left with Locus and his collection, would be the ideal opportunity to use up all my free time by watching every single episode of Doctor Who, in order, from the start, in as little time as is realistically possible. It's my plan to set off from the first story, November 1963's 'An Unearthly Child', and make my bid for 'Survival', as it were. I was partly inspired in this by the regular column 'The Time Team' in Locus and Tony's Doctor Who Magazine collections, where a hardy four-person squad has been doing the same thing at monthly intervals for the last six years - and they're barely over halfway yet! Foolishly attempting to ape their efforts in a vastly inferior time-frame seems like a challenge only the very idiotic would take on... so idiot am I, it would appear. If I'm still capable of sentient activity after the 709 original episodes, I'll tackle the 13 added this year in the long-awaited and rather wonderful new series starring Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor. By the way, as great tranches of the First and (especially) Second Doctors' adventures were purged from the archives in BBC tape-junking activites of the '70s, I'm not including them in the episode count - but many if not all are also available to me in audio format courtesy of Locus' CD collection, so if I'm feeling particularly hardcore I may chuck those in as well...

[Note: The episode tally noted above is slightly off from that which I used to keep track of my progress as I went along, which seems to have been 722 – I got different figures from looking it up in different sources, the latter possibly incorporating the new Ninth Doctor's additions. In fact, these numbers seem to represent the sum total of all the DW episodes made, and the fact remains that over 100 are still lost, perhaps forever, thanks to those tape purges. So, going on what seem to be more reliable figures established after the fact of my Survival bid, I actually had to wade through a 'mere' 588 extant episodes of classic Doctor Who in those four months – notwithstanding a couple of 'reconstructed' fillers made from telesnaps and scraps of footage, which were interpolated between episodes of one or two partially-surviving stories; this would also be ruling out the possibility of listening to the audio-only adventures – in order to make it from end to end of the series' original 26-year run...]

1 comment:

Caswin said...

Well, I suppose that it's a little late to wish you luck - but all the same, I look forward to reading. (The "bid for Survival" line drew me in.)