Saturday, September 27, 2003
Dum-dee-dum, dum-dee-dum, dum-dee-dum-dee-dum
One of my earliest memories is of terrorising the other kids in my Dalek playsuit. It comprised a big plastic dome which fitted over my shoulders by means of a couple of heavy black-leather straps; silver cardboard slats; and a red, wonderfully-clammy and deliciously-smelling PVC skirt, which even today would swish me effortlessly past the door-whore at any fetish-queen's perv-fest. All this was, of course, before I got to ride a real one (Dalek, not fetish-queen), but, even at six years of age, I was hooked. And there, Your Honour, rests the case for the defence.
And now Doctor Who is time-warping back to a telly near you. I'll only believe it when I'm watching my own VHS of the first episode, although this time the news does come all nicely tied up with pink ribbons and an official BBC press announcement, suspiciously timed for the show's fortieth anniversary celebrations and merchandise blitz in November.
Because I reckon it won't work, even though Who merchandising continues to make mountains of money for the Beeb, usually taken from the likes of me who have fond memories of the programme of our youth and early adulthood. The actual show was pulled in the 80s for loads of reasons. Big bad Michael Grade hated it, for one. Some stories were gob-smackingly awful (an equal number were breath-takingly excellent). BBC schedulers messed around with its transmission days, moving it from Saturdays to a twice-weekly slot, in an attempt to gauge whether an ongoing serial (EastEnders, then in development) could fit into that time-slot.
And in the new-dawning age of VCRs, remote-controls, and a telly in every room, it had lost its core family audience. Why bother sitting with mum, dad and the dog in front of must-see tea-time telly, when you can tape the show later to laugh at with your mates, or get yourself worked up over Leela in the privacy of your own bedroom? No longer a regular, shared experience, people were actually starting to forget to watch.
Panicking, the TV show became ever more attention-seeking and pantomime-like (Bonnie Langford: one of the greatest musical theatre talents we've got, but a lousy TV actress), or so self-referential it vanished up its own space-time continuum. It ended up repulsing and delighting in equal measure only the fans, and never Joe Public who hadn't the foggiest what the show was about anymore.
Not much has changed today, and I fear we may be in for a disappointment, a Crossroads In Space, if you like. Perhaps our fond memories should remain just that. The only hopeful news is that it's being produced and scripted by the ground-breaking Russell T Queer As Folk Davies, and, if there's any justice in the world, will also star bookies' favourite Alan Davies in the lead role. If anyone can make it work the Davies boys will, and I really want them to win.
For no other reason, than that there are people out there, under the age of seventeen, who have never ever seen a Dalek.
And that is a really scary thought.