Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who's the Man: The Special Edition Part 1

Around this time last year I was given the opportunity to write regularly for the gay guide to Dublin, "Scene City". My first published piece (about "Doctor Who") appeared in the June 2006 issue. The magazine folded two months later!

As I'm feeling lazy and there seems to be quite a few "Doctor Who" fans within our little group who probably won't have read it before, I've decided to do a spot of recycling (albeit with a bit of topical spit and polish)...

On the 23rd November 1963, less than 24 hours after the assassination of American President John F Kennedy a television legend was born. Tucked between the football results and "Juke Box Jury", "Doctor Who" materialised onto British TV for the first time, but what is it about a 40-odd year old science fiction programme that makes it popular enough with gay audiences that the organizers of the 2007 London Gay Pride Fesitval, in an effort to not make gay Who fans choose between the annual celebration and the season finale of their favourite show, have come up with an interesting compromise: they plan to carry the live BBC broadcast of the episode at 7:10 p.m. on a big screen at the event's main stage in Trafalgar Square? First a history lesson for the uninitiated...

The Doctor is a 900 year old alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels the Universe righting wrongs, standing up for the underdog and generally saving the day. His spaceship, the TARDIS, is also a time machine, bigger on the inside than the outside (kind of like the Dragon bar on George's Street!) and looks like a police telephone call box from the 1950s.

The series was originally designed to be both entertaining and educational. Early installments found the TARDIS crew’s adventures alternate between pure sci-fi and historical romps set in ancient Rome, the French revolution or starting the Great Fire of London. However ratings quickly showed that audiences preferred to leave the history books in school and wanted more stories set in the far future. Especially if the stories featured the Daleks, evil robots (who look surprisingly like salt and pepper pots!) introduced in the second story who threatened to surpass the Beatles in popularity in the 60s!

A combination of ill-health and clashes with a new production team influenced the first Doctor, William Hartnell’s decision to retire from the role that made him a hero to a generation. Rather than end the show, the writers came up with a revolutionary idea. They decided to re-cast the lead role, explaining that the Doctor could regenerate when his body became old or injured. While this is now the norm in soap operas, back in the 60s audiences tuned in when he collapsed and his face blurred and changed.

It would be this idea that helped the programme to last until 1989 with six other actors making the part of the Doctor their own: Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Slyvester McCoy.

Due to falling ratings and unable to match the glossy production values of US imports, the TARDIS left TV screens in December 1989 after an impressive record breaking 26 years.
But the Doctor refused to go away. His adventures continued in a series of monthly novels, one of which was written by an up and coming television writer called Russell T Davies. Davies’ fan credentials would again came to light in his groundbreaking and controversial 1999 series “Queer as Folk” which gave us the character Vince...

To be continued...


  1. Well Mr Pink, I had no idea that The Doctor was so big in the gay community.. Maybe it is to do with subliminal messaging??

    Take where the Doc is from "Gallifrey" and remove all but the first two and the last letter from the word.

    Spookey huh.....

  2. We're through the looking glass, people.

    Where's part two? I hate two parters!