Saturday, June 16, 2007

Who's the Man: Special Edition Part 2

(The second part of the article, first published in "Scene City" magazine, June 2006.

For the first time we had a character who was a Doctor Who fan but who wasn’t a geek who wore a long scarf, he was a normal guy who went out drinking and clubbing with his mates and lived a life... okay except in the first episode when he doesn’t “pull” and he goes home, puts on a “Doctor Who” video and rewinds his favourite bit again and again... (I probably shouldn't admit it, but this is something I've done!)

In 2003, just days before Doctor Who celebrated its 40th anniversary, a surprise announcement was made. Russell T Davies, was named as the writer/producer of a new series of Doctor Who, acclaimed actor Christopher Eccelston of “Shallow Grave”, “28 Days Later” and “the Others” would star as the Doctor and former pop singer and the then Mrs Chris Evans, Billie Piper would be his companion Rose.

The new series debuted on BBC1 in March 2005. The stories were scary, dramatic, funny and moving. For the first time we had a Doctor and companion who were seriously sexy! There was bi-sexual companion Captain Jack played by real life ‘mo John Barrowman, a matinee idol type hero from a far future where sexuality is a non-issue. Also added was cosmetic surgery obsessed baddie Lady Cassandra who has had so much work done that she’s now just a piece of stretched skin.

To say it was a success would be a major understatement. The series graced the covers of every major magazine from “Radio Times” to “Attitude”, trounced its opposition (if “Celebrity Wrestling” can really be called opposition) on ITV and won armfuls of awards along the way. A third series, starring David Tennant as the Doctor is almost finished it's run, viewing figures remain high and reviews are hailing it as the best series of "Doctor Who" yet. Captain Jack has gone on to star in the adult (i.e. they've included swear words and sex scenes in the stories for the sake of it) spin-off "Torchwood" and even '70s companion Sarah Jane Smith played by Elizabeth Sladen is getting in on the action with the forthcoming "the Sarah Jane Adventures" which will be aimed at the CBBC audience.

But what is it that makes the programme so popular with gay audiences? It could be argued that the series (especially in its original incarnation) appeals in the same way the Eurovision does. Both have been slagged off in the tabloid press as tacky, low-budget affairs with silly costumes and wobbly sets.

Maybe it’s because gay audiences are not afraid to hold on to a little bit of their childhood innocence as shown by the popularity of movies such as “the Wizard of Oz” or “the Sound of Music” with the same audience.

The Doctor is an outsider. Unlike Captain Kirk he doesn’t have a girlfriend on every planet. He’s witty, serious and he likes flamboyant clothes. He shows no sexual interest in the pretty young girls who join him on his adventures around the universe, – they’re his best friends. He’s non-violent, preferring to diffuse difficult situations with a smile and the offer of a jelly baby. The Doctor is open minded – he doesn’t discriminate against race, colour, creed or sexual orientation. All incredibly important character traits if you’re a young person trying to come to terms with who you are while at the sametime fearing how family and friends will react when they find out that you’re “different”.

The Doctor was, is and always will be a hero. And that’s needed more than ever!

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