The special issue of “Doctor Who” for the 60th anniversary should be full of nostalgia

This usually wise and insightful observation of the great Terence Dix was the perfect mood for inclusion in Dr. WhoWarmly nostalgic issue of “Five Doctors”, dedicated to the 20th anniversary. Because what are we as intelligent beings, if not the balance of our experience – what we saw, the lessons we learned, and the people we met along the way? When Donna Noble erased memories of traveling with the Doctor, it felt like it was the hardest fate. Because without those memories Donna was literally a different, smaller person.

And the same goes for Dr. Who himself. As a property that has existed for 58 years, it has what most other TV shows can only dream of: it has a mythology. More importantly, it has a story that we all share: one that goes back to our childhood – whether recent or distant – and through which many of us can celebrate births, marriages, deaths, and all the other important milestones in life.

So it’s no surprise that the show is gearing up to celebrate its 60th anniversaryth Next year’s birthday, rumors are alive with speculation that former doctors such as David Tennant and Matt Smith may return for a series of special episodes. After all, why don’t you, right?

And yet you’ll find plenty of hardcore “Doctor Who” fans raise their hands in horror – ridicule or otherwise. For them, the past show is not so much a foreign country as a hostile territory: the stony ground of creative bankruptcy, where ideas die. Or something like that, anyway.

But why? Why has it become fashionable among some of the program’s most loyal supporters to insist that it should only go relentlessly forward without looking back? Why this ascetic insistence that “Doctor Who” should be made for anyone – for children, grandmothers, Saturday TV audiences – other than them?

I think a few reasons. First, they just show off. They try to seem like adults by talking more like a potential “Who Who” showrunner than a fan. They’re embarrassed to lean towards nostalgia because it’s so … well, fanatical. And so, quoting another line from Terence Dix of The Five Doctors, they find the threat in their own shadow.

This, of course, is not entirely without logic. In 2005, Russell T. Davis – once the future king of “Doctor Who” – was a huge success in relaunching the show, ridding it of all the hectic baggage of “Lords of Time” and “Galifrey” and, in his own words, all these “people in stupid hats. ”Instead, he became acquainted with the basic principles of the alien and the London store, which embark on exciting adventures in time and space.

But what was the right choice in 2005 – when “Doctor Who” didn’t air for 16 years and British TV commissioners still largely viewed science fiction as cryptonite – isn’t necessarily appropriate for the 2020s. We now live in an era when you practically need a spreadsheet to keep track of all the intertwined plots and arches of Marvel movie universe characters; when even the most casual cinema-goers are happy to see former Spider-Men crawling out of a tree, and the District of Columbia has a positive Batman colony on the belfry.

(And let’s not forget that even in his original paper on a return to basics two decades ago, Russell T. Davis had already said that Dr. Who’s past was the source of a “wonderful rich discovery for an excited eight-year-old viewer” to be introduced gradually along the way .)

I suspect that another reason why some fans are so wary of nostalgia is that they still carry the scars of the 1980s, when – at least in our collective memory – the program became increasingly obsessed with continuity, indulging hard believers at the expense of more casual viewers until, after all, the hardcore faithful were all that was left.

Radio Times for the 1985 series Cyber ​​Attack

Radio Times for the 1985 series Cyber ​​Attack

This in itself is a rather modest reading of the situation – many factors contributed to the decline in the audience of “Doctor Who” in the mid-late 1980s, and frankly, it is difficult to see how a random old satellite that accidentally resets the name, ranks first in many people. reasons for shutdown. But it’s not so much that Dr. Who referred to his own past as it is to how he referred to his past. Because yes, expecting viewers of 1985’s “Cyber ​​Attack” to recall details from “Cyber ​​People’s Tomb,” which aired 18 years earlier, was a big question. Similarly, if you are going to make The Matrix so central in The Arc of Infinity (1983), it would be useful to remind viewers who do not have the novel The Purpose of the Deadly Killer to convey what the Matrix really is. there is.

But these are deep botanists. On the other hand, David Tennant or Matt Smith return for a quick winning lap each can enjoy, no matter how casual their relationship with the show. The polar opposite of the indulgence of the supporters, it is in fact the biggest, the most populist, the most enjoyable for the crowd, the big tent move that Dr. Who could make. (And this was true even in the 1980s, by the way, when the return of Cybermen after a seven-year absence was an exciting event for everyone – including children who had never heard of them.)

Even the return of Paul McGann, whose Eighth Doctor had only fleeting screen time, would be fairly straightforward to explain to viewers unfamiliar with him. And not just simple as well cheerful. Exciting. A stranger in strange clothes gets up and tells everyone that he used to be a Doctor? This is a drama. This is Fr. history. Who on Earth will fly at this?

Paul McGann, David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt on the Doctor's Day poster (BBC)

Paul McGann, David Tennant, Matt Smith, John Hurt and Billy Piper on the Doctor’s Day (BBC) poster

So the bottom line about “continuity” is definitely that, as Bananarama would say, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. If there is a decent history and there are no barriers to entry, then what are you afraid of?

It doesn’t have to be nostalgia for that. But equally there is nothing wrong with strange nostalgia, which is very important to her – if it causes a delicious shiver of recognition on the back of the head, without interfering with action, then bring it.

Nostalgia, though ridiculed, is as much an emotional weapon as any other in the playwright’s weapon arsenal. Derived from the Greek words nostos, meaning return home, and algos, meaning pain, nostalgia has a dramatic tension: the recognition that memories are as sad as they are sweet. If you have a story created over six decades that you can play with, you would be crazy if you didn’t use it from time to time. After all, of course, there is a limit to how many times you can repeat the same format to a doctor who comes somewhere, corrects something, and then leaves again. You need to change the formula and occasionally raise your emotional stakes, and connect to your own mythology – one obvious way to do that.

Dr. Who

Far – (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: James Pardon

And to those who still insist that all this stops the glorious march of progress, I would say: you do not have the same attitude to their own history, right? Keep all your precious memories in a closed box so they are never opened? What a reduced life it would be. And the same goes for Dr. Who.

So come on. We’ve all had horrible years. Let’s stop threshing ourselves with birch twigs and pretend to live like monks. To the 60th anniversary of “Doctor Who” let’s take a look at Russell T. Davis ’biggest and most glorious hit of nostalgia. Casual viewers will enjoy it, the media will enjoy it, and if they just allowed themselves to relax and go with the flow, hardcore fans would love it too.

It is a party to which everyone is invited, after which the Fourteenth Doctor can embark on a new brave future with a renewed headwind of love and kindness. And if the show doesn’t want to look over your shoulder for a year or two at this point, then it’s fair enough. A new beginning, and all that. But the past will always be there, waiting – and, frankly, he has nothing to fear.

Dr. Who returns to television this spring with “Legend of the Sea Devils.” To learn more, check out our dedicated Science fiction page or our full Teleguide.

The latest issue of Radio Times is already on sale – subscribe now to have each issue delivered to your door. More from the biggest TV stars, lto listen Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

The special issue of “Doctor Who” for the 60th anniversary should be full of nostalgia

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