Doctor Who has been an affair that has lasted more than a decade for me. On the whole it has been one of affection – though we’ve definitely had our troubles. But I got more than I bargained for when I decided to watch every single serial of the longest running science fiction television show ever.
Let’s begin with a history of my relationship with this epic. It was one fateful afternoon in September 2003 when my father (and long-time fan) sat the entire family down to watch a rerun of the first ever episode of the classic Doctor Who. It was the 40th anniversary of the series and the ABC was re-airing the nearly 600 surviving episodes for the next two and a half years.
From the first stumble into the bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS, I was hooked. Next to no one at primary school watched Doctor Who, preferring the morning anime or Australian Idol. But I was more fascinated by the crew that adventured through time and space before dinner was on the table.
Then the unimaginable happened: Doctor Who was renewed for its 27th season. I remember seeing the first action-packed trailer on TV and couldn’t wait to see what modern special effects and 21st century ideals would bring to the show. The writing and acting turned out better than anything I used to watch from the black and white days. We even got the Doctor’s (in)famous regeneration sequence to finish this new series.
So now I was in high school and a few more of my friends had finally started to pick up on it. Having people other than my brother to talk about Doctor Who with was great, to say the least. As I’ve journeyed into university, I have discovered a vast amount of other fans, as well as the cult status it shares among its viewers. But as much as this series brings people together, it can also make one feel quite alone.
I’d safely bet that most people prefer to watch shows of fewer than 100 episodes – after that point, most series tend to lag. But I’m not most people. It was in June last year that I came across copies of all 800 episodes from both the classic and new series. The decision was made, and after meticulous ordering of the episodes, I created a blog to record my reviews of the stories. This was an endeavour that I kept up with for more than a year.
I made a roaring start, posting seven times in the first week, some 36 episodes. But then the honeymoon phase was over and I settled into a banal routine. I would methodically watch a serial, write down my opinions, and give it a rating out of five stars. In return, I’d maybe get a good episode once a week to satiate my hunger. Doctor Who is definitely an addiction. At some points I tried to give it up, but I’d always come crawling back, relapsing, and wasting more hours trying to get satisfaction from the cheap cliché stories.
Surprisingly, people were actually reading my ramblings. The bulk of my posts had likes or reblogs and I got mail occasionally complimenting my opinions (though more often a complaint). The number of reviews I wrote equalled the amount of followers I acquired. With no other social media coverage, over 220 users had followed my small Tumblr through the tags I used.
My blog posts first began admiring every aspect of the stories, because of my personal nostalgia for the show. Slowly, and inevitably, my writing got more cynical and critical, with dislike overshadowing the previous loving tone of the pieces. It wasn’t until I reached the mid-70s with Tom Baker that I realised how wrong I had been. No longer was sitting through these dodgy sets and costumes a gruelling chore; the Fourth Doctor’s endearing and lovable personality had brought me back.
Then the 50th anniversary celebrations began, which further solidified my affection for the show. Sitting in the cinema, watching the current incarnation of the Doctor alongside a past and a new counterpart was fantastic to say the least. The spark was back, and I trawled through the next few very average Doctors knowing that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Re-watching the 2005 revival was reinvigorating. I could now truly appreciate how far the series had come and I got back into posting daily. The characterisation is much better in the newer episodes, with fully fleshed-out companions with real emotions and backstories. The little nods to the show’s quaint past are just brilliant.
And then came the moment I’d been working towards for just over a year. I finished watching every single episode of Doctor Who. I’d been waiting for this moment for so long that I didn’t know how to feel. No one was standing on the sidelines congratulating me. There were no trumpets flared or trophies gained. My sense of accomplishment was overshadowed by the thought of what I had done – spent literally weeks on end watching a cheesy sci-fi show. Sure, now I was king of the nerds, but was it truly worth it? Everything cancelled out and in the end, I felt numb. It was just another TV series to add to my ever-growing list.
Doctor Who is not the best show ever – a good majority of the serials are plain awful. But the unfathomable amount of time I have spent with this character, watching his evolution from actor to actor, makes it much more incredible. I grew to connect with each incarnation in their own ways. The show is like an annoying uncle who is always hanging around – you can’t help but love him.
That said, I couldn’t possibly recommend this activity to anyone. It was a fulfilling experience, but only in a personal sense. Binge-watching a television show of this magnitude is meaningless, and too much of a nice thing is never a good idea in the long run. Apart from mild insanity and a distinct advantage for your trivia team at a Doctor Who convention, you won’t gain anything from watching all of the series.
I’d recommend trying a sample from each of the respective lead actors of the classic era. But you could also start with the newest series with Peter Capaldi and do just fine. As long as you don’t repeat my feat, you’ll be fine with this kooky show. And if you want more of a look into my experience, head on over to drwhowatch.tumblr.com.
By Connor Harvey