Sunday, 24 November 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

edit: Rather embarrassingly, this is now a day late, and I've only just realised. Thanks a million Blogger and your occasionally rubbish scheduling facility! However, it does give me the opportunity to say I totally loved The Day of the Doctor. I think that Steven Moffat got it exactly right (for a change) and it was the perfect celebration of a TV series I have been watching since I was five or six. And Tom Baker too as the Great Curator - genius! 

Anyway, what follows is the post I wrote to be posted on the day of the 50th Anniversary:

Happy Anniversary Doctor Who! You have been a part of my life for nigh on 36 years (give or take, and apart from the wilderness years following Michael Grade's and Jonathan Powell's assassination of the show, when my only fix was the few episodes I owned on VHS) and whilst occasionally you have disappointed, I have been more than happy to stick with you through thick and thin.

I'm really not sure how old I was when I first started watching Doctor Who as in those days there must have been many reruns on BBC2, as I have definite memories of watching episodes featuring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton (both first broadcast before I was born) and Jon Pertwee, whose episodes were first shown when I would have been too young to watch them or remember them. Tom Baker, then, was MY Doctor and I have very vivid memories of many of his episodes, probably starting around 1976 (I definitely remember watching and possibly being a little scared by The Talons of Weng-Chiang). After that, it was pretty much must-watch TV in our household for many years after (yes, even through the Bonnie Langford years *shudder*) and I have memories of scaring the bejesus out of my little brother on many occasions following the final episode of The Keeper of Traken, as my sister and I would sister and I would jump out on him from dark rooms at any given opportunity, repeating The Master's words: "A new body... at last!".

However, not only did I watch a lot of Doctor Who, as a 9+ year old I was an avid reader of the books that were published at the time by Target. I had quite a collection (usually picked up from jumble sales), and I thought they had been lost/given away long ago until I found a pile of them in a box in my mother's loft last year (a few of them are pictured above). I would also regularly borrow piles of them from my wonderful local libraries, and chain read them, ready to take them back a few weeks later in exchange for more. I decided to celebrate the 50th Anniversary in my own way this weekend, by watching a couple of my favourite Tom Baker episodes, as well as reading a couple of these books. 

Do they stand the test of time? Well they date pretty well: Doctor Who and the Cybermen only falls a little flat because when compared with the amazing books written for kids today it is all action and no characterisation, but then again that is  how Gerry Davis wrote his Doctor Who books - his intention was just to recapture the story that had taken place on screen. Next I turned to one of my all time favourite Doctor Who stories, both on TV and in print - Doctor Who and the Daemons - and it still does not disappoint. Next, I'm going to dive into another favourite - the aforementioned The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

If you have an aged  9+ child who loves Doctor Who then you could do a lot worse then get your hands on some of these books. = In 2012 BBC Books re-released a good number of these classic Doctor Who stories that featured the first four incarnations of The Doctor (I'm not sure if they re-released any of the Peter Davison era books). These can each be bought off Amazon for less than the price of a couple of pints, and would make excellent Christmas stocking presents for young fans. Doctor Who books, both classic and more recent, are especially great for fans who are reluctant readers, as they aren't too challenging, but are invariably action-packed, fun reads that Under 14s will love.

There are a huge number of Doctor Who books published these days, and I have to admit that I stopped reading these some years ago. However, I was very excited recently to receive a wonderful volume of short stories, published by Puffin to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. It's called Doctor Who: 11 Doctors, 11 Stories and features shorts by the likes of Malorie Blackman, Eoin Colfer, Philip Reeve, Alex Scarrow and Derek Landy, and I am really looking forward to reading it over the next few weeks, as I dive in between other books.

Before I sign off I just want to make a quick mention about a very special project that is taking place in the Uk at the moment called Target Who. Target Who are a group of lifelong Doctor Who fans who bought 11,000 Target Doctor Who books in an ebay auction. This wasn't 11,000 different titles, but actually multiple copies of 36 titles, including classics like Doctor Who and the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Cybermen, which had been discovered wrapped up in some warehouse or something. Target Who did not purchase the books for themselves - they bought them in order to send free copies out to schools around the country. You can read more about the project here. So far they have sent out more than 4000 books to school libraries, and in doing so have inspired individuals to get involved, and so others around the UK (and possibly the world) have been donating individual copies to school libraries, thus ensuring that these classic stories live on. You can follow their amazing work on their blog, and also follow them on twitter as @targetwho.

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