No Jacket Required – (Anorak, That Is…)

Nick Brown has noticed something – we’re all cool now…

“So what’s your favourite television programme, then?”

“Doctor Who.”

“Ah yeah, that’s great, isn’t it? I watch it with my son, he loves it. Those statue things scared the life out of him, though…”

Ok, into your TARDISes and set the co-ordinates for 20 years in the past to 1987…

“So what’s your favourite television programme, then?”

“Doctor Who.”

“Really? Ok, see ya…”

It used to be that if you admitted to somebody that Doctor Who was your favourite programme you’d be looked at in the same light as a train spotter. You’d no doubt be spending your weekends up in your bedroom – a dark and dingy place lit only by a flickering desk lamp – writing up reams and reams of notes that were barely decipherable to others. When you did venture out of the house you’d be togged up in your anorak, maybe a bobble hat, and you’d only go to places where you would meet fellow sad cases who you’d greet with some bizarre handshake and converse with in strange codes that no-one else would understand. Of course, you’d all be speaking in pseudo John Major type voices, occasionally reaching such levels of enthusiasm that you’d have to take three or four quick-fire deep breaths to stop you from fainting.

Oh yes, it was a brave man who admitted that Doctor Who was his actual top show. Generally it was considered good form, when asked the dreaded ‘favourite television programme’ question to answer: “Well, I like things like LA Law, Moonlighting, Miami Vice… Doctor Who …Cheers is quite funny, and the Cosby Show…”

So what’s changed? Why is Doctor Who suddenly in vogue? Why is it now British television’s flagship programme?

Whilst watching I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here last night (stop it now! I like it, ok!?), during the advert break it suddenly struck me just how popular Doctor Who has become. Yes, of course I already realised that is in now essential viewing for many people and is one of the only things a family can sit and enjoy together, but there was an advert for a certain famous supermarket (so famous that I actually can’t recall which one it was) and as well as their great bargains and offers, they mentioned their Doctor Who aisle.

Now just think about that for a moment. A Doctor Who aisle. Time was that if you wanted to buy a three-inch plastic Cyberman, you’d have to trawl round Toys R Us and dig deep in the Star Wars and Transformers figures bin to see if there were any Doctor Who toys. And usually the answer was no. Now supermarkets – not toy shops or science fiction emporiums – supermarkets have Doctor Who aisles. These days, instead of buying the aforementioned diminutive Cyberman or dog-eared cigarette cards portraying a mad looking Tom Baker, you can now spend your hard earned cash on books, magazines, action figures of virtually every character there’s ever been in ‘New’ Who, voice changing Cyber helmets, sonic screwdrivers, a build-your-own TARDIS, lunch boxes, mugs, remote control Daleks, card games, money boxes, bubble bath, jigsaw puzzles, sticker albums, etc, etc. And they’re not even embarrassing any more!

Of course, if the programme itself wasn’t as good as it is, none of this would be possible. When news broke that the BBC were bringing Doctor Who back, opinion was split. There were those that said “about time” but there were also those who thought it might be better to let it be and watched the first episode with fear and trepidation. So how did it go…?

From the moment Rose finished and we had seen the Doctor thwart the Autons, the nation was hooked. But why? Because new wave Who was the same but different. Much faster paced, more ‘street’, characters that we could identify with and, of course, scripts that an awful lot of ‘classic’ Who couldn’t hold a candle to. It’s top-notch drama now, not pantomime. How many people have sat through all three series so far and never shed a tear? Now, being macho, I’m on dangerous ground here. I am also, however, fairly convinced that there weren’t too many dry eyes throughout the country when Pete Tyler finally realised that Rose was his daughter and he had to die to save her future. Or the ‘mourning’ scenes following Rose being sucked into the alternative universe, tearing her and the Doctor apart. Or when the Doctor realised that he could no longer live as John Smith and settle down with Joan in Human Nature. Or when he read his farewell letter from Reinette in The Girl In The Fireplace. I’ll stop there as I’m starting to fill up…

Doctor Who now wins all the drama awards, the actors win the best actor awards, respected actors are queuing up to appear – can you really have imagined people like Simon Callow and Derek Jacobi being in ‘old’ Who? – and it is constantly top of the ratings.

Big, big, big thank-yous are due Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Phil Collinson, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, David Tennant, Freema Agyeman and the dozens of people that I can’t possibly name here, the famous names and those unsung heroes behind the scenes.

This is a golden age for Doctor Who. I hope the new viewers who weren’t old enough to see the ‘classic’ series realise that.

So let’s sit back, enjoy the ride and hold our heads up high when asked “so what’s your favourite television programme, then…?”

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