The BBC announced that actor Matt Smith is leaving long-running science fiction television program Doctor Who. Smith, who played the eleventh incarnation of the the Doctor for four years, had this to say about his experience:
“Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I’m incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.”
There is no doubt that Smith will be missed by legions of adoring Doctor Who fans – or Whovians – a few of whom may have may have only known the Doctor as portrayed by Smith. Many, of course, are very familiar with the character’s backstory and know that Smith is but one incarnation of the (now) immortal character.
Like any good fledgling science fiction fan, I grew up watching the program as a child. Long before cable television came to the neighborhood, public broadcasting ran the show in syndication on ETV (Educational Television). It’s hard to imagine now, but in those days, Doctor Who was – at least in the Untied States – a bit of a fringe phenomenon celebrated by a a die-hard minority of science fiction enthusiasts for whom obscurity was hardly a novel concept.
I watched Doctor Who all summer as a kid. I can clearly remember the time that it aired on my local PBS affiliate: 630 PM, sometime after The Bloodhound Gang and McLaughlin Report. In a great many ways, PBS informed my later tastes. Between Cosmos and Doctor Who, the little station for which I had to adjust the television antenna just the right way to pick up, had the local science fiction market locked down. This was a long time before cable, and Doctor Who was a long time before my childhood bedtime.
My Doctor Who was Tom Baker. There was something about his affable charm, goofy sense of humor and wild hair that endeared him to me. Looking back, I think that I may have been attracted to what I interpreted as a level of comfort in his own skin that would take me most of my later life to achieve. This was a guy who hardly cared that his scarf was outrageous or that offering Jelly Babies to his enemies was at, the very least, a breach of good-guy/bad-guy protocol. I liked that about him.
Me and my similarly-obsessed Doctor Who buddy spent long afternoons making sonic screwdrivers and other props out of whatever we could find in his father’s tool shed. I dimly remember constructing a K-9 robot out of cardboard and imitating the brassy intonation of its voice: “Master. Master!”
I have to admit that I haven’t watched Doctor Who in many years. I’ve been told many times that the new program is wonderful, but part of me is hesitant to disturb the memories I have of those wonderful Whovian summers when thoughts of girls, cars and anything beyond Doctor Who and Choose Your Own Adventure books were yet many years away.