Near the end of November, 1963, several very important things happened.
I’m not going obfuscate, the most important thing that happened that day in the last few hundred years was the shameful assassination of the 35th President of the United States.
Admittedly, I was not around for either event. My first exposure to the Doctor was in 1978, and despite your immediate reaction, the story I’m about to tell is not the one you think it is.
They say your first Doctor is your favorite one. I’d like to say this is true, but it’s one of the worst possible generalizations. Gong by the calendar, my Doctor is Tom Baker. But the reality is that in the united States, the Doctor I was most likely to encounter was Jon Pertwee, due to the vagaries of public television and the BBC’s rules on syndication to foreign markets.
But my first Doctor Who experience was in glorious Technicolor(tm). I’m writing, of course, about Peter Melon Farming Cushing. Followed closely by a PBS showing of the second ever Doctor story, the Daleks.
So my first Doctor was in fact, the First Doctor. And let me tell you, that connection extends my date of birth to November 22, 1963. Wherever I’ve lived, whatever I’ve been involved in or with, Doctor Who has been a part of my life. Just by writing these words, I’m connected to many millions of fans around the world, possibly moreso than those granted by my lifelong passion for Baseball.
But my favorite Doctor is an intellectual choice, not an emotional one. It’s one I’ve come to over the years based mainly on the written word, instead of the visual medium of the show itself. As of this writing, I’ve seen exactly three serials of the Patrick Troughton years, but to me, the space hobo is the quintessential doctor. Avuncular, intelligent, emotional, and darkly compelling, the Second Doctor epitomizes the series for me. Through the Target Novelisations (British spelling intentional). I’ve come to know “D2” intimately. And as madmen in a box go, he’s the one for me.
However, despite the volumes of temporal, intellectual, and empirical evidence above, the second Doctor is not “my” Doctor. For me, it’s not a rational choice. It’s not a logical decision, it’s purely emotional, and based on what makes me happy.
And what makes me happy is a narrow slice of time that started after I began watching the show. It’s about the Doctor unfettered, partnered with arguably the coolest and best realized science fiction lady ever.
Despite the numerous companions I’d seen up until then, Lalla Ward’s years were the first time I really Believed what was going on. Romana was there because she wanted to be, because the excitement of the journey meant more to her than the safety of her well-deserved life back on Gallifrey. Romana regenerated because she WANTED TO, not because of any misadventure or bad fortune. To travel with the Doctor, she needed to be a certain kind of person, so she simply decided to become one.
On the Badass Scale, this singular action rates about a billion out of ten. She could have lived forever. She could have been the greatest Time Lord who ever lived. But instead, she wanted to travel the universe and do awesome things.
Can I get a F@#K Yeah! ?
I’m assuming you just Gallifreyan fist pumped. If you didn’t, go think about your life.
I own a good number of Doctor Who episodes on disc, but only one from the T. Baker years. That episode is sadly one that never aired, But do you know who is in it?
Romana,Two, that’s who.
Part of the Doctor-Romana Magic is the at-the-time stewardship of Douglas Adams as Script Editor. Part of it was surely Graham Williams as the show’s Producer, and then later John Nathan-Turner (JNT!).
But I think it’s really about Lalla Ward. The camaraderie she shared with Baker led to an off-screen marriage that barely survived her departure from the show. Later in life, she married Richard Freaking Dawkins, which more or less qualifies as the only possible upgrade.
Until you realize that Romana was the real star of the show. When I think about Classic Who, I’m thinking about those two short years where the T.A.R.D.I.S was happy and fun, and nothing ever seemed to go wrong.
And while watching the current series, I think about Romana a great deal. Because while the events of the Time War have taken Gallifrey out of the equation, I cant think of a single thing in E-Space that could slow that lady down.
Rock on, Romana. I’m waiting patiently for your triumphant return.