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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 17:03 GMT
Fond memories of Doctor Who

By William Gallagher
BBC News Online Dr Who expert

Fans inside the Tardis
The memories of Doctor Who and the Tardis are still strong for many....
Long-running time travel TV series Doctor Who was beaten, not by its hugely popular monsters the Daleks, but by itself.

Its last years of pantomime stories all but erased our memories of how good the show could be.

The fans have not helped either - there is no question that without them there would not be a new series, but they also turned the show into a cult.

It was never meant to be that. It was specifically designed to be a populist show to get everyone watching.

We got high adventure and mainstream thrills, all on a tiny BBC budget.

...as these shots from a Doctor Who 40th birthday convention in London show
In its earliest days it took UK viewers to the Roof of the World in a story of politics and intrigue with Marco Polo.

When it got monsters, it gave us Daleks - impossible to take seriously now but at the time so different to every other alien that they gripped us.

Later, when Dalek creator Terry Nation realised his creatures were really metal Nazis, we saw World War II emerge on alien battlefields.

And we got the character of Davros as the Daleks' truly evil inventor.

The Sontarans were a favourite monster....
The Tardis could take the Doctor and his companions to any point in the whole of time and space, though it did always tend to be Earth in the 1970s.

Doctor Who arguably did one story incredibly well - the one where a small, isolated group of people is under threat from unstoppable alien forces.

If an alien victory would have global consequences, so much the better for the drama and for the budget.

...but who could top the all-conquering Daleks
There are countless examples of this and all were big hits for the show.

Part of the success was the show's aim to make us feel we were in the Tardis too. We were meant to identify with the Doctor's human travelling companions.

In truth it has become a way of marking out men of a certain age - which companion did you fancy?

But at times those companions reacted as we might and gave the stories a sense of reality not present in other shows.

For years, if you did not like the current story, you just tuned in next month for a new one.

Is PM Tony Blair a secret Tom Baker fan (centre)?
Eventually the stories became uniformly silly but while it was serious, there was no other show that so constantly reinvented itself.

It is doing so again and hopes are very high for the forthcoming series.

It just has to live up to standard that most of us have forgotten and that perhaps the fans have exaggerated.


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