Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I look at the large blue box in the goat pasture. It was not there then it was. White writing on it declares that it is a ‘police box’ apparently so Metropolitan London police can lock up criminals and make phone calls to their precinct. It is supposed to be a disguise but it kind of sticks out in Northern Oregon like a sore thumb.
Cautiously I push the door in, it is unlocked. I step in and I am overwhelmed. I get why everyone who enters remarks that it is bigger on the inside than on the outside. It is unnaturally, it is creepy it is amazing. I told myself I wouldn’t say it but I can’t help it. “It is bigger on the inside than the outside!” I exclaim in awe.
A voice form where the controls are replies in a deep baritone voice. “Amazing isn’t it?”
The man has mop of brown hair, a large coat and incredibly long scarf. Is smile is as big as a solar system and infections. “Yes it is.” he replies gesturing to a chair at the control Coolum in the center of the room. I take the seat and he pulls out a plastic bag from his pocket. “Jelly Baby?”
I take the delusions gelatin treat and pop it into my mouth. “Thank you…these things really are good.”
“Aren’t they?” He agrees.
Ever since I first saw Dr. Who when I was in high school on PBS, the Fourth Doctor has been “my Doctor.” I really liked all the Doctors (Except the Sixth but nobody liked him). Like most people my first experience with the Doctor instantly became my favorite, but somehow I think I would have chosen the quirky, genius level man-child of the Tom Baker era no matter what. “So.” I say jumping in to the interview. “Why were you the one that PBS chose first to show in America?”
He looks like he is pondering the question and then replies. “Well I think it is obvious. We were the first program entirely in color. It wouldn’t do to introduce a show to 1980’s American telly viewing public in black and white…oh no, you can’t do that…In fact they went all the way through Sylvester McCoy’s run then went back to Jon Pertwee because the fact that his first episodes where in black and white.”
The Doctor leaned back in his chair. “Interesting enough after the show became such a great hit in the UK, they tried to release it in your America back in the 1960’s, and well it didn’t take, even after the Dalek episode that was such a smash in Britton ran in the US, it did abysmally in the ratings and was canceled in the US. Say whatever you want about eighties PBS, it was socialism, the abhorrent pledge drives, it was the only place that The Doctor could get a foot hold to become the phenomena in the States that it is.”
“Now I understand there were some limits put on the Third Doctor and with you they were removed what where the limits?” I ask.
“Well.” The Doctor explains. “Jon Pertwee was known mainly as a comedic actor before he got the role of the Doctor. He was so afraid that people would associate his portrayal of the Doctor with his previous roles he forbid comedy on the show. Sure there could be an occasional joke or two and it loosened up a bit as the program progressed, but in general the story lines had to be very serious. Also during the Third Doctors run, the TAARDIS was disabled by the Time Lords. So all the episodes where set here on the Earth. When I arrived on the spot, we were allowed to be funny and to travel if the script called for it across the galaxy. I began my tenure with a sense of fun and wanderlust and the show never lost it for seven seasons.”
“A large part of your shows success is due to Douglas Adams. What can you say about him?” I ask.
“Oh.” The Doctor’s face comes alive with animation. “Best known for his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, he was script editor for our program and wrote several scripts. There are Hitchhiker’s inspired moments in our show. And Dr. Who moments in The Guide. He had this amazing sense of humor and whimsy that became part of my DNA, the world is a much less bright place since he passed on.”
I nod my head. “OK, well isn’t Doctor Who kind of scary for a kids show?” I ask.
“There are defiantly scary elements, But now as before we have a child psychologist review the script to make sure it isn’t to scary before we broadcast. And well I think it is a parent’s job to monitor what a child watches.”
He then gave me an aside glance and leaned in like he was going to divulge a great secret. “Not just kids got a good scare out of the show. In Part Two of the Deadly Assassin, there is a part where I almost get drowned. This bothered my actor Tom Baker, who has a mild fear of water so he didn’t see the finished product so when he and a friend were returning form a science fiction convention it was about to go on the air, so they decided they would see the first airing on TV so they were going to stop at a television store to watch it but it was closing so he followed two boys home, knocked on their door and asked the father who answered the door, “Do you watch Dr. Who?” The father looked him up and down and said “Come on in Doctor?” So he watched it for the first time with this family. The boys were upset because no one would believe their story when they told it at school. Poor Tom had given all his swag away at the convention and didn’t even have a photo to give them. So he promised to mail them some stuff, and had the studio call the local paper, because no one in the school would not believe it if it was in the paper. The boys were instant heroes in heir home town.”
“What a wonderful story.” I reply.
Smiling the Doctor exclaims “Isn’t it so.”
I shift in my chair. “I think you are the best Doctor ever.” I stammer. He waves with his hand to speed me up. “And I like Tom Baker, but I do have some issues with him. Didn’t he have a nervous breakdown, leave his family in a huge shouting with his mother in law. Abandon his two sons, and even Lalla Ward his second ex-wife and co-star said Tom Baker was her favorite monster in Dr. Who.”
The Doctor steepled his fingers. “A very bright Canadian woman once said. “They were right when they said you should never meet your heroes.” Then sighed. “I would not be too judgmental on poor Tom. Yes he did get into acting full time as sort of a catharsis to deal with the dark part of his personality. He is actually an interesting fellow, at fifteen he joined a ministry intending to be a monk. But he lost his faith. Yes he was estranged from his two sons, but has reconciled with one after a chance meeting in a New Zeeland pub. And if an ex-wife says that you are her favorite anything then it is a complement, even if it is a back handed one. And his third marriage is a strong and lengthy one. Most actors fail to reach the nobility of the characters they portray.’
Trying to lighten the mood I ask. “Tell me about the scarf.”
“Ah yes it is an iconic part of my appearance.” He says as his smile broadens. “In story ti was nitted by Madame Nostradamus, that witty little knitter. In reality the original one was commissioned by the show’s costume designer and assigned to his friend Begonia Pope. She just started knitting and didn’t stop until she created a master piece. It was apparently based on the art work of by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of his friend, Aristide Bruant, who with his waist coat, scarf and hat was a very nappy dresser. In the video game eternity Clock, River Song says that I have a room just for scarves. Cheeky minx.”
“Ok, what are something the new show takes from you?” I ask.
“Well I think they have the sense of fun from the Baker era. They realize that if I and my companions are having fun the audience will want to come with us.” He explains.
“Ok let’s talk companions, tell me about Sara Jane Smith.”
Again he smiles. “Wonderful girl, played by the superb late actress Elizabeth Sladen. She was originally The Third Doctors companion. And stared in two spin offs, K-9 and Company and The Sara Jane Adventures. Originally the part went actress April Walker, but it was obvious that there was no chemistry between her and Pertwee, so the part was offered to Sladen. The writers originally wanted to kill her off, good thing they didn’t because the spin-off would never have been made. She appeared in several episodes of the new series, and she is constantly rated as the most popular companion in polls. She is the embodiment of the modern English Woman. And is much to companions what Honor Blackburn to Bond girls, she may not be the first, but she may not have been the first, but she is the one that all others are judged on.”
“OK, what about Leela?” I ask. “Are you a strange pairing, the genius Time Lord and a jungle savage?”
He thinks about it for a moment and nods. “I do have to keep remind her not to kill people. But the concept came from Eliza Doolittle, a woman who may be very smart but not brought up in what we term society. As such she is the Id to my superego. And it must be noted that her skimpy outfits increase the amount of ‘dad’ watching the show.” He gave a little chuckle at the last part.
I begin to shift uncomfortably in my chair. “OK, despite polls my favorite companion of all time is Ramona II played by Lalla Ward. Now a lot of talk on the new show about the relationship between The Doctor and Rose and the Doctor and Martha and even The Doctor and Jack Harkness. But I couldn’t help but think there was something between you and R2.”
The Doctor shrugs. “Well the actors were married for eighteen months after Lalla left the show. But obviously she is very special to me. In one of the books she kisses me on the cheek. You can’t help but think that these two people are in love, when you see us run through Paris hand in hand. But the show was very much a children’s show back then and my character was defacto assumed to be non-sexual. But one thing you can say about both Ramanas is that she gave as much as she took and was able to keep up with me on an intellectual level and that is very sexy.”
“Do you know about 8347 Lalla Ward?” I ask.
He looks annoyed at me. “Of course I know about it. It was a main body asteroid discovered in 1987, and was named in honor of the actress.”
“OK, so what are some of your effects on popular culture?” I ask.
“Well I would say our biggest gift to pop culture is a strong outing on the series so that the new series had something to hang its hat on.” He explained. “But we also have comic book cross over with Star Trek, TOS of course. I have made four appearances in Simpsons and in the States that is the sign of success if you get into the Simpsons. Even those Power Rangers talk about a planet at “Ten zero eleven zero zero, by zero two from galactic zero,” in the constellation of Kasterborous. Which is where I say that gallafrey is. In Leverage Nathan says of his fake ID’s “I’ve got a Peter Davidson, Sylvester McCoy and a Tom Baker.” Sophie adds, “I’ve got a Sarah Jane Baker.” Stuart in Big Bang theory dress up as me. And in Young Justice one of the team’s teleporting devices in London looks like a blue police box.”
“Wow that is a lot.” I admit, looking at my watch I say. “Well time is up I got to go, maybe I can interview you again?”
“Most assuredly.” The Doctor says with a wicked smile. “But I may not look like this the next time we speak.”