I was asked to give a short talk at our Doctor Who Raleigh meet-up group's Annual Banquet tonight and I thought I would share it here too. The topic I chose was my memories of growing up with Doctor Who as a child in England, something that will be a little foreign to most of the audience who have had their first experiences of Doctor Who here in the US.
Now we all laugh at the special effects and the wobbly sets but it is a fallacy to think that no one noticed them back then. We knew that there were crummy special effects, but we thought that it was because it was a kids' programmme. Adult programmes, like the ones my parents watched -- Columbo, The New Avengers -- were generally on ITV and they clearly had far better production values. I thought that Doctor Who had slightly rubbishy production values because it was for kids, and the BBC were not going to blow all their limited budget on us. It was the best that there was for kids (though The Tomorrow People on ITV would have come a close second for me) but I don't think I ever thought it was a programme that adults watched.
My first memories of Doctor Who are from around four years old. Jon Pertwee was the doctor and he will always be "my doctor". He took over in 1970 and my earliest memories of Doctor Who, perhaps a year or two after that, are of him in the role. Doctor Who had been in colour since 1970, since Pertwee replaced Troughton. I became aware, as time went on, that colour had not always been around. You might notice that right at the end of the credits in all these episodes is the proud declaration "BBC COLOUR". This was a big deal back then, a really big deal. My dad loved his television and he was one of the first people in the area to get a colour televisioin, and he was proud of it. When my sister was born in June 1969, my older brother and I were taken to a neighbour's house to be looked after while my mother was in hospital. I was two. It is family legend that I sat down and pointed at the television and said to my brother Jonathan, "Black one, Jo-than, black one!", clearly appalled that they had not got a nice new colour TV like we had.
I was born in 1967, and apparently the "Macra Terror" was the Doctor Who that was on at that point, a Patrick Troughton (second doctor) adventure, all four episodes of which are now lost. But I never knew the second doctor. I can vaguely remember watching "The Three Doctors", the tenth anniversary adventure, in 1973, and being fascinated by it, but it served to confirm my opinion that Pertwee, the third doctor, was indeed the best. There was something calmly authoritative, kind but paternal, gentle but strong, that I found hugely appealing about Jon Pertwee's portrayal. I loved the earth-bound adventures, Jo Grant, Bessie, the Brigadier.
It was around this time that my father took me to Longleat House, near Frome in Somerset. He used to go down there from time to time because of a Lewis Carroll exhibition. But there was a huge bonus for children who were visiting -- Longleat House was the home of the Doctor Who Exhibition. Visiting it was a real thrill. You entered the exhibition by means of a TARDIS that looked like it just happened to be sitting in the back courtyard of the stately home. You opened the doors, and there was the console room, exactly as it should look, and with tons of buttons to press. I had always wanted to press those buttons in the TARDIS console room; I think the thing I most liked about Star Trek was all the buttons for pressing on the bridge and imagining what fun it must be to be Captain Kirk and have buttons in the arms of your chair! Being in that console room made such a marked impression on me that I can't remember anything else about the exhibition at all, although a close friend of mine, some years later, built a Dalek and took it there to display.