BY PAUL FERRY
I’ve always wanted to be the Doctor, ever since I was a small child and Tom Baker’s fascinating Fourth Doctor dominated my Saturday teatimes. I mean, who wouldn’t? The Doctor is the ultimate hero – brave, caring, resourceful and although there are sometimes difficult decisions to be made, the end result is always to make the universe a better place to live.
When I was 11 years old, I dressed as the Doctor for a school costume party in a Fourth Doctor outfit that my mother made for me. She made the coat from scratch and knitted the scarf. Sure, it wasn’t 100% accurate, but it was close enough for me. For one night in 1981, I was the Doctor. At least, that’s how it felt. If I could have got away with it, I think I would have worn that outfit for the rest of my life (though it might be a bit snug now).
About 9 years later, I got to be the Doctor again – this time in his Sixth incarnation – in a video spoof of the then-topical Doctor Who stage play called The Penultimate Adventure. It was a crazy, over-the-top version of the Doctor in a multicoloured curly wig and a patchwork coat, made (once more made by my Mam) out of bits of curtains and other garish material. It was all very silly, but I was happy to be the Doctor once again.
Many years passed without my being the Doctor and Doctor Who on TV faded away, but I remained a firm fan. I joined Timebase Productions, making our own Doctor Who videos to fill the void. I played a gangster and a Sontaran, but generally concentrated more on writing. For a ‘Come as the Doctor’ party, I cobbled together a costume from my Dad’s old woollen de-mob coat and an old waistcoat. It was a lot of fun and the idea of doing a multi-Doctor story began to be circulated. I was starting to get the taste again.
Things happened and Timebase in its original form went, came back, went again, came back again and then vanished altogether. I was almost the Doctor in an ambitious amateur film called Hollow Dark, but that never happened for various reasons. But the costume I put together did get an outing in a multi-fan-Doctor spoof that Jon Blum filmed at Gallifrey One 2014 called The Pub with No Doors. It was my first real time as the Doctor and my performance is rather giddy!
All things going well, in the year or so I’ll get to give my first proper performance as the Doctor, a mere 37 years since my costume party debut. By that time, the Doctor on TV – the real Doctor – will be played by Jodie Whittaker. Now here, by a characteristically circuitous route, we reach the point of me writing this article. In Memory Failure, the new Timebase production, the Doctor will be a stocky middle-aged bloke, because he’ll be played by me and I am a stocky middle-aged bloke. But this should be in no way taken as any kind of sleight against the casting of a female Doctor on television.
The last thing I want is for anyone out there to think that we’re some kind of twattish Last Jedi Remake style outfit, who’re trying to make a point about the way the Doctor should be cast. The fact that the Doctor in our production is an older male has nothing to do with anything other than me fulfilling my lifelong ambition to be the Doctor and it is the magnificent performances of the actors who have played the part on television that fostered that ambition. I can honestly say that there isn’t one of the official Doctors (including Peter Cushing) that I haven’t liked – and I see no reason why Jodie Whittaker should buck that trend.
Female Doctors have been successful in fan videos for many years, from Barbara Benedetti to Krystal Moore, and why should the official series be any different. From what I’ve seen of her (which isn’t a lot at time of writing), I think that Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor will be as much of an inspiration to me as Tom Baker was back when I was a nipper. And I expect that today’s nippers will feel exactly the same. Why shouldn’t my hero be a woman? My upbringing was full of strong female figures, from my mother to my grandmothers to a positive legion of elderly aunts! My maternal grandmother might have been 70 when I was born and confined to a wheelchair, but she lived a life I couldn’t dream of and had the wisdom of any 900-year old Time Lord. She was a true inspiration – and so will be the Thirteenth Doctor.
He’s always been my hero, the Doctor, and she always will be.
Oh, and in case you’ve been living under a rock and missed it, here’s her latest trailer: