Tuesday, July 1, 2014
It was 1980 and I was in my pre-teens. School had ended and summer vacation had come along and, after the frenzy of freedom from Junior High classes had worn off, the hot days settled into a laid back and lazy routine. My brother, sister and myself were what we would call in these politically correct days “latch key kids”. Mom would leave for work early in the mornings and, being the oldest at 13, I was in charge.
Back in that decade we did not have a plethora of entertainment to choose from like we do today. There wasn’t Facebook, laptops or smart phones. We relied heavily upon adolescent imagination and creativity to pass the time.
Television viewing then would have been considered abysmal by today’s on demand standards. We had three TV stations; two networks and PBS. Soap operas and preschool programming were the order of most days and these shows had little hold on our young minds.
But, one bored afternoon, something life altering and amazing happened. While manually giving the control knob (what is a remote control?) a turn on the old console Zennith, an action hero with a mangled bush of curly brown hair and a long flowing multi colored scarf materialized across the screen on our Public Broadcast Station. I was instantly mesmerized by this British accented, sonic screwdriver wielding super hero as he fought off aliens who threatened planet Earth. I had discovered Tom Baker’s version of the alien Timelord known as Dr. Who.
I will save the history lesson of the show for another blog post, but, for those who have never discovered it I will give a brief description as described from Wikipedia: Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television program produced by the BBC. The program depicts the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord—a time-travelling humanoid alien. He explores the universe in his TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Along with a succession of companions, the Doctor faces a variety of foes while working to save civilizations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs.
The program was high brow, action filled fun catering to my every nerdish whimsical passion. Upon arriving at school following that first Whovian summer, I had a whole new repertoire of discussion with my nerdy friends. The cool kids had no clue what we were talking about and it was almost as if us “smart kids” were part of a secret society as we carried on about Daleks and Trans dimensions at the lunch room table. It was more than just a show… it was a concept.
Today, with its later generations of doctors and expanded budget for special effects the show has burst into the main stream here in the United States. Dr. Who has become cool. But, to all of us nerds of the eighties the rest of the world is just catching up on what we always knew.