I have been a fan of the famous BBC sci-fi series “Doctor Who” since the day it began, 23rd November 1963.
Students of history will recognise that as the day after President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.
As a ten year old I was not very much aware of the assassination and when I get asked the famous question “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?” , I usually reply with, “No! But I know where I was the NEXT day – hiding behind the sofa!
Actually, that isn’t true! I have subsequently watched the initial story again and while it is rather dark and mysterious there are no monsters or sudden shocks – the surprises didn’t really start until the second tale when the Daleks made their debut. THEY were so different and destructive that it is quite likely that younger and/or more nervous children did indeed feel the need to hide from them.
So, while I have jumped on the “behind the sofa” bandwagon, I can reveal that in reality I found it fascinating and wouldn’t have wanted to miss one minute, however scary!
Now I won’t say that I watched every episode since the first. There were, for example some of the later William Hartnell stories that I have seen listed but don’t recall at all and I have to say I wasn’t THAT bothered about Patrick Troughton’s incarnation as the Doctor either so probably missed some of those.
I am, however, sure that I didn’t miss very many from Jon Pertwee onwards. You have to bear in mind that until the 1980s when video recorders appeared there was no way you could catch up on an episode missed because of some pressing engagement, like getting married for example!
It was for THAT reason that I didn’t really know what was happening in the story where Mr Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker when my first wife and I watched it at our honeymoon hotel on the Isle of Wight in 1974 – I had been at my Wedding Reception when the previous episode had been aired the Saturday before! If only I’d stayed at home that day and watched it I’d have saved myself fifteen months of hell!
But let’s get away from that story and back to FICTIONAL monsters instead!
I’ve already mentioned the Daleks, the universe’s most malevolent pepper pots, which began as strange and frightening and over the years have changed to familiar and frightening. They obtained an extra level of power and menace in that wonderful scene in the 2005 series where Billie Piper uses the tried, tested and extremely simple expedient of escaping from one by going UP STAIRS. Only for the chasing Dalek to LEVITATE up the stairs behind her!
We’ve also experienced the evolution of the Cybermen from actors in extremely unrealistic cloth masks (the mouths of which could not be closed making them look like nothing less than alien sex dolls!) to clomping great armoured war machines intent on “upgrading” the people of the world.
I, however, have a soft spot for the less (until the last series anyway) well known Doctoral foes – the SONTARANS! Unlike the two previously mentioned species this warrior race hasn’t had anything like regular coverage in the series.
For the uninitiated the Sontarans are short, wear body armour, and look as one character says “Like a talking baked potato”. My personal description would be “A cross between Wayne Rooney and Wilfred from the Bash Street Kids”. Don’t take my word for it go to Google, type in “Sontaran” and choose “images”!
However you choose to describe them the prominent feature of any Sontaran is that:
1. He doesn’t have a neck.
2. He has a hole on the back of his head where a neck would be if he had one (see 1.).
This hole is what they feed through and is known as a “Probic vent”. It is their most vulnerable spot and they can be disabled or even killed by a blow to it.
At this point my regular readers will be asking “Where is he going with this and when will it turn into a real life anecdote?”
The answer is ……….NOW!
At Stansted Airport, nearly two weeks ago now (sigh!) Faith and I were queuing to board our aeroplane to Majorca. Immediately in front of me was a man, only slightly shorter than me but so wide that he appeared MUCH shorter. He had a haircut one step removed from completely shaven and HE DIDN’T HAVE A NECK! The thing that nearly had me laughing out loud was that on the back of his head where his neck would have been if he had one was a small circular patch on which no hair grew, probably a scar of some sort.
Now, what does that description sound like to you? Yes, me too!
Having seen the size of this guy’s arm muscles it was in a VERY, VERY quiet whisper that I told Faith,
“The man in front of me is a Sontaran!”
From then on, of course, she couldn’t stop staring at him either.
The REALLY terrible thing though, was this:
When we got on the ‘plane and took our places in window and centre seats respectively, GUESS WHO was sat next to Faith in the aisle seat? YES it was him!
He fell asleep on the flight with his head bent forward and resting on the back of the seat in front and we both had to spend two hours resisting the temptation to wallop that patch of bare skin with something hard while shouting Catherine Tate’s line from Doctor Who – “BACK – OF – THE – NECK!”