Vague ramblings

Who shot the President

Posted in Life, Musing, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 21 November, 2013

I suspect that it says something about the nature of modern myth-making that over the past week or so it is not the assassination of JFK – the destruction of Camelot, the snuffing out of One Bright Shining Moment – that has dominated British airwaves, but the other 50th, the anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who.

I can’t remember not being a Who fan, but also wasn’t quite self-ware enough to remember the first airing of An Unearthly Child, so by the same token I do not know where I was when JFK was shot . Well, I do obviously: at home with Mum – I just don’t remember it. Dad was in Grosseto, Italy, being an international truck driver for Marconi (whose cameras were instrumental in making Doctor Who).

I do remember William Hartnell and certainly Patrick Troughton as The Doctor. Re-watching Web of Fear for the first time since I was 7 provided a delightful reminder of just how well Who, at its best, could scare the crap out of us. Our sofa, being against a wall, was impossible to hide behind. I think this toughened me up.

It is not especially surprising to see that JFK divides opinions – that is in the nature of politics and, of course, idiotic conspiracy theories keep the pot boiling.

But if you want to see truly viscous discourse where any pretence of civility is long dead, check out a science fiction forum. On the right is a link to The Doctor Who Forum, a place where civility is a requirement for continued existence and trolls are dispatched with glee. But it is the exception. Someone on TDWF coined the term ARSE, meaning “A Raging Sense of Entitlement”, to capture that outraged sense of ownership that SF fans seem uniquely endowed with: science fiction fandom is just brimful of ARSE, of people who seem to have forgotten how to go: “WHOA! That was just so fucking cool!” And Who, of course, is in the spotlight right now. Visit the Guardian blogs if you want to see this manifestation of mean spirit in action.

I’m not a very good geek – I was never into the novelisations, or even the audio adventures and am constantly amazed at people who can remember fine Whovian detail like it was yesterday. But I still know ARSE when I see it.

So, here’s the thing.

Tonight the Beeb broadcasts An Adventure in Space and Time, which I am pretty sure will be a love letter from Mark Gatiss to Doctor Who. With Brian Cox, David Bradley and Jessica Raine….

…sorry..

…mind wandered…

With Brian Cox, David Bradley and Jessica Raine *concentrate* looking disconcertingly like the people they portray, it will be a delight, I’m sure.

Then on Saturday comes the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who which will, I suspect, reaffirm the constant (save a brief straying during the 1980s) theme of the show  – a recurring message which lifts it above the ordinary and makes it last 50 years despite Michael Grade: that a small band, using ingenuity and boundless courage can overcome the most implacable of foes.

I wonder how, working in a post-War Britain where Churchill still lived, Sydney Newman and the rest could have absorbed that idea.

Dad was a Conservative, large “c” and small, but he misted up when recalling the slaying of JFK. I suspect that, far from home and family, he thought the world might be about to end.

Put aside the ARSE and enjoy the ride.

Right:

  • Hugely inappropriate shoe-horning of JFK into a Doctor Who blog: Check;
  • Juvenile drooling about Jessica Raine: Check
  • Peddling of own pet theory: Check.

My work here is done.

Geek out.

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