Across Time and Space

By Tony Cross

An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion with and introduction from Daniel Hardcastle

Friday, 8 October 2021

Read DAN NERDCUBED's introduction plus new SIGNED LEVEL

Hi everyone, we thought you might enjoy reading Dan's wonderful (and very funny) introduction to the book. Dan has also agreed to a joint signed book level with Tony. If you felt like sharing details of this project on your social media that would be ace.

Have a great weekend.

Best

Mathew (Across Time and Space editor)

INTRODUCTION TO ACROSS TIME AND SPACE

Doctor Who is my absolute favourite thing, which makes it a right bugger that it was originally cancelled the year I was born. Aside from an incredibly fuzzy, scanline-filled memory of a bloke in sunglasses riding a motorbike on the telly in 1996, and a whole bunch of Comic Relief sketches that referenced some big, shouty pepper pots, Doctor Who didn’t exist for me until a few days after my sixteenth birthday. There I sat, all zits and cynicism, and watched as shop dummies came to life, a man got eaten by a wheelie bin and an alien with a strong northern accent [1] fought a vat of slime before flying away in a phone box. There’s no other way to explain it: it was love at first sight.

The remaining twelve episodes of that series flew by. The Earth exploded, Charles Dickens ran away from ghosts, farting aliens took over Number 10, the Doctor’s war ended, a big slug controlled the news, winged monsters ruined a wedding, Victor Meldrew gave me nightmares for years and a lady got turned into an egg. Doctor Who very quickly established itself to me as a show with massive, rollicking ideas and, as the finale wrapped up with a million Daleks bursting into light in the background, Doctor Who pulled out its biggest idea yet. 

The Doctor died. 

Nowadays, regeneration is known about years in advance. You’ll have the poster of the new Doctor up on your wall while the old one still has a series to go. But back then, in that quiet, June evening, I had no idea regeneration was even a thing. I watched between my fingers, tears in my eyes, as Christopher Eccleston’s cheeky smile burned away, leaving behind a new man. Gone was my Doctor, and in his place was the wide-eyed face of… Richard Hammond! I almost kicked the telly in, until my dad explained that it was actually David Tennant, that bloke I really liked in Casanova earlier that year. I never was any good at faces.

That Christmas, I slightly sulkily watched this new man call himself the Doctor, until he got himself into a sword fight on a spaceship’s roof while wearing a dressing gown. That’s when it really sunk in for me. This was the same Doctor. The same two hearts beating blood through the same web of veins and arteries, into a brain of heroism and kindness. David Tennant was the Doctor. The second Doctor.

DAD: ‘Tenth Doctor.’

ME: ‘Huh?’

DAD: ‘He’s the tenth Doctor.’

ME: ‘You having another episode?’

DAD: ‘Grumpy, Silly, Karate, Scarf, Cricket, Smug, Sneaky, Snogs and Northern. This new fella is number ten.’

ME: ‘Snogs? Hang on, are you serious?’

DAD: ‘The show’s been running since I was a kid… where are you going?’

ME: ‘Mum! Get off the phone! I have to Ask Jeeves something!’

There’s nothing like Doctor Who in the world, possibly the universe, although I haven’t done that much polling to be honest. It’s almost mythic, a patchwork quilt handed down from writer to writer, actor to actor, for over half a century. It’s the story of a single person who looked up at the sparkling night sky, fell in love with a universe, and vowed to protect it. It’s about romance triumphing, evil faltering and, occasionally, shouty pepper pots. 

The summer after that first series aired, I fell down the Doctor Who rabbit hole, bouncing between slow-to-load fan sites, absorbing every scrap of information I could find. Worlds like ‘Gallifrey’, ‘Daleks’ and ‘TARDIS’ took up permanent residence in my head, with ‘Dalek’ going so far as to set up residence in my actual house. A full-size, khaki-green Dalek, specifically one of Winston Churchill’s Ironsides from the cracking Matt Smith episode ‘Victory of the Daleks’, lives in my hall and terrorises visitors with screams of ‘Exterminate!’. I’ll tell you what, the temptation to get inside it and ride it down the high street is mighty. I’ve abstained so far, but I’m going to break one of these days, I tell you, and woe betide whoever is working the fruit and veg stall on that day.

Right, I’ve blathered on enough – it’s time to hand you over to Tony Cross, a man who has done the impossible. Watching 852 episodes of a show is one impossible thing, but reviewing them all as well? Madness. Watching that much Doctor Who, as wonderful as it is, can utterly break a man. You see, when you watch TV, your brain will automatically try to organise it for later reference. That’s impossible with Doctor Who, a show that takes the idea of a canon, puts it into a box marked ‘Blinovitch Limitation Effect’ and gets its past self to punt-kick it into a black hole.

Doctor Who is a show where years at a time can stop mattering because the latest story needed them to, and that’s exactly why I love it. The only canon is that there isn’t one. It’s also the reason why so much of it is brilliant, and so much of it is awful. The very best episode of TV I ever saw was Doctor Who, as was the worst. It’s a show about experimentation, and sometimes experiments blow up in your face and singe your eyebrows off. [2] For the next eight hundred pages, Tony is going to tell you what he thought was top-tier, what he thought was dreadful, and whatever you can even think about episodes like ‘Love and Monsters’.[3] You never know, maybe Tony’s eyebrows are wildly out of control and in need of a good singeing? What works for one doesn’t always work for the other, but as long as an episode follows the two main rules of Doctor Who, it’ll probably be well regarded. It must be kind, and it must never, ever be boring. If Doctor Who keeps those rules to heart, it’ll last longer than the universe itself, and the universe will be all the better for having it.

Take care,

 

Daniel Hardcastle

Parts Unknown, UK

 

PS: If Tony hates ‘Victory of the Daleks’, I’m doubling my fee.

 

[1] I’m from the south of England, so anyone born north of the M25 basically spoke a different language.  

[2] Looking at you, ‘In the Forest of the Night’.

[3] I adore it, but then again I’m a sucker for both Marc Warren and ELO.

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Comments

Paul Henty
 Paul Henty says:

Only Dan could write an introduction that has footnotes

posted 8th October 2021

Jordie Reason
 Jordie Reason says:

Ahhh, the footnotes. They're basically a certificate of authenticity for Dan's writing.

posted 8th October 2021

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