Golden Who Celebrations in Four Trips
Thirty years ago I remember anticipating the Doctor Who twentieth anniversary special. I’m just old enough. It was an event. For the fiftieth anniversary they promised it would “take over TV” and I guess it did, but I was keen to celebrate the anniversary to make it just as memorable with four Who-related trips out.
It’s was announced that for the week leading up to the fiftieth anniversary that the TARDIS would be doing a tour of Wales, “materialising” overnight at 8 different towns and cities, starting with Holyhead – the @rsehole of Britain, as everything passes through it – and then going on to Llandudno the day after. Sadly this missed out my beloved Bangor. I surely would have made the effort and gone back for that, just to take a picture, as its presence on Bangor high street would surely have looked much more picturesque; especially in the early morning quiet as the street-cleaning machine brushes up against it to hoover up the detritus from the revelling students who stumbled home from the Octagon the night before, taking in the KFC on the way. Ah memories.
- 15 November
First trip out, in a Who-related way, and I got a ticket to go see David Tennant doing his Shakespeare, live, in a wig. I say live, but he was a hundred miles away and beamed into the cinema. It was very good though, the tragedie of King Richard the second, but if you don’t want to know the result, then look away now: Richard II – Henry IV. Look at that a football-themed Shakespeare joke. You’ll have to trust me, though, it is funny.
- 17 November
Who-related trip number 2, to Manchester, to see the BAFTA Award-winning Waris Hussein – who directed the very first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 – as part of a two-week Manchester festival Who At Fifty.
I queued up outside the FAB Café, with my youth and my flaxen blonde hair, and I eyed up the others: mostly old, mostly greying, mostly balding, and mostly bulging. It was like a horrific vision of what I could become. Once inside the demographic got a little wider and I grabbed a front row seat two meters away from the action. He’s a very warm guy, Waris, certainly not showing his age, and his most enlightening note was in describing his opening gambit, when he met Doctor Who’s producer Verity Lambert in 1963, as: “What the hell are we supposed to do with this shit?”
- 19 November
They’ve started erecting Christmas sheds in the square outside my Costa Coffee which gives it a festive lively feel. The first one up has turned out to be a sausage bandstand: for all your sausage needs. Unfortunately I have no requirements for sausage.
Who-related trip out number 3, to Manchester again, and I missed out on their Christmas markets and instead, whilst killing time hanging out on the streets of student Manchester, I went to the Spar shop and found them selling the largest bottle of Smirnoff vodka I’ve ever seen. Seventy-seven pounds. I asked the tattooed girl if they sold many. She admitted that they didn’t.
I was there to see the classic film This Sporting Life (1963) projected in a trendy city-centre pub, as part of the festivities, off a fifty year-old 16 mm film print. This was the acting role that got William Hartnell the job of a lifetime, but surely watching black and white cinema in a trendy pub must go some way to making me a hipster. I must buy a new hat. Running for the last bus home afterwards I discovered, to my horror, that there aren’t any dark alleyways in Manchester City Centre anymore and I ended up having to relieve myself in a likely spot, fully-illuminated, looking up and down, member in hand, wondering from which end I was about to flash someone should they pass by. I imagine being witnessed shaking “it” could have be construed as a provocative act too. I think this must damage my new hipster credentials somewhat. I’ll burn my new hat.
- 23 November
The Day of the Doctor is finally upon us. And despite it being on TV, for free, it was also being beamed live to cinemas. Although what fool pays to go and see TV at the cinema I do not know?
Who-related trip out number 4. Despite being a curmudgeonly loner, I thought I’d chance my arm for the experience and go and watch it live at the cinema. I imagined it might be me on my own, as what fool… yeah, you get the point. However, when I bought my ticket (6 hours after they went on sale) it turned out Vue had already sold tickets for two-thirds of the room. Since then they’ve SOLD OUT both their satellite-linked screens and put on THREE encore screenings. It looks like there was a party going on and I was invited.
As I queued to get in I again weighed up the demographic: there was the young, there was the very old, and then there was me hitting the average and seemingly towering a foot and half over all of them.
I spent the next ten minutes smiling at hipster girls wearing fezzes, and bow ties. I felt that, today of all days, in that time and place, I was entitled. Although more accurately it was smartly-dressed hipster girls in fezzes, and bow ties, and short skirts, and I think that might be where the problem comes in.
I couldn’t help but grin like a loon at one, as I passed her on the way into the screen, however I don’t think she felt the love as I heard myself referred to as: “…something-something, even a guy in a trench coat, something-something…” I kept on walking and didn’t look back.
Ironically it was the hipster girls, about four rows directly behind me, that I was paying for. They gasped in (almost) all the right places, and they screamed in (almost) all the right places, and that crowd experience was what I was hoping for.
I was touched at the youth of today. The finally tally was one girl in retro seventies 3D glasses, one guy with a fez, four girls dressed in bow ties, and the two moody hipster girls dressed smartly in fezzes, bow ties, and short skirts. It’s a winning look.
So that’s the celebrations over for another fifty years and the Guinness Book of World Records have been quick to recognise the party on the 23rd as the World’s largest-ever simulcast of a TV drama.
1916 saw the greatest stunt of Charlie Chaplin’s life when he “performed” over eight-hundred appearances across America, simultaneously, as recorded by the Boston Society for Psychical Research.
They described it as: “An extraordinary psychopathological phenomenon that obsessed the country from Atlantic to Pacific, and from the Canadian boundary to the Gulf, on November 12th.”
But knocking that into a coked hat the next print un of the Guinness Book of World Records will record that Doctor Who simultaneously appeared in 94 countries, in fifteen different languages, and screened in 1,500 cinemas throughout the globe. It was certainly some celebrations.