For me, I can trace the original infection back to my brother, in the mid-eighties. He must have seen a few of the classic episodes at college and one summer he convinced me to start watching with him The local PBS station was showing back-to-back episodes of the old series, stringing whole story lines together at one sitting. We stayed up until our eyes were bleary and our brains swimming with alien plots and hokey monsters. I think late night viewings are the best, when the mind’s defenses are down and almost anything seems believable at that hour.
We started with Peter Davidson, a fine jolly chap of a Doctor, both caring and aloof, and were stunned when he transformed into the even more distant but clownish Colin Baker. Wit and charm emerged again when Sylvester McCoy took the reins and we fell in love again. But what’s this? No more episodes? No problem for PBS — they simply started over at the beginning. There followed several long nights of wading through ancient and dusty episodes, where the Doctor and his Tardis creaked and wheezed like the old things that they were. Although my memories of those episodes are quite distant and all but forgotten, I do remember we made it full circle and saw everything there was to see.
Fast forward many years, while the infection lay dormant, when I discovered they had resurrected the series, with a new Doctor, a new producer and a new look and feel. (Sort of.) When I convinced the Wife to watch one with me, it had all the campy, weird and quirky elements of the old series, but there was something magical about it all coming together again, like a creature thought dead and now lumbering back to life. A few episodes in and we were both hooked, and we got the kids hooked as well. Maybe this infection was a genetic disorder?
The fascination with the Doctor spread to our friends, on our recommendation, and soon involved their kids as well. Soon I was hearing about friends and friends of friends that have caught the bug and are full-fledged Whovians now. How many people have been infected with this thing because of me?
Now it seems to be an epidemic, alongside American’s continuing fascination with British culture and television. Doctor Who parties, conventions, loads of squeaming fan sites. It’s everywhere. Just today, getting my hair cut, the stylist was wearing a shirt with the Tardis on it. When I pointed it out, she said she loved the show, but was a little behind in watching the episodes. I asked her how far along she was (is that a personal question?) and I discovered she hadn’t even met Matt Smith’s Doctor yet. You poor dear. You’ve no idea what’s in store for you.
Where will it all end? Somehow I don’t think we’ll unite global culture with a quirky kids show, but it’s nice to run into people now and then who understand this fascination with a madman in a blue box.