I admit it. I didn’t learn to tie my shoes until I was seven and didn’t ride a bike until I was nine or ten. I didn’t date much as a teenager and boys scared me until I was well into my twenties. (Psst…some of them still scare me, and for exactly the same reasons.) Point is, I always was a late bloomer, and so too it was with becoming a serious fan of anything.
Sure, I was fan enough of bands like Love & Rockets, Depeche Mode, the Cure and Barenaked Ladies to see them all once or twice in concert. I liked South Park enough in grad school to look forward to hanging out at a friend’s so we could watch it while we kibitzed and sewed. I enjoyed Babylon 5 enough to watch it all on DVD just because the man I would later marry asked me to. There were other minor obsessions and interests along the way, but I didn’t learn to become a rabid, screaming, squealing fan girl of anything until I was 34 and married.
Enter the re-launch of the much-loved but much-maligned British children’s series Doctor Who.
Now, I’d heard of the series before. I had friends in college who adored the classic series. I’d even watched a few episodes with them. In 1990, it was on late Saturday nights on the Detroit PBS affiliate, WTVS. We’d watch Doctor Who after a heady line-up of Twin Peaks, Star Trek: the Next Generation, and a couple episodes of Red Dwarf. (We were uptight, geeky college freshmen; the fact that we were spending our Saturday nights entirely sober, parked in front of a 14-inch TV didn’t disappoint or faze us one little bit.) Not being much of a night owl, by midnight, I was barely awake and had a hard time following the plot. To add to it, continuity didn’t seem to concern WTVS. There might be 30 minutes of a Fourth Doctor story followed by 30 minutes of the Seventh Doctor. Try as I might, I couldn’t see how this show was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe I just wasn’t awake enough.
The night I woke up to see an alien whose body was clearly comprised of a shower curtain and a beach ball, I wrote the series off and fell back asleep- literally and metaphorically. Despite this, my friends liked me enough to continue to speak to me for the remainder of our college years.
My husband Michka, who I met years after college, is also a fan of the classic series. His collection of Doctor Who VHS tapes took up an entire rack and half the wall in the living room of our first house. I watched the first part of the Talons of Weng-Chiang at his request the year we were engaged, but I still couldn’t get into it. He loved me anyway. Then came the new series. The production values were better, the pace was quicker, and I was intrigued if not hooked the first time I watched Rose.
One weekend in August 2006, Michka went away to the Wizard World comic book convention in Chicago. I decided to have my own little new Who marathon and watched the last several episodes of Series 1 on my own. At the time, I worked for a small historic house museum. We were swamped that summer. The small paid staff was working six days a week because we had at least two bus groups booked nearly every weekend from June to October. We were also understaffed because a former staff member had recently left for a new position. It was the first full weekend I’d had off since she’d left. In short, I needed a little relaxation.
I wanted to escape, but not from the comfort of my own home, so Doctor Who it was. I was hooked that weekend. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next. I had to know, so I watched one episode after another. I held my breath as Nine regenerated into Ten. And then…and then… and then I turned into a squealing 34-year old teenager. Who was that gorgeous man with the big brown eyes and brilliant smile? I had to know. I had to have more.
I searched the house. I even went in to the room where my husband stored his fandom. Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Blake’s Seven books, toys and miniatures, Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games, Legos, long boxes full of comic book titles you’ve never even heard of…you name it, it was in there. But no more new Doctor Who? There had to be more.
Just as I was considering whether I was desperate enough to call my husband to find out where the hidden cache was, he called me. We exchanged pleasantries. He told me about all the things he’d done at the con and the fun he had with his friends. To hear him tell it, the rest of the conversation went like this:
“Yeah, yeah. That’s nice dear. Where’s more Doctor Who?”
“Well, there’s one more episode, but the disc won’t play on our DVD player. It might work on the computer.”
“Fantastic. I’ll watch it on the computer. Where’s the disc?”
He told me, I said thanks and the call ended soon after. He says he cracked up and immediately shared the story with his Doctor Who-loving friends that were with him. He still likes to tell that story.
I immediately found the disc and proceeded to watch The Christmas Invasion at least four times (on the computer) over the rest of the weekend. In fact, I was watching it when he got home from the con.
Over the next two years, my admiration reached such heights that we booked our trip to England based on when we could get tickets to see David Tennant as Hamlet. I joined the RSC as a member to book tickets earlier than most of the rest of the world. A year before our trip, I landed four tickets for October 12, 2008 in Row H of the Courtyard Theatre – 2 tickets for Michka and I and 2 as a belated wedding gift for our friends Dave & Dani. They’re friends from back home who lived in Bristol at the time. It seemed like they drove us all over England. Treating them to Hamlet was the least we could do.
Michka and Dani wanted to see a world-class production of their favorite Shakespeare play. I wanted to see David Tennant live in anything. Dave went along because, good man that he is, he does whatever makes his wife happy.
Row H, fabulous Row H – smack in in the middle of the main floor, right in front of the stalls. I uncharacteristically, unapologetically claimed the best seat for myself. I had a view right down the center aisle to the stage. Soon after intermission, someone obstructed that view. The lights were down, the show was underway and along came some guy with a duffel bag. I was annoyed. “How’d he get in? Who let in the clod with the duffel bag?” I thought. The next thing I knew, the clod with the duffel bag was on stage. He was Hamlet. David Tennant, the man himself, had just been less than a foot away from me, and I found out later he’d almost tripped on Dave’s foot sticking out in the aisle. It’s really hard to squee silently sometimes.
Before Hamlet, before we even decided to go on holiday in England at all, we had of course watched the finale story arc to series 3 of new Who. I liked Professor Yana in Utopia. I was crushed when he turned bad. It was my first introduction to the Master. How dare he bring the Toclafane into the present and enslave humanity! How dare he defile and hurt my beloved Tenth Doctor. How dare he die instead of regenerating to work alongside Ten to better redeem himself! Evil, selfish bastard. I hated the Master so much I literally hissed whenever he came on screen each time I watched those episodes.
John Simm, on the other hand, I thought was kind of interesting and nice to look at, so I rented a couple other things he was in that I found on Netflix. Twenty-four Hour Party People was good. I loved the music, liked the story. It was interesting to learn the story of some of the bands I listened to back in the day.
Human Traffic was the other movie Netflix had available. Without reading any reviews, I found it to be like a glossier, shallower, version of Trainspotting, one of my favorite movies of all time.
Jip and his friends kind of bugged the crap out of me. I’d never been anything close to a club kid. Sure, I liked to go out dancing, but as for drink, give me a glass of wine, and if I manage to drink it in under an hour, I will probably fall asleep soon after. I have no idea what ecstasy would do to me. Send me to a party, and I’ll be in the kitchen with the other neurotic introverts as soon as I can. That was me in my 20s and it still is. (Hey, sometimes I like staring at my shoes and mumbling awkwardly.) I couldn’t identify with having a meaningless job I hated. I’ve still thought my job was meaningful, even when I’ve hated it. I couldn’t relate and I stopped looking for productions John Simm was part of. That was in mid-2007.
Enter the fall of 2010. I was 38 now I worked for a different company in a completely different field. I’d just started a new job within that company. I’d spent the previous year in social services – no place for a reserved introvert who hates confrontation, but that’s a different story. The new job supporting Fund Development was a much better fit and it showed. (Besides, I am one of those sick people who actually enjoys grant-writing.) I had a sense of humor again. I smiled more. I looked people in the eye. I was fun to be around. My husband said I was easier to live with. I was open to possibilities and creativity again. In short, I was more myself than I’d been in at least a year. It was good to be me.
In the midst of all this, I’d started watching Doc Martin on DVD. The first disc on the fourth series included a trailer for Life on Mars. I don’t remember seeing this trailer. I must have been out of the room. That’s the only excuse I have. How else would I not want to race out and at least get the song the series is named for? Michka, however, watched it every time we watched an episode of Doc Martin. It intrigued him enough he picked up both series on DVD one weekend. I thought I’d be kind and watch at least the first episode or two with him.
HA! Little did we know what my husband had brought into the house. Before the end of the first episode, I was completely hooked. I was on the edge of my seat. My heart pounded in anticipation. I was so into it, I had to remind myself to breathe, and that was even before I realized I was in love with Sam Tyler. I came to that little realization sometime during the second episode. How could you not fall in love with all that brooding intensity, confusion, vulnerability, and strength that’s all wrapped up in the talented, sexy, OMG he’s-so-beautiful, sizzling-hotness-on- a- stick packaging that is John Simm playing Sam Tyler(…or the Master…or Cal McCaffrey…or…Well, you get the picture).
We watched one episode a night until we’d finished both series – 16 nights of possibly the best television ever. I told anyone who would listen to me they should watch Life on Mars, and I meant it. On a normal day, I don’t do anything like that. I’m quiet and reserved.
I watched a few episodes of the U.S. remake and was appalled. Abomination! How could they do that to the best thing since, I don’t know – driving like a madman with a sandwich stuffed in your mouth? That blonde wasn’t Annie Cartwright. That withered old man driving the streets of New York wasn’t Gene Hunt by a long shot, and that tall, beefy guy most definitely was not my beloved Sam Tyler. I didn’t want to see his Playstation scores.
Michka, bless him, puts up with all of this in stride. I don’t even try to hide my delight anymore when John Simm walks onto the screen. My pulse quickens, a big, dreamy grin cracks my face and I’ve only got eyes for him. If I ever have the fortune to see him live on stage, I am so completely sunk.
I am ashamed to say I am no longer capable of hissing at the Master. If the Tenth Doctor can find it in his hearts to forgive him, well then, so can I. Besides, he may be evil incarnate, but he looks so scrumptious in that black suit. Even diabolically insane Hoodie Master has his moments. What’s a girl to do?
So, here I am, nearly 39 going on 14, with John Simm as the Master on my desktop, writing fanfics about Sam Tyler, tossing paper into a waste bin that makes TARDIS sounds and wondering who and what I’ll be crazy about next (and when), and loving every minute of it.
PS If John Simm and David Tennant ever want to sit in front of me and just read the phone book out loud, I am so there. Where do I buy my ticket?