Is there anyone else out there? Or am I the only living being in the entire galaxy who’s been left totally unmoved by the current outbreak of Dr Who-steria?
It’s a good thing I never became a judge.
Counsel for the defence: “Your honour, my client has a cast-iron alibi – he can prove he was at home watching Dr Who at the precise time that the offence was committed.”
Judge Lustig: “Dr Who?”
Counsel: “That’s right, m’Lud.”
Judge Lustig: “Mr Carruthers, I asked you a question. Kindly answer it – Dr Who?”
Counsel: “Indeed, m’Lud.”
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the good Time Lord (or is it Time Lords? I’ve never been able to work out if he's the only one left, or whether there's still a whole sub-species of time-travelling, age-defying humanoids, endlessly renewing themselves at the whim of drama commissioners and actors’ agents).
It’s just that I don’t get it (him). Or science fiction in general, come to that. I can admire the special effects – even though I’m probably the only person on earth who enjoys the wit of the scripts more than the whizz-bangs. But how can anyone enjoy all that sci-fi hokum more than, say, Borgen?
(Yes, Borgen is in Danish. Yet I swear I understand more of it than I do of the time-bending, sense-denying gobbledegook of Dr Who. Perhaps sub-titles would help?)
My misfortune, not the doctor’s, I readily admit. He’s well able to continue his chaotic journey through the time-space continuum without me. Unto infinity – and beyond. Which would, of course, be a scientific impossibility for anyone other than a Time Lord. Maybe it’s a boy thing: do any women become adoring fans (apart from those who develop an unhealthy crush on Matt Smith, David Tennant or whoever)?
So I’m puzzled. What exactly is the attraction? Perhaps my lack of understanding is because as a child, I was brought up in a TV-less home – my parents believed that children should read books instead of staring at cathode ray television screens – so I never learnt the joy of hiding behind the sofa, scared out of my wits.
And my own children grew up in that sad, grey era known as the 1990s, during which the Doctor was absent from TV, so I even missed him second time round. Our home, you could say, has always been a Dr Who-less zone.
Mind you, growing up as a TV-deprived child did teach me a lesson that has served me exceptionally well in my adult life. Playground conversations at school invariably revolved around whatever had been on television the previous evening, so I had to develop a talent for talking knowledgably about things I had no knowledge of. You cannot imagine how useful that was when I became a radio news presenter.
But back to Dr Who. I delight in his success and popularity, which generates huge bundles of cash for the BBC, which it can then use to make programmes that otherwise it couldn’t afford. The same is true of Top Gear, which raises the intriguing question of how much more cash could be generated if Jeremy Clarkson were to be cast as the next incarnation of the Doctor. Not such a bad idea, in fact …
I’ve come to the conclusion that television is a habit best acquired at a tender age – a bit like brushing your teeth or changing your socks. Unlike most people, if I find myself at a loose end of an evening (not a frequent occurrence, alas), I rarely switch on the telebox. With so many newspapers and magazines unread, why would I?
Yes, of course, I do watch sometimes. And now that, for the first time in decades, I am sometimes at home in the evenings, I have come to enjoy such delights as (whisper) Great British Bake-Off and University Challenge. (And if my family tell you that I love Strictly Come Dancing, you mustn’t believe them. Really, you mustn’t. Even though it’s true.)
But I’ve never watched X Factor. Or I’m A Celebrity. Or any of the other programmes that exist only to humiliate people or make fools of them.
David Attenborough, yes, of course. And anything written by Armando Iannucci. Or starring Judi Dench. Downton Abbey? Well, maybe occasionally. And Homeland, and just about anything in Danish or Swedish on BBC4. And yes, I will probably watch the special Dr Who 50th anniversary show – just to see what all the fuss is about, you understand.
By the way, the first of my reports from Peru and Mexico are due to be broadcast next Wednesday and Thursday on The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4.