Who’s That Guy?

Richard Who
Getting into character as the 4th Doctor back in August

It is an exciting time to be a Whovian, of that there can be no doubt.  The long-awaited anniversary special celebrating fifty years of Doctor Who will be a very special “occasion” bit of viewing.  I will no doubt smile ear to ear and recall my fuzzy early childhood memory of seeing a silver haired hero in a velvet smoking jacket and tweed cape as he dashed about fending off Earth’s alien foes.  Yes, my first Doctor Who memory involved Jon Pertwee, and to this day I have no idea what the story was.  It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, although there are no doubt some Whovians out there who’d be unable to rest until they’d tracked down and catalogued the random reminiscence.   I’m not sure how I will react to The Day of the Doctor to be honest; it will be uncharted territory in so many ways.  If my reaction to the recent ‘minisode’ Night of the Doctor is a measure, well the rest of the audience may delight in my jumping up and down, dancing an Irish jig and weeping and whooping in equal joyous glee.  Now, you might think that that was a slight over reaction to a mere eight minutes of video, but you had to understand the context.

When Doctor Who returned from its hiatus in 1996 with the feature length adventure starring Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann hopes for a proper regeneration were high.  Alas, it was not to be, and the good Doctor drifted off into the nether world of BBC books and smartly marketed spin-offs.  It was not until 1999 that the Time Lord was restored to the world in truly fabulous audio adventures from Big Finish Productions.  I luxuriated in hearing Messrs. McCoy, Davison and Baker  returning to their roles7th,  5th and 6th Doctors in The Sirens of Time, and tried to use my meagre salary to keep pace with their subsequent “new” adventures.  Well, if that was world shattering, it was nothing to the return of Paul McGann in a brand new series of audio adventures from Big Finish in 2001.  Those wizards of the written word and maestros of the mixing desk brought the Eighth Doctor to life, easily outdoing the combined might of the BBC, Fox and Universal who had resolutely failed to score a palpable hit.  I was pretty much roaming around on my own-some at that point, finding my feet in a new job and a new town, so I felt a strange kind of affinity with the mysterious and life-loving Eighth Doctor.  Those early “seasons” of Big Finish Doctor Who, starting with Storm Warning, were a magical experience for me, and I think the overwhelming image of Paul McGann back in the role and the rush of emotions I had felt around the time I listened to his audio incarnation just swept over me in a wholly unexpected way.

The only other occasion I can recall being so elated by something Doctor Who related was probably back in 1994 when a dear friend pointed out that my Doctor, Tom Baker, was appearing on stage at the Lyceum Theatre Sheffield in Arsenic and Old Lace.  I immediately booked a ticket to the show, plus a not inexpensive hotel room, and set to work on a very self-deprecating letter to my hero asking to meet him even for a mere five seconds at the stage door.  It was a well-received letter and elicited a brief reply on a business card I’d enclosed: “Stage Door, Friday night – TEN seconds.  Yours sincerely, T.B.”  I was walking on air for days after that, not a care in the world.  On the night in question I dressed in my finery, saw the fantastic stage show, and then made a dash for the stage door.  Imagine my horror upon seeing a crowd of at least two hundred Doctor Who fans waiting in a queue the length of the theatre, cameras and autograph books at the ready.  However, this was surely my moment?  I’d got the equivalent of a golden ticket in my pocket!  Taking a deep breath I pushed my way politely through the crowd of fans and knocked on the stage door.  I could hear a burble of disgruntled and puzzled fans asking “Who’s that guy?  How come he’s jumping the queue?” but I ignored the envious huddle and waited for the stage door manager to open the portal of destiny.  I handed over my card and explained about my letter, and upon reading Tom’s missive the kindly manager pointed to a sofa.  “Well, that’s pretty unorthodox isn’t it?  Take a seat; he’ll be down in a moment.” He said before returning to his desk by the door.  I sat there in a dream-like state until I heard that booming voice replying to an invitation to the pub from one of the cast, “Well, give me ten minutes to get clear and I’ll be right with you!”  As Tom descended the staircase ahead of me I strolled towards him, proffering my golden ticket.  I explained about the letter and my ten second allocation, and The Doctor stared down at me and grinned, “That was a very witty letter.”  Twenty minutes of conversation later, I left the theatre with a smile big enough to light up the whole of Sheffield.

Richard and The Doctor
Time Lord and very chuffed human at the Lyceum Theatre Sheffield in 1994

Happy Birthday Doctor Who, and thank you, thank you, thank you!


Who’s That Guy? By Richard A. Usher

Who’s That Guy? © 2013 Richard A. Usher


Media Creative: Voice Artist, performer, supporting artiste, writer, broadcaster and stage 'Goon'! Lover of comedy, film music and a pot of Darjeeling.

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