The Doctor Who influenced my life, and saved a nation

This article was part-published in The Sun on August 23rd 2014

I remember hiding behind the sofa as a two-year-old in Glasgow in 1967. This kind of Dalek-dodging as toddlers is a shared childhood experience that binds the British together, and it’s funny to think that Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat were just a few miles away. Two years later I watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. Little wonder I ended up a sci-fi geek.

Other kids had footballing heroes, and I’m sure the signature tune of Match of the Day or Grandstand touched a nerve in them the way the Doctor Who theme did. But the Doctor has never lost a fight since 1963, and never disgraced the nation on the world stage.

The Americans have their superheroes, but you can keep Superman and Batman because they both lead double-lives. Doctor Who is an in-your-face sci-fi geek who never hides behind another persona because he’s a great British eccentric, and proud. It’s a hugely empowering message for any teenager: accept me as I am, with all my weirdness.

I read so much sci-fi at school I got the nickname Asimov, and at 15 I taught myself Astronomy O-Level. It was easy to mock the geek, but I had the last laugh because I was the comic genius who could mention the rings of Uranus in class without getting detention.

A generation of us fell a little out of love when Tom Baker passed the mantle to Peter Davison but, like all childhood passions, you never completely lose interest. Part of me died when the BBC pulled the plug in ’89.

In 1993 the whole country was in fever-pitch for the two-part Doctor Who EastEnders crossover in 3D. I was living with my Greek girlfriend, and when she didn’t get it I knew she’d never understand me, or this country. Her next boyfriend was a German. Possibly football was more her thing, but it lasted just months.

As I hit 40, the Doctor was back, and he meant business: a bigger budget, and ratings-busting Christmas specials. Now that I’m approaching 50, at long last it’s cool to be a geek and I’ve returned to writing sci-fi. I’ve just finished the second novel in the Doctor How series. It was great fun to photobomb Peter Capaldi on 7th August as he enter the British Film Institute for the London premiere of the new series. He even signed a copy of Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens.

Peter Capaldi Doctor Who and Doctor How

Doctor Who meets Doctor How – Peter Capaldi at BFI premiere

Scotland voted against Independence on September 18th 2014. It’s worth noting that Peter Capaldi is the second Scottish Doctor since 2005. The Santaran-like Alex Salmond remained strangely silent on that fact, and that Doctor Who is written and produced by a Scotsman. I think Doctor Who saved the United Kingdom. He’s our greatest British export: a world-class eccentric with a quick wit and an ingenious way to beat the bad guys.

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