A post from my now-vanished Marvel blog concerning my history with Doctor Who.
I’m a big fan of the British series Doctor Who. The old show, the new show. I’ve been watching it since the very early ’80s, and so it’s been rather nice to see it come back and become as mainstream-successful as its become.
But I first encountered the character in this issue of MARVEL PREMIERE.
At the time, in the New York area, Doctor Who was running on Saturday mornings on WOR Channel 9 in syndication. A friend of mine was a great fan of the show, and would tell me about it–but because I did a paper route on Saturday’s, I was never around to see it for myself. (This was well before the time of DVRs, and a number of years before I purchased my first Betamax videotape recorder.)
So my first real encounter with the Doctor was behind this Walt Simonson cover. I assume it was probably a very cheap license for Marvel to pick up, as the stories contained in these four issues had originally been produced by Marvel UK for the British market. This was also probably my first exposure to the work of Dave Gibbons, whose caricature of actor Tom Baker captured his essence to a tee,
And to be honest, I didn’t entirely get it. The stories had the specific quirkiness of British science fiction to them, and they were interesting, but it didn’t all entirely add up. This is, I think, a deficit that many comic book adaptations of television properties have. So much of what makes Doctor Who work is the actors. The same thing, I find, is true of other properties, such as Star Trek and Buffy. The television episodes are limited by budget and filming issues, but have the benefit of performance, whereas the comics have an unlimited budget (yet often in these adaptations wind up having to visualize representations of cheap sets and cheap costumes) but can’t convey the subtleties and personality that a well-trained thespian can bring to life, wordlessly, or simply in tone and delivery.
Eventually, my family moved to Delaware, where the show ran on PBS stations either on Saturday afternoons or Friday late-nights. (You had to be a true fanatic to sit through a long Doctor Who story that would begin broadcast at midnight on Friday and run for the next three and a half hours, commercial-free—remember, this was the days before DVRs, etc.) And then everything fell into place, and I got it. And I gained a greater appreciation for these four MARVEL PREMIERE issues.
But a few years later, when Marvel began a regular ongoing Doctor Who series, I passed on it. It wasn’t the same somehow—just as there are elements of characters indigenous to comics that don’t translate well to live-action, so too the reverse can be true as well. And what I wanted was the real stuff.