It is really sad that I am now old enough to talk in terms of things that happened twenty five years ago. I was about 5 years old and Britain was in the grip of Thatcherism. The football team were terrible and Michael Foot was making secret plans for Britain to join the Warsaw pact. Times were hard for a 5 year old with ginger hair and a black school coat growing up in an era when duracell commercials ran on TV round the clock and gave bullies the great idea of associating me with the batteries slogan about “The copper coloured top.” School was awful as we had a 2 foot tall four hundred year old Italian woman teaching us who could barely speak English and loved to smack us around with her mini ruler. All in all it was pretty bloody miserable.
The one bright spot in my life was sitting down in front of the TV each week to catch the latest installment of my favourite show “Doctor Who.” As you can imagine it came as quite a surprise when my Dad announced suddenly that I was going to miss a day of school so that I could go to London and meet the “Doctor” in person. I assumed that the Doctor had come to Earth specifically to meet me and it wasn’t until about 5 years later that I put the pieces together and realised that it wasn’t real. My Dad worked in PR for the Post Office and the powers that be decided to have a letter writing competition for kids. To launch the campaign they would take a picture of a youngster delivering mail to the Timelord and my Dad savvy as he was managed to land that role for me.
It was always exciting to go to London but to meet my favourite TV star was something else. The event was held at Hendon Police college where the Met train most of their bobbies. The reason they chose Hendon was because there were actual Police boxes there which could easily pass for a TARDIS as far as most people were concerned. I on the other hand wasn’t deceived. The real TARDIS was bigger on the inside than the outside and furthermore it didn’t have any windows whereas this police box had two. I tried to explain this to Nigel Fitt a fellow from my Dads work who accompanied me for the day. He was one of those kind of guys who had a deep voice, curly dark hair, wore gold chains and smoked Cuban cigars. He wasn’t a kid kind of guy and seemed to think that a wink and a pat on the head would make everything OK. Not ruddy likely. I was insistent that the “TARDIS” was not the actual Time travelling machine from the television show. The poor old postman was probably wondering how he got roped into this gig with a whiny kid when the star of the moment arrived. To most people he was known as actor Peter Davison. As far as I was concerned he was “Doctor Who.” Initially I was a little annoyed with him when he also tried to claim that the cheap replica police box was his actual time machine but after a while I accepted his story about disguising it from people. The cameraman eventually told us to get into position and pose for our publicity shots. I remember that it was really hard to focus because hundreds of trainee policemen started to gather around us. Their instructor was angrily ordering them back into class but they were obviously Who fans and massed around the TimeLord trying to get into the snaps. Anyone who didn’t know what was going on could have been forgiven for thinking that they had stumbled across a “Z cars” convention as the young coppers in their smart new blue Met issue sweaters gathered around.
Once we had taken the snapshots the Doctor asked us if we wanted a ride back to the Post Office HQ where my Dad worked. Naturally we agreed as it’s not every day that you get chauffeured around by an alien/TV actor (depending on your point of view). His car was amazing. It had all kinds of digital displays and gadgets in it and it was blue ! OK that sounds pretty lame now but in 1982 any car with cushy seats and a radio was pretty flashy. For me it was a nice change to ride around in a car other than my Dads beaten up old brown Ford Cortina. You’ve heard of people leaving a trail of exhaust fumes as they jet off on vacation well never mind the fumes our family would leave the actual exhaust pipe behind when we left town. That old car was a piece of junk but this car was something else. It was the nearest thing to KIT on Knight Rider I had ever encountered and it seemed to travel at supersonic speed through the grizzly streets of London. Sadly though it was time to say goodbye and the good Doctor left myself and my companions outside Post office HQ in London.
That was the last time I ever saw him but even worse it was the last time anyone would see that car. The following day cricketer Ian Botham borrowed it to use in a charity car race. Botham evidently wasn’t the greatest of drivers and he smashed it up. I was furious when I heard about the crash on the news and I never watched a game of cricket again in protest. In fairness I was on the lookout for a reason to avoid Britains dullest tradition anyway but I still can’t look at Botham without thinking about how he destroyed the Doctors car. The sad thing is that my Mum who was a grown adult at the time also holds a grudge against Botham but then again she is the same person who claimed that Roman soldiers lived in our kitchen !
Good Doctor Who Interviews
Ray Brooks Interview http://www.bestbritishtv.com/?p=294
Victor Pemberton Interview http://www.bestbritishtv.com/?p=151