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Rant and Ravey: A Guide To The BBC's Big Galaxy
by Colin Ravey

Heroes
Doctor Who Video Cover After last time's bile-ridden attack on the poor old hapless BBC, it's time to get sycophantic with a salutation of two of my current sanctified saints. There'll be plenty more spleen venting next episode, with an examination of homosexuality and Doctor Who, in which I'll be calling homophobes bigots and likening queer-bashers to Daleks. All good fun then...

Within the next few columns I'll also be opening up the topic of discussion beyond Doctor Who alone, as there's a whole BBC SF universe out there waiting to be explored.

But for now...

When the last new episode of Doctor Who, as a continual series, was aired on the BBC, it seemed entirely possible that that would be the end of that. But although the show had woken up to the harsh realities of effects-expectations and a hostile BBC management, the fans kept dreaming. Some of these dreams made it into print. Echoes of the show's last whimper bounced around, created echoes and reverberations.

Manimal. Blake's Seven. A.L.F. Cagney and Lacey. Fawlty Towers. Some shows just die, they are remembered, revered, dismissed, forgotten, and if they're lucky/unlucky (delete as applicable) remade or rehashed, but basically, they've died.

Well, since Virgin publishing took up the flame a short while after the show's demise, there has not been one month since Doctor Who stopped airing that the Doctor's adventures haven't continued in professionally published prose form. That flame, judged suddenly more lucrative and warming with the 1996 TV Movie, has now passed to BBC books. Novels had been produced before, based on televised adventures, but these were new, original, Good god, they were certainly that. They were called, whilst Virgin held the rights, "Doctor Who -- The New Adventures.".

Some authors considered the series' concepts, ideals and characters deserved to live some more, to breathe some more. And some authors, like Mark Gatiss and Russell T Davies, not only shared fans' faith in Who's potential, but produced works which could stand alone as proof of that potential.

As a student in my late teens, I produced as a piece of English course-work, an article such as this, discussing some aspect of the show and/or its cultural effect. I was told by the teacher that for its target audience, Doctor Who enthusiasts, it should be written in a simpler fashion. Lots of mention of Daleks. Short words.

I always intended to have a novel entered into the canon of original books produced after the show. This was not an ambition encouraged by my peers. This was not a series of books approved of by my contemporaries, noted by my betters or respected by my teachers. I was to find more talent, more originality, if I sought elsewhere -- this was the implicit message from all bar the one friend I persuaded to actually read a Virgin title. I gave up on my pitch.

You would imagine that I would feel bitter if some of these New Adventure authors had gone on to starry success. Not at all, and I'll tell you why...

Doctor Who Video Cover A show called League of Gentleman has just finished its run on the BBC's second channel. A show called Queer as Folk has just begun its run on the independent UK "Channel Four." The former is an extremely black comedy set around a strange and gruesome Northern town, Royston Vasey, and is a show which comfortably exudes genius. The latter is a slick and compelling, no-holds-barred drama concerning the love-lives and otherwise of three gay men.

I am so glad that I'm not the only person I know who thinks that these shows are the best to hit UK TV in a long time.

The former is written by, along with two others, Mark Gatiss. The latter is written by Russell T Davies.

As an advert that you may or may not have seen for beer says, "Like The Murphys, I'm Not Bitter."

Because Doctor Who was, and is, worth keeping alive. We're not all dullards, us fans, for thinking this way. I'm not a dullard for thinking this way. I have my role models now. I recognised talented writing back then, in the New Adventures. I'm vindicated -- I've quashed the false charge of following a character I like through any swamps of medium or mediocrity. Also, success in the Doctor Who field mustn't automatically mean that a) No-one will touch your work outside of Who or b)You're work isn't good enough to stand up alone outside Who. Hurrah! I knew that was wrong all along, of course!  But we all have our darkest moments and doubts, where everyone else's opinion can dull even the most fervent flame of ambition. I'm starting that synopsis and pitch to BBC books today.

Gatiss' and Davies' respective series have both made fleeting reference to Who, and no-one has told them to grow up. No one's sneered. I've always felt that liking Doctor Who was akin to a symptom of a mental defection. I've always maintained otherwise, but been told that I must have a lazy, strangely crippled brain, limping through life. How nice to see such pink and perky brains dancing and sparkling, Who-references and all, across our screens. I claim no reflected glow or talent, there's plenty of talentless Who fans, and I could be one, but thank you kind sirs all the same.

As a peculiar aside, I live in Glossop, near Manchester. My favourite club is in the friendly and hedonistic Manchester Gay Village. The League of Gentleman was filmed in Hadfield, my neighboring town, and around the Glossop area, including my old school. Queer as Folk was filmed in the aforementioned hedonistic and friendly Manchester Gay Village.

Echoes of the show's last whimper bounce around, create echoes and reverberations. And coincidences.

It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to dust it.

Copyright © 1999 by Colin Ravey

Colin Ravey is a twenty two year old Internet journalist, born and bred in Glossop, Derbyshire. Nope, people in the UK haven't heard of it either -- head for Coronation Street, and take a left into the countryside. He isn't half as jingoistic as he sounds, and welcomes your comments.

Interested in reading more of Colin's commentary? You can find it in his other SF Site columns, Rant and Ravey.


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