Black and white picture of the Tardis console. Around it and looking upwards, from left to right, are Ian, the first Doctor, Barbara, and Susan.

Adding to the Pile of Good Things: Classic Doctor Who

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” – Doctor Who

Since I start all of these ‘Adding to the Pile of Good Things’ posts with the above quote from Doctor Who, this is going to be the most Doctor Whoey post in the series, because today I am writing about the joy of watching classic Doctor Who.

I first encountered Doctor Who when I was in my mid-twenties and fell heavily in love with the tenth Doctor and Donna, which is still one of my favourite pairings. From there, I went back and watched from the beginning of the new series. Doctor Who, in short, quickly became one of my favourite television series ever.

I always intended to watch the classic series because I’m the sort of person who gets completely obsessed with a thing and wants to watch/read/listen to every single thing that’s ever appeared as part of it. And then I became ill and suddenly I had so much time to try to fill in order to stop myself from going mad with boredom that I didn’t know what to do with it all.

I started with the first Doctor. I have since learned, by listening to podcasts and reading blogs, that most people don’t do this, but just watch whatever’s available to them at the time. I always like to read or watch a thing from the beginning, though, and looking back I’m very glad I did this with classic Doctor Who. The first Doctor’s character arc is really interesting. In fact, I fell for the Tardis team of him, Barbara and Ian just as heavily as I did for Ten and Donna.

But the reason I’m enjoying classic Doctor Who so much isn’t only that it’s more of a thing I already love. For one thing, there’s a certain charm to television produced in the 1960s, with its miniscule sets, inability to stop filming or reshoot except when absolutely necessary, and of course the fact that it’s all in black and white.

Most of all, though, the slow pace of it is ideal for a chronically ill person who suffers from brain fog! Nothing moves too fast, so I always know what’s going on. There are far fewer cuts than in modern television, which gives me a chance to pick up on the details of the sets, as well as people’s actions. When something happens that’s important to the plot it’s given emphasis and sometimes even repeated, so I can easily follow the story. And the plots themselves tend to be relatively simple. There are still plenty of twists, complex characterisation, and cleverly told stories, but at their core, they’re simple.

You see, I really struggle to watch anything new at the moment. I do, if I really want to, but the best way I have of coping with the anxiety and the energy it takes is to read an episode summary first, so that I know exactly what’s going to happen – then take advantage of having a good day to actually watch the thing. Sometimes I can manage it, sometimes I can’t. So the really lovely thing about watching classic Doctor Who is that a lot of the things that make watching modern television such hard work aren’t there. I can just sit back and enjoy it.

May your pile of good things grow ever larger!

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