Friday, July 2, 2010

My Felt Darlek

This is my felt Darlek. I captured him under the lid of my scanner so he looks a bit squashed. He has also picked up specks of dust and and other useless flecks of minutiae which have stuck to his felt skin over the years. A friend made him for me twelve years ago for a Christmas present. In those days, Doctor Who had not reinvented itself. I used to read second hand Doctor Who books written in the 1960s and watch videos (how vintage) of John Pertwee being challenged by wobbly Darleks on even wobblier sets which looked like they were being filmed in the same studio room as Playschool. When I was a kid growing up I thought Darleks were equally scary and fascinating. I decided that if one ever came near me, I would play dead. I did this in dreams when they were chasing me in random, dark caves. I wondered why other characters didn't just play dead. Shut their eyes and lie still. Could the Darleks smell life I wondered?

One of the things which made Doctor Who particularly macabre as a child was its very amateurism in terms of the use of cheap materials such as rubber (and possibly felt?) which made up the monster costumes. I can't be sure if I was more scared of the rubber and the hauntingly inadequate sound fx and 'trick photography' - the idea of people behind the set putting all their energies into trying to make something scary from limited resources - or the notion of the obdurate Darlek itself. They aren't just relentlessly deadly, they're also sociopathic and their disassociated tone of voice and absent eyes reinforces this, so you don't know where you are with them. Anyhow, I was a big fan as a child. I particularly liked the once yearly episodes when all the doctors got together and had one big adventure, sometimes on a boat.

I tried to watch the Christopher Eccleston ones, but I thought he was too macho, trendy and young for a Doctor Who. Then I tried to watch the David Tennant ones, but he was too hammy, irritating and young to be a Doctor Who (I couldn't bear to look at his frantically fidgety eyes). And now Matt Smith, well he's got the Doctor Who kooky-clever thing going on but, he's definitely too young, I think. So why do I assume that Doctor Whos have to be old? Well it could just be that now I am quite old and I remember watching it when I was quite young, I can't face the idea that Doctor Who is not older than me. However, I think it's more to do with the fact that part of Doctor Who's charm was the fact that he came across as a wise, pastoral and unquestionably a-sexual man, or lord. His assistants may have been attractive but that was for the benefit of the viewers, not the Doctor, who surely had better things to think about. When Billie Piper kissed David Tennant in Doctor Who that time, they stamped on the graves of all the Doctor Whos who had come before and I had to stop watching. It lost some of the necessary naivety of its premise.

But I'm considering watching again because I think Matt Smith is bringing some of the old Doctor to life, assuming they renew him for the 2011 season. He may not have maturity on his side, but what is maturity to a Time lord? His unusual looks will hopefully stop him from becoming a major sex symbol. His slightly fey mannerisms and believable intellectual yet distracted quality can be comparable to some of the earlier Doctors, such as Tom Baker. His bow tie doesn't go amiss either. Perhaps, Tim Wonnacott could do the job; his knowledge of antiquities would come in useful for the time travel. But I wonder why Doctor Who chooses to dress in 20th or 21st century attire, not medieval or stone age or Regency? I need to browse second hand sci fi book shops and try and find the first book to see if it provides his birth date. I'm not sure I have the time though. I need to whistle a tardis.

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