Search Out Space

So what now? The magnitude of last night’s milestone only really sunk in today. When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. I am only 30. I spent my morning working my way through the DVD extras for Survival, and it was a surprisingly emotional experience. You got the sense that the main players were genuinely upset when it got cancelled, and it’s a crying shame that they never got the chance to finish what they’d started.

Of course, if the events of 1989 were any different, then we wouldn’t have had the triumph of 2005, or at least not in the same way. So the next stage of my trip through Doctor Who history is to retrace the journey that leads from the old show to the new one. After a brief wallow, I cracked open the massive spreadsheet, and made sure I had as comprehensive a watch-list as possible. I kind of want the gap to last as long as possible, to reflect the long wait that fans experienced at the time, so here are the ground rules.

From this point on, I’ll be consuming everything that fits these criteria:

  1. Regardless of the medium, a video-based format, so not the New Adventures or Big Finish. I’d absolutely love to, but it would be too mammoth a task.
  2. Fictional, or at least containing a fictional element. I’m not arsed about canon, as that way madness lies, but basically not a bunch of documentaries, and not Confidential when the time comes.
  3. Made by or for the BBC. It’s too complicated to try and classify all the semi-licensed fan projects, plus I can’t be arsed with that Australian K-9 series later down the line.

I may make some exceptions for things I really want to see, but for now the first stop on leg two of the journey is a very special episode of Search Out Science, a BBC schools programme from 1990. Since we last saw him, The Doctor has become a game show host, floating around in space on a small plastic disc. This is not the “work to do” I had in mind. Ace is his glamorous assistant, and K-9 is also back for some reason, along with an alien called Cedric, who I assume is a regular in the series.

What was lovely about this was that the makers of this obscure little show were clearly fans of Doctor Who, and they were really having fun with the idea. What wasn’t lovely was virtually everything else, but hey, their heart was in the right place and it was harmless enough. It could have easily been straight-forward and by the numbers, but there was some real effort put in. The Doctor may have been confined to bluescreen – at one stage projected against the same arctic stock footage as used in Red Dwarf‘s Marooned – but Ace and K-9 were getting up to all sorts.

The highlight was an utterly ludicrous shot of Ace sitting inside one of the Jodrell Bank telescope dishes, and the stuff of her with the mirrors was cool too. Meanwhile, K-9 alternated between drifting hopelessly through space, and matching up different colours of Smarties to different types of star. Cedric was a bit irritating, as was the constantly-repeated game show music sting. I was initially amused and delighted to hear the K-9 & Company theme tune, but now I’ve realised that it’ll be stuck in my head for days again.

It concluded with a twist ending, in which The Doctor magically transformed the final question of the quiz into an ice cream. That was a bit bizarre – I assumed they were going to run through the answers and recap the facts or some shit, you know, so that it had some actual educational value. The whole thing slightly outstayed its welcome, but hey, it could have been a worse start to this section of the project. Tomorrow’s viewing is going to be terrible.

RATING: 5

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