Doctor Who Am I [Documentary] – Review
By Sarah Morgan
For almost 60 years, Doctor Who has been enthralling fans around the world.
For more than 40 of those, I’ve been one of them. I first became obsessed with the Time Lord’s adventures when I saw Tom Baker step out of the Tardis in the 1970s, but my relationship with the programme hasn’t always been an enthusiastic one, and the same can be said of Matthew Jacobs, the writer at the centre of the documentary Doctor Who Am I.
Like Jacobs, I have spent years avoiding fans, albeit for different reasons. I can’t really fully explain why, but I find the kind of ultra-obsessive fandom displayed by some Whovians slightly disturbing; you feel as if you can’t criticise the show (and it’s had its ups and downs over the years) without having some kind of fatwa placed on you.
Jacobs, meanwhile, wrote the 1996 TV movie, which was meant to act as a pilot for a US TV series. Unfortunately, it went down like a lead balloon at the time by those who felt he’d strayed too far from the original show’s origins – he gave the Doctor, played by Paul McGann, his first-ever screen kiss, which horrified many. You could argue that he was ahead of his time, however, because these days, the Doc seems willing to snog just about anybody.
“Re-sparked my passion”
I am, I’m afraid, one of those naysayers. Around the turn of the millennium, I was due to interview McGann and, having fallen out with Who during the Colin Baker years, hadn’t seen the movie. As research, I borrowed the video (yes, it was that long ago) from a friend and thought it was terrible. But it inspired me go back and watch the episodes I’d enjoyed as a child, as well as many other adventures I’d never seen before, and re-sparked my passion for the classic series.
Jacobs avoided fans because he was worried about their reaction to his work. But, 25 years on from the movie’s broadcast, he was finally persuaded to attend Doctor Who conventions in America, where he was greeted warmly by hundreds of people seemingly happy to simply be around someone associated with their favourite character.
What’s more, at one event, Jacobs had the opportunity to speak about his father, character actor Anthony Jacobs, who played Doc Holliday in the William Hartnell story ‘The Gunfighters’; Jacobs had been onset for filming as part of his birthday celebrations, a rare happy moment in a childhood which seems to have been beset by tragedy – his mother committed suicide when he was very young, and his father suffered bouts of depression.
“Eccentric family of fans”
His subsequent talk seems to have been a cathartic experience, allowing him to confront these issues.
We get to witness that in this rather moving documentary, which also sees Jacobs discuss his concerns about meeting those who may feel critical about his work with some of the stars of the movie, including McGann and Eric Roberts, who played the Master. Both of them encourage him to embrace the opportunity rather than shy away from it.
Although initially sceptical, Jacobs eventually does so. He starts out reluctant to engage and slightly wary of the cosplayers desperate to impress. However, he’s eventually won over by the warmth of people genuinely pleased to see him, who reveal the impact Doctor Who has had on their lives, helping them through various personal problems.
Jacobs realises that being brought into this odd, eccentric family of fans is doing something similar for him too, providing a heartwarming end to an enthralling 80 minutes.
Has it changed my mind about Whovian fandom? Not quite, but perhaps it’s time to reassess the movie…
‘Doctor Who Am I’ will be in UK Cinemas from 27th October and will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from 28th November