“How The Doctor Changed My Life”, Five Years Later
Time may be an illusion, but it’s a pretty persistent one:
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly. . . timey-wimey. . . stuff.”
— The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who, “Blink”
That’s as may be, but from my linear, subjective viewpoint, it’s been exactly five years ago today since one of the most significant events of my life.
Five years ago today, on 19 June 2007, the BBC’s official Doctor Who site announced the winners of a short story competition that I’d judged. The winning stories, all by first-time fiction writers, were later published by Big Finish as How the Doctor Changed My Life. [….] The book we produced is now sadly out of print — and commanding a small fortune second-hand. But I’m really proud of it, and the hard work the writers put into it.
— Simon Guerrier, How How the Doctor Changed My Life Changed My Life
I don’t really think it’s possible to overstate just how big an impact Doctor Who has had on my life. I’ve often described it as my favorite thing in the world. That might seem a bit — overenthusiastic for what is, after all, a science-fiction series for children. But to me, the show has always encompassed all the possibilities of fiction itself — it has a format that allows it to go anywhere, any time, and tell any kind of story. I love that it’s a story that, as Craig Ferguson so memorably phrased it, is about “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” I love that it approaches life and the universe and humanity with a genuine sense of love and wonder, but also with a complete refusal to take anything too seriously, least of all itself. It’s huge and sprawling and ambitious and silly and it’s absolutely wonderful.
The first Doctor Who story I ever saw was actually not even a real, official episode — it was The Wrath of Eukor, a fan-made film starring the late, great Barbara Benedetti as the Doctor. So I knew from the beginning that Doctor Who was not just something you had to sit back and passively watch — it was something you could make yourself.
So make it I did, from fan fiction to costumes and props to full-sized TARDIS and console props. (Which my mother would like me to get the hell out of her garage someday.) When I saw the announcement about the Big Finish short story competition, I knew I absolutely had to enter it.
Many, many thanks are still due to my friends Ahna Blake and Ceci who not only talked me out of my nervousness and twisted my arm until I entered, but who were my beta readers for my story, “Relativity,” and helped make it as good as it could be. I should take them out to tea sometime soon to celebrate this anniversary.
To sum up, I think I said it best in the post I wrote after I got to meet Simon at a convention:
I’m glad I was able to thank him in person for having selected my story — to tell him that being able to officially write something for Doctor Who was a life-long dream, and to thank him for helping make it come true. No matter what else ever happens in my writing career, I will always treasure that little bit of immortality — getting to carve my initials on a story that started before I was born and will continue long after I’m gone.