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7 May 2018

Terror Of The Time Team!

In the absence of any new news from Cardiff, the big talking point this past week has been the reveal of Doctor Who Magazine's all-new Time Team lineup. Traditionally, the Time Team - a feature launched in 1999 - has consisted of a group of four fans working their way through the entirety of Doctor Who, in chronological order, giving commentary, opinions, and observations as they go - usually accompanied by sublime illustration by Adrian Salmon. Now, however, it’s all-change, and a brand new group of twelve bold adventurers, who’ll be ruminating on a selection box of stories each month, was revealed in Issue 525 on Thursday the 3rd of May.

This may not sound like a big deal to the casual observer, but such was the interest in this unveiling that the phrase ‘Time Team’ was trending on Twitter - it appeared that everyone had something to say about this shiny new team. The responses could be broadly sorted into three main categories - celebration, apoplectic fury, and people who were confused that the news wasn’t to do with Tony Robinson and archeology.  


Most of the complaints seemed to stem from the fact that none of the new team are over the age of twenty-six, and that some of them are *gasp* only familiar with the post-2005 modern series of Doctor Who. Some people clearly felt that the magazine was betraying its loyal older readership by ‘dumbing down’ and presenting a selection of young ’n’ trendy social media types who wouldn’t know a Garm from a Gastropod. The sense of entitlement - the outrage that these whippersnappers could be permitted to pass comment on OUR holy texts - was fascinating to witness. And, at times, a little disturbing. 


There were also complaints from some quarters about the fresh team being diverse in race and gender - presumably from the same sorts of people who refuse point-blank to watch a female Doctor, get their knickers in a twist about racially diverse actors appearing in historical adventures, and think that accusing someone of being concerned with social justice is somehow an insult… You know the type - those who are convinced that even the vaguest mention of anyone who’s not a straight white cisgendered male is some sort of ‘box-ticking’ PC conspiracy. We shan’t concern ourselves with this monstrous minority any further - let’s just leave them screaming impotently into the void.


I have to confess to some brief, initial agreement with those who voiced concerns. And, as someone who was born in the year of City of Death, I’m naturally confused by, suspicious of, and a little bit scared by YouTubers and social media ‘influencers’…  The few that I’ve been exposed to in the past seemed to share identikit ‘upbeat’ personalities and unnatural uniform beauty, weaponised by ruthless commercial acumen. ‘YouTuber hair’ is definitely a thing. I quickly realised, of course, that this distrust is merely a product of my own advancing years and a failure on my part to embrace and comprehend new forms of expression. (But I still reckon that someone ought to write a Doctor Who episode where YouTubers turn out to be Autons - have that for free if you’re reading this Chris…) 


However, having done some light research on the debuting dozen, I’m pleased to report that any foolish fears have been allayed. They appear to be a delightful bunch of bright young things, many of whom have more than demonstrated phenomenal creative talents in various other projects and arenas. And of COURSE they are - they were selected and put together by Benjamin Cook, a shining stalwart of our beloved periodical since he was but a tadpole himself, and proof, if it were needed, that it’s perfectly possible to be simultaneously a YouTube sensation AND wield expertise on the life-cycle of a Vervoid. Plus I’m already familiar with, and a fan of, the work of two of our intrepid archeologists - the fabulous Fan Show presenter Christel Dee, and the smouldering Big Finish performer Jacob Dudman. We’re in safe hands. (If you’re reading this Jacob - I love you.) 


Yes - they could have plumped for greater variance in age, but isn’t it actually rather fun and exciting that they haven’t…? We’ve all heard a hundred opinions on The Claws of Axos from the old guard who can recite the production codes backwards. The fact that some of this new gang of bright-eyed beauties have never even seen a single episode of ‘classic’ Who means that we’re going to get real fresh and untainted responses to the material. In a way, this modern approach is more akin to the phenomenally successful ‘Class 4G’ articles put together by Gary Gillatt in the nineties, than the classic Time Team's who were often clearly just faking that it was their first time. I know it seems unthinkable to some that Doctor Who fans could possibly be trendy young people who don’t own even a single anorak, but to me it’s thrilling and heartwarming to see the sacred flame being passed on to the next generation of space oddities. I’d encourage anyone who’s worried by this development to do their best to put aside their concerns, embrace the future, and enjoy the ride. Sure, these youngsters may spout the occasional odd opinion - such as classic show cliffhangers being ‘cheap tricks’, or describing the Brigadier as a ‘babe’ - but surely we’ve all held odd opinions at some time or another…? (I took me until my thirties to truly appreciate the utter glory that is Time And The Rani. “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want!”) Different perspectives are what makes this interesting.


Isn’t it extraordinary that the lineup change of a humble magazine feature has sparked such passionate discourse…? But, ultimately, the only way is forward. Doctor Who is for everyone - everyone who ever caught a glimpse of the magic blue box and had it imprinted forever on their hearts. To jealously guard our fantastical treasures and deem others who are perhaps less well-versed in the scripture as somehow ‘unworthy’ of studying them is the antithesis of everything that blue box represents. If the magazine, and the show, are to survive for future generations to enjoy, we literally HAVE to welcome fresher faces to the party - none of us are immortal! I wish the Time Team of 2018 the very best on their new adventure. Enjoy! 


However, I’m FURIOUS about the new article not being accompanied by an Adrian Salmon illustration. Doctor Who Magazine is dead to me!

Richard Unwin

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