diamond geezer

 Monday, November 17, 2003

An A-Z of Who (a-e)

A is for Assistants: The good Doctor has had many assistants over the years, mostly nubile young women with the ability to scream loudly. There's been his granddaughter, a Blue Peter presenter, Joe Sugden, Rosa Di Marco, my best mate's cousin and even Violet-Elizabeth Bott. Assistants need to have everything explained to them slowly in words of one syllable, which helps all of us watching at home work to follow the more twisted technical details of the plot. They also have a tendency to wander off and get lost halfway through episode one and get captured by some hairy-chested local, who later turns out to be really friendly and saves the day in episode four.

B is for Brigadier: Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart first appeared alongside the second Doctor as a mere colonel, battling abominable snowmen in the London Underground. He later took charge of UNIT (see Friday), and accompanied the third Doctor on most of his most of his adventures exiled on Earth during the early 1970s. It's odd, but I don't remember any killer daffodils, evil shop-window dummies, giant maggots or hungry dinosaurs blighting my suburban life while I was growing up, but apparently the Brig saw them all off. Actor Nicholas Courtenay rose no higher than private during his real-life army career, but is the only person to have appeared on screen alongside all seven Doctors.

C is for Cliffhanger: Every Doctor Who episode always ends with a thrilling and gripping cliffhanger. Either the Doctor or his assistant (or both) are suddenly thrust into some hideous death-related situation - a furry hand suddenly appears, a firing squad takes aim or even, on one notable occasion in 1987, the Doctor ends up literally hanging from a cliff. Cue scream, cue pained close-up, cue theme tune. How will they ever escape? But of course they always do, often in a really unsatisfactory way involving a sonic screwdriver, a feeble distraction or a hidden trap door. Maybe the best cliffhanger in the history of Doctor Who was the sudden appearance of a sink plunger back in December 1963. Whatever could it be making young Barbara scream so loud...?

D is for Dalek: Easily the scariest and best of all the Dr Who monsters, these evil pepperpots spread across the universe from home planet Skaro bringing terror, death and domination to all. Just so long as there weren't any stairs in the way. The Daleks were the creation of either Davros or Terry Nation, depending on whether you live in the real world or not. They first appeared in the second ever Doctor Who story, helping the fledgling series to make a big impact on the teatime audience, and they've never gone away since. First-class monsters, only finally licked when the Royal Mail stuck them on some commemorative stamps a few years ago.

E is for Earth: There are millions of planets in the Universe, and yet the Doctor seems to spend most of his time on just one. He's been on hand to repel countless alien invasions, numerous human attempts to destroy the planet and the odd ripple effect threatening the existence of the entire universe. Lucky us. Most of these potential catastrophes have happened in the UK, which takes up less than ΒΌ% of the land mass of this small blue-green planet, so goodness knows why our house insurance isn't higher.

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