Ten years ago today, my dad and I sat down in front of the telly box with our hearts pounding and our palms sweating, waiting for something.
(I think Mum and my sister were probably there, because it was Easter Saturday, but Dad and I are the hard core Who fans and I have no clear memory of how Mum and sis felt at that point. Probably bemused by us.)
We were nervous. Ever so slightly terrified. Still half in disbelief that it was really happening. We'd been fooled so many times before with rumours of returns, with the movie that never went anywhere. Ever since we'd seen the announcement, we'd half expected it to get torn away from us while someone laughed hysterically at the idea that we'd actually trusted it would happen.
And lurking constantly was that other worry: what if it...wasn't good? What if our love for Doctor Who was tarnished by a terrible reboot? What if we had one awful series and it died forever, never to be brought back again?
Dad has been watching since the first episode. I've been watching since I was old enough to hold my head towards a TV. We're those fans, the ones who have consumed as much Doctor Who as possible and can spend hours debating Gallifreyan history and arguing over who is the best companion (Donna and Ace jointly, obvs, all other opinions are Wrong no matter what my dad says).
So that day was a huge one for us. We waited for Graham Norton's programme to end. We held our breaths. We exchanged nervous glances as the scene in Hendricks opened.
And then the Doctor said "Run!" and we let out a relieved sigh. The opening theme played and it was orchestral instead of electronic, but we loved it anyway. We watched until the final "boom" at the end of the closing credits played and we immediately discussed it all over supper.
(Mum learned very fast that supper had to be timed around Doctor Who. It was okay, she turned into almost as much of a fan as us.)
I wrote my first squeeing review
and crossed my fingers that the ratings would be good.
Season one went on. Christopher Eccleston's departure was announced, immediately followed by David Tennat's appointment. Dad and I squeed because this meant season two was going to happen. A Dalek made us cry. A little boy asking for his mummy made us jump out of ours skins. A young woman saying goodbye to the father who had died when she was a baby made us cry again. An episode that seemed to be simply a parody about reality TV turned into something much bigger and darker with a massive Dalek fleet and a speech by the Doctor that made my heart pound.
The final episode of season one aired on June 18th. That's my dad's birthday. During the week before, my mum called me to ask whether 6.30pm would be okay to book a table at our favourite restaurant for his birthday.
"Um, can you make it 7.30pm? It's the last Doctor Who," I said.
A sigh down the phoneline. "That's exactly what your father said when I asked him earlier."
The table was booked for 7.30pm.
The whole family sat down to watch "The Parting of Ways". Dad and I had practised extreme spoiler avoidance all week. We knew nothing. Not one thing. We hadn't watched the trailers. We'd turned off the radio if they mentioned Doctor Who. I stayed away from every community and mailing list. It was a little easier in 2005, with social media not such a huge part of our lives, but it still wasn't easy. We knew that, at some stage in the future, the Doctor would regenerate, but we'd assumed it was going to happen in the Christmas special (a Christmas special!!) or maybe at the beginning of the next series.
We watched the Doctor rescue Rose. We watched Captain Jack heroically lead the resistance, kissing the Doctor and Rose on the lips (to my utter delight - m/m kiss on my telly box!) as he left. We watched Rose absorb the time vortex and scatter Bad Wolf.
"Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I."
It happened. The regeneration. We got a glimpse of Ten and then the credits closed, and all four of us (Dad, Mum, sis home for the birthday, me) stared at the screen in open-mouthed shock for a good two minutes at least.
Of course, then we had to hurry to walk down the road to the restaurant for that important table booking. But all the way there, we talked about the episode. About the season. About that regeneration. Even my sister, who had never been a Doctor Who fan before but today owns all the box-sets and makes sure she's watched every new episode before the weekly family Skype. We couldn't stop talking about it.
If you'd told me then that ten years later, I'd still have Doctor Who on my telly box and we'd be on Doctor number twelve (or thirteen, or fourteen, depending on how you number them), I probably wouldn't have believed you. I would have wanted to believe, but it would have seemed too incredible.
But here we are, ten years later, and Doctor Who is still going. We've got Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman filming as I type, getting ready for a new series that will probably start some time in August.
I'm one of those Doctor Who fans who will never stop watching, no matter what happens. So are the rest of my family. We may dislike some episodes (Dad's rant after the space dragon episode last year was amazing) but we're still here, flying away with the Doctor in the TARDIS. It's a show that keeps evolving and changing, so if we're not entirely happy right now, we know that we just have to wait a year or two and something new will happen that we might like better. The important thing is that we have it. We have the Doctor in our lives and on our screens again.
So, Happy Birthday, Doctor Who! My wonderful show that has just turned fifty and now gets to turn ten, which seems completely appropriate for a show about a Time Lord. May you have many, many, many more confusing birthdays.