Saturday 22 August 1987

…Torrential downpour followed torrential downpour.
We went to Leicester where I bought three, yes three, Doctor Who books.
Got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam inside the Lee Circle car park.
I ate mince, peas and potatoes while watching Carry on at Your Convenience…

There’d been a run of Carry On films on Saturday nights throughout the summer. I’d seen Cruising, Cleo, Cowboy and Don’t Lose Your Head over the past few weeks; the season would end next Saturday with Screaming.

The pick of this bunch is definitely Convenience. Bizarrely this was the only Carry On film my parents ever saw at the cinema. Trust them to go and see what was, on its release, the biggest commercial flop of the whole franchise.

I’m surprised I was allowed to watch it 25 years ago, given there’s one scene where viewers are treated to the sound of Kenneth Williams getting a hard-on. Maybe my dad approved of the film’s anti-union sentiments. I can’t believe he approved of Sid James’ pro-union designs on Joan Sims.

I’ve always preferred the mid-to-late Carry Ons. I love the broader gags, the brassier tone, the technicolour malaise, the fact the cast have stopped trying to act and are simply being themselves, often sharing the same name as their character, but above all I love the desperate, bungled sentimentality.

The Carry Ons became truly great when they stopped believing in proving a point. They then became truly awful when they started trying to make one.

(Note: Here’s the Lee Circle car park in all its brutalist glory.)

Friday 21 August 1987

…Phillip Schofield has left Children’s BBC.
I AM GOING TO COMPLAIN.
And they have decided to screen Dr Who at the same time as Coronation Street.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE BBC?…

I was quite distraught about Schofield getting “sacked”, as Michael Grade implied during his cameo appearance between this afternoon’s programmes.

I was right to fear that Children’s BBC, or at least the Broom Cupboard, would never be as good again. There’d be a nice surprise awaiting me in a few weeks’ time when Going Live began. But I never warmed to Andy Crane, and I was right to be suspicious, given his subsequent defection to ITV.

There is more than a little mock outrage here at the BBC’s scheduling of Doctor Who. I hadn’t enjoyed the previous series, the grotesque 14-part ‘Trial of a Time Lord’. I was intrigued to see what the new series would be like, but would tune in more out of duty than love. And I was sufficiently detached from the programme to not mind having to watch it on the black-and-white set in the dining room, while my parents watched Coronation Street in colour in the lounge.

Saturday 2 May 1987

…My suffering has got worse.
My right ear has gone deaf and is making funny noises,
like it was three months ago.
I tried to watch some TV, but I did NOT watch It’s Wicked,
that stupid programme that has replaced Saturday Superstore.
I did, however, watch a Dr Who film afterwards…

I wonder which one it was. Seeing as how this would have been only the second edition of the execrable It’s Wicked, presumably it was the second of the two Who films, i.e. the one which ends with Dr Who’s granddaughter running off with David Cameron*.

It’s a shame there wasn’t a third, as Peter Cushing was and always will be the definitive “grandpa Who”. For a start, unlike William Hartnell, he could remember his lines. Unlike William Hartnell, he could act. And unlike William Hartnell, he didn’t need three weeks off to cope with the strain of shooting 10 minutes of location footage.

Sadly a big screen Who trilogy wasn’t to be, as the second film flopped**. A pity, though it did free up Cribbins for Jackanory.

This is what we want

*This is true. Read the novelisation of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. That’s his name.

**Why doesn’t the voiceover man in this trailer ever mention the word “Daleks”? An army of bloodless, fleshless metal monsters doesn’t command quite the same menace (though I’ll concede the idea of Ray Brooks being “the boy with the knack” is unsettling enough).

Saturday 4 April 1987

…Today I bought a book priced £14.95 about Doctor Who.
It’s called The Doctor Who File and contains all those facts that you never
even knew about.
But that was after Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds and
Saturday Superstore, whose special guest was Prince Edward to announce
the winner of the Superstore Superstar competition.
And the winner was a jazz band who were brilliant, great and
other wonderful things.
The Grand National today.
I don’t know exactly who won it but I heard something about the winner being a
17-1 outsider?!!!
Dad was meant to have some manure delivered today but it never arrived…

£14.95 feels like an awful lot today, let alone 25 years ago. Perhaps I had some birthday money left over.

You must remember, though, that back then Peter Haining’s book and others like it were pretty much the only way of finding out about Doctor Who’s history or discovering wildly important pieces of information like production codes and lists of every available Target novelisation. In fact by 1987 it was probably spin-offs like these that kept the show both in production and in the black, albeit not out of the doldrums.

I still have The Doctor Who File, but I haven’t flicked through its desperately glossy pages for over two decades. Which is about the same length of time since I watched an episode of 1980s-era Doctor Who out of choice rather than duty.

As for the band who were “brilliant, great and other wonderful things”, they were the still-brilliant Juvenile Jazz, seen here setting old Wogan’s early evening joint a-jumping. Not too sure about the clarinettist’s blatant mugging to camera, mind:

Saturday 20 September 1986

…The day that Whizzer and Chips comes out.
Went into town this morning to get it.
Mum and Dad went to a wedding reception so me and Becky had to go to Granny’s.
I watched Roland Rat, Doctor Who and tied string all round her garden…

The BBC Audience Research Bureau recorded a varied number of responses to Trial of a Time Lord, some positive, some negative. None, as far as I’m aware, involved the deliberate unspooling of string. This was one battle I was going to have to fight all by myself.

Saturday 6 September 1986

…Doctor Who started again this evening and so did Roland Rat…

I’m not very forthcoming about what I thought of these twin gargoyles adorning the portal of the new BBC1 Saturday night line-up. I do know that by the end of the autumn I was thoroughly disenchanted with both of them. As for the rest of the evening:

The smell of a Saturday night
This schedulegrab, a new word I’ve just invented and which I really rather like, shows how the self-annointed Superstar plus the good Doctor had to act as warm-up for the main event.

Having to play support to the likes of Noel and The Man Who Excels would be a tough gig at the best of times, but having to do so while making the worst of a good format (Roland Rat) never mind making the worst of a shit format (Dr Who) was an enterprise doomed for disaster.

Saying that, if they’d done Dr Who: Doomed For Disaster instead of Dr Who: The Trial of a Time Lord, I might have made it all the way through the 13 episodes on the promise of a genuinely exciting ending.

Thursday 26 June 1986

…Did silent reading, SMP and a bit of Ginn reading.
Did more on my Union Jack mosaic as well as finishing my puppet in Games time.
No music lesson because piano teacher had a hospital appointment for once…

Hurrah: the puppet was finally finished.

This was not the same puppet that had so spectacularly failed to entertain my peers the previous week.

Rather, this was the mangy marionette I had toiled over in many Art lessons during the past two months, and which I was allowed to take home with me on the last day of term (now only a week or so away).

I didn’t show it to anyone. Raw memories of my brief brush with public puppetry ensured this creation was taken straight into my bedroom and never saw light of day again.

It hung on the back of my door for about six years, before being usurped by my A-level Chemistry lab coat.

I threw it away shortly afterwards, thereby making it one of the few things from my childhood not to stubbornly survive the intervening years in order to be exhumed a clutch of decades later.

For some reason I was more keen on preserving the likes of this, which hails from 1984:

Steven Moffat's sketch of next year's Dr Who story arc