How I Became A Co-Host on Earth Station Who (Hint: i love doctor who and talk a lot)

If you haven’t yet listened to my first guest appearance on the Earth Station One podcast go do it now. It’s really good and I am outstanding. I could listen to me for hours.

Well, maybe not outstanding. We were talking about The Walking Dead and I called Andrea Laurie at one point. And when discussing “Keeper of Traken” I referred to Cassia as Karissa or something. There were a couple of parts where I was reading off of notes and sounded like I was reading off of notes – I’ll never do that again. But overall I was pretty great, especially considering this was only the second podcast I’ve ever participated in and that it was with a bunch of guys who – while cool and knowledgeable – are basically complete strangers.

The first podcast I did was a couple of years ago for MC4TR. It was a pre-WrestleMania thing and came off fairly well. Gnoll – the proprietor of MC4TR – is an old friend of mine and we already had a pretty good chemistry so it was easy to fill a couple of hours with wrestling talk. I even busted out my Dusty Rhodes impersonation despite the fact that I wasn’t drunk. I think anybody who has ever watched wrestling has a drunken Dusty Rhodes impersonation, and they’re all uniformly terrible.

I’ve been told all my life that I should be on the radio. I feel that I have all the tools to utilize my voice in some way. I am comfortable speaking, I have a fairly good vocabulary (though not as good as I think), and I have a nice voice. I’m also a darn good storyteller. If you enjoy reading any of the stuff I write, you should really hear the experience live and in person. It’s far more entertaining.

Years ago I considered pursuing a career in radio. I have a cousin that works in radio and my mom felt like he could help me out. I’m pretty sure he recognized that I was not ruthless enough to make it in any sort of entertainment industry and I don’t deal well with rejection and have a crippling fear of failure, so it all worked out for the best when we spoke once and never again.

So if you’ve read any of my stuff here you are well aware that I have a lifelong passion for Doctor Who. I’ve detailed my obsession many times and I’m sure I’ll do it in varying fashions many more, but here’s the basic deal:

My first exposure to Doctor Who was “The Five Doctors” back in 1983. It was right around Thanksgiving and we were up in North Carolina visiting relatives. I believe we were at my aunt and uncle’s house, but I’m not positive. I was seven years old and there weren’t really any other kids there, so I went to the back bedroom when I got sick of the relatives. This was probably fairly early on, because I don’t have much tolerance for relatives anyway. I’m just as likely to duck into another room to watch Doctor Who now as I was then.

So I went back, turned on the TV, sat on the bed, and watched some kind of crazy show. There were all of these guys with funny accents, some robots, a big scary tower, some pretty ladies, and an old-timey yellow car. I had no idea what the heck was going on, but I liked it a lot. I’ve seen “The Five Doctors” so many times now that I honestly can’t remember which portions of it truly stuck with me and which ones I just know by heart from repeated viewings, but the one thing I know for sure made an impression was the third Doctor’s encounter with the Raston Warrior Robot. Or, more accurately, the Cybermen’s encounter with it. I didn’t know who the old guy with the fancy jacket was, I didn’t know who the silver robot men that looked scarier than Darth Vader were. I just knew that the sleek, silver robot that was shaped like a person and that kept disappearing and reappearing and absolutely murdering all the other robots was scary as heck.

Side Note: As a pre-emptive toy wish, I really, really hope Underground Toys does some “The Five Doctors” box sets next year for the fiftieth anniversary of the series and the thirtieth anniversary of the twentieth anniversary special (huh?). They can be pricey – I don’t care. But I want one with the Doctors in a classic TARDIS control room playset, one with the companions in one of the death trap rooms, and one with the villains in the Tomb of Rassilon. Among the villains would have to be the Raston Robot. Naturally this would be followed by a single-carded release with all of its weapons. And maybe even another box set with the robot, the third Doctor, (companion), and a Cyberman with a Raston war javelin (or whatever) sticking out of its chest. I’d buy it all.

So the memory of that special stuck with me for a while. I’m not sure I even knew what it was called, because I know I didn’t see the beginning. I think I remember trying to look it up in the TV guide or asking my aunt what it was.

I don’t remember exactly when I saw Doctor Who again. I am almost positive that the next story I saw was “Terror of the Zygons” because I remember that story fairly well despite the fact that I haven’t seen it since then (though I have read the novelization) and it features the Loch Ness Monster; which is something that would have held my interest. I was way into Cryptozoology when I was a kid. I read every book the library had to offer about the likes of Nessie, the Mothman, the Jersey Devil – whatever. That interest in diverse monsters from all over was probably a big reason that Doctor Who hooked me so easily. It’s a show that’s almost exclusively about diverse monsters from all over the universe.

I believe I might have actually watched Tom Baker’s Doctor for a while before I even connected it with that crazy show I had seen in 1983. I really wish I had a better time frame for my childhood Who-viewings, but my recollection is awfully wibbly-wobbly. I know I was firmly into Doctor Who by the fourth grade because that’s when Grandma Troublemaker knitted me the scarf and when Doctor Who came to Atlanta.

I don’t remember how or when the scarf came about, but up until our house got flooded in 2009 I owned a pretty good recreation of Tom Baker’s famous scarf. Well, one of his scarves. He had a few. Mine didn’t have any green in it. I had exactly one friend that was into Doctor Who. His name was Jon and he was from South Africa. He was a smart kid. He had every Transformer ever and lived in front of this huge expanse of land that looked just like the sort of places where they filmed Doctor Who. There was a bunch of tall grass, crazy trees, and even a gulch of sorts. We spent hours playing back there. I was always the Doctor because I had the scarf and a tire gauge I had swiped out of my dad’s car (well, duh – it was my sonic screwdriver).

And then there was the Doctor Who USA Tour in late 1986. I would have been ten years old then. Again, I don’t remember how we ended up going, but I know my mom took me and Jon. I was too young to know what to do there and my mom was too not-nerdy to understand any kind of con or exhibition like this, so we really didn’t get to take full advantage of things. We didn’t meet any stars of the show or anything, but we did get to walk through the massive tractor-trailer that housed a ton of the Doctor’s nemeses.

There are some cool pictures here.

I remember being near-breathless with excitement the whole time. I wish I had some pictures, but that wasn’t the sort of thing my parents were inclined to take pictures of.

I don’t remember what kind of merchandise they had. All I came away with was an extremely tacky 80’s-looking folder that was absolutely packed with information about the Tour and the show. I cherished that thing as the only piece of Doctor Who merchandise I was ever likely to own. Unfortunately it was packed in with the scarf and lost in the flood as well.

I don’t know how many variations there were on the televised Doctor Who schedule. I think the PBS networks were the only ones in America to air it. I’ve heard others mention that it aired in serialized form Mondays through Fridays, but my local station put it on Saturday nights. I can’t remember if The Prisoner came on before or after, but I watched that too (I just remembered I’ve got the whole Prisoner series at home on Blu-Ray and still haven’t watched it). I think the Doctor’s adventures started up at 11:30 and generally went until 1 AM. Most of them were about an hour and a half.

The bulk of the run I saw was Tom Baker. He’s my Doctor. I like each of the first seven Doctors to some degree for different reasons, but like most American nerds my age the fourth will always be the best (though Matt Smith is really making headway). While Baker’s Doctor retained the acerbic wit of his predecessors, he had a certain accessibility that I haven’t witnessed from the first three. I’ve seen all of Pertwee’s stories and while I absolutely love his aristocratic, elitist, almost superspy take on the Time Lord; he was still somewhat apart from the humans he interacted with. I honestly haven’t seen enough of the first two Doctors to totally judge, but what from I’ve seen of Troughton he was awfully smug and Hartnell seems like a straight-up jerk. But a funny jerk.

I believe I saw a fairly large number of Tom Baker’s stories when I was young. I’ve been able to get serious about collecting the DVDs in the past few years. Until recently it just wasn’t practical for me to be buying the pricey Doctor Who DVDs. But thanks to a job that pays well and Amazon’s Wish List I’ve been able to build a pretty decent collection. I’ll add stories to my Wish List as they’re announced and monitor them for price drops, then order at least $25 worth and use free shipping. Not too bad. Of course, every once in a while there will be a story or two that I have to have pronto; like the recently released “Face of Evil” and “Tomb of the Cybermen”. I couldn’t wait for those.

But to get back to my original point, I’ve been buying Tom Baker’s stories more than any other and there have been very few that weren’t familiar. I believe I saw almost everything after Sarah Jane left. Leela is my favorite companion and her episodes are the ones I’ve remembered best, but the later episodes with the second Romana and then Adric and company were also quite familiar. The fourth Doctor’s regeneration trilogy is probably as solidly ingrained in my mind as “The Five Doctors”.

For some reason I don’t remember Peter Davison’s stories as well as I do Colin Baker’s and Sylvester McCoy. I almost wonder if my local BBC skipped over Davison or something. Because I very clearly remember loathing Colin Baker (I don’t anymore). I actually stopped watching for a while because the combination of Peri and the sixth Doctor was just too much annoying for me to bear. I did watch “Trail of A Time Lord” when it aired. I remember PBS doing one of their telethons for it and begging my mom to donate so we could get some sort of Doctor Who item (she didn’t and was probably right – I think it was a tote bag or something). I want to say they showed the entire set of stories in one night, but that seems ridiculous. Somehow or another I did see them all.

I do remember Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred quite well. Not so much specific episodes (though once I got “Survival” and “Remembrance of the Daleks” on DVD I realized I had seen them; “Ghost Light” and “Curse of Fenric” were unfamiliar ) as just really liking their characters. The seventh Doctor resonated so strongly with me that I often named him as my second favorite over the years. I recall very clearly that PBS stopped airing McCoy stories just as I was really starting to like him.

Once I saw “Survival” again I remembered that PBS started showing Jon Pertwee stories after airing the final story of the original series. I specifically remember seeing “The Green Death”. I didn’t make it through a lot of the third Doctor’s adventures when I was younger. I don’t know how many PBS aired during that time, but I either gave up or was falling asleep trying to watch them. An awful lot of Pertwee’s stories have serious pacing problems.

I think they made it back to the fourth Doctor before they stopped airing the show entirely. Because as clearly as I remember the reset after “Survival”, I also remember the Saturday night it just didn’t come on. And many Saturday nights after that. I was crushed. I don’t know how long it took me to accept that my favorite show wasn’t coming back on, but I remember the disappointment that I would probably never see it again.

The next time I got to watch Doctor Who was when a relative (I don’t remember which one) gave me the VHS release of “The Five Doctors”. I know I was aware of the release and wanted it very badly. Once I had it I couldn’t get it into the VCR fast enough. But aside from the Raston Warrior Robot it was a little disappointing. As a celebration of Doctor Who the 20th Anniversary episode is a success, but as the sole available story in your collection it’s a bit disappointing. It’s all little bits and pieces of all the Doctors and companions and for a Tom Baker fan you get nothing, really. I was glad to have it, but it only made me hungry for more. And spending $20 on VHS tapes back then just wasn’t going to happen very often.

So I went several years with very little in the way of Gallifreyan culture in my life. I’d watch “The Five Doctors” from time to time, but for the most part there just wasn’t a whole lot available to me.

And then sometime around 1996 it was announced that FOX was producing a Doctor Who TV movie. On the one hand I was ecstatic because it was intended as a possible pilot for a revival, but on the other hand I was terrified because I didn’t trust FOX or any other American entity to do the Doctor justice. I didn’t know if this was going to be an all-new continuity or if it was going to pick up where the British series left off. I know I followed along where I could, but this was long before I was dealing with the internet at all and information just wasn’t as readily accessible as it is now. But I kept track of that air date.

I wasn’t able to watch it live, as a matter of fact, I think I had to call my mom and ask her to record it. I think I had some kind of problem with my VCR maybe? I’m not sure. But I remember having to go over to their house to pick it up and I might have even watched it over there.

I was absolutely thrilled with some things about the TV movie and hated others.

I was very excited to see Sylvester McCoy, I loved the new TARDIS interiors, and Paul McGann was great. I did not like Grace Holloway, I couldn’t believe the half-human thing even happened, the story was pretty lame, and Eric Roberts was downright shameful as the Master. But at its core this bizarre movie was still very much Doctor Who and I couldn’t help but be happy and hope that it led to more.

It didn’t.

Years went by and while Doctor Who was still very much among my favorite things, there just wasn’t much of it to go around. I think the most significant Who-related occurrence of the next nine years was one of the dancers from the Impotent Sea Snakes wearing a Doctor Who shirt.

And then in 2005 the BBC announced they had cast a new Doctor for not a movie, not a special, but a full-on revival of Doctor Who. A whole new season of stories, intended to relaunch the franchise entirely. I thought I was going to lose my mind if some American station didn’t pick them up. Luckily the Sci-Fi Channel did (eventually).

Whenever it was that “Rose” first aired, it drove me absolutely nuts that the thing started with some random blonde chick just walking around and going to her job an stuff. What the heck was this? But then there were Autons. And then… man. Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor the second he appeared on screen. He just was. Even without prior knowledge of that fact, even without his fantastic introduction; there was no doubting this man was our Time Lord. It was fantastic. And it was a continuation. Everything I already knew still counted. This was no restart. This was the same story.

The wife and I were both absolutely hooked, and she was no Doctor Who fan to begin with.

We followed Rose and the ninth Doctor’s adventures, and were crushed when Eccleston left the show. Mrs. Troublemaker immediately loved David Tennant, but it took me a while to accept him (as it almost always does) as the Doctor. He eventually won me over as a worthy number ten, mostly from just how much he lifted from past Doctors. Go back and watch Tennant’s run, then watch some Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, and Sylvester McCoy stories. It’s amazing. There are so many little affectations and mannerisms that Tennant worked into his performance. His run as the Doctor is not my favorite by any means, but it is certainly the most epic.

And let me take just a minute to talk about my favorite of the Doctor’s nemeses – the Master. I grew up with Anthony Ainley. From “The Keeper of Traken” all the way through “Survival” he was the one constant in the Doctor’s lives. The man played sinister, devious, and grand amazingly well. It was a thrill any time a story turned out to be a Master story. The first time I saw Eric Roberts’ portrayal of the evil Time Lord I was nothing short of appalled. But after watching the TV movie again recently I kind of like him in the role. He’s still appalling, but in a fun way. He chews scenery in the same manner many of the guest stars on the classic series would.

And then there’s John Simms. When he first showed up as Great Britain’s new Prime Minister in 2007 I didn’t think I liked him. But once the season was done I looked back and convinced myself I did. Two years later he showed up to end Tennant’s run and I still insisted to myself that he was just fine, this was simply a different portrayal of the Master. Finally, when I went back and watched Tennant’s run in its entirety last year I realized that I really hate John Simms as the Master. Part of what made me realize that was watching Roger Delgado’s performance during Jon Pertwee’s run. Delgado was in no way the same as Anthony Ainley, but he was a logical extension of the character I knew. Or rather, Ainley was of Delgado. Those two versions of the Master could easily be related in the same way that all eleven of the Doctors can. Even Eric Roberts’ performance is recognizable as that character in its own grotesque way. But John Simms’ Master is too manic and immature. I honestly can’t put it into words as well as I’d like, but his Master just doesn’t earn the evil mantle. To me he never displayed the cunning glee that others did. Even Derek Jacobi’s brief stint is more satisfying than Simms’. I’ve put off writing about this for a long time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain it very well. But there it is.

So once Tennant’s impressive (and sometimes not-so-impressive) run was complete we got Matt Smith. The little emo kid. In a bow tie, no less.

And all it took was ten minutes of his first story for me to love him. Since then, Matt Smith has proven to be one of the very best Doctors we’ve seen. He is my second favorite at this point, and that’s no small feat considering how much I love McCoy and Pertwee. Nobody’s going to topple the mighty Tom Baker, I don’t care how many stories I hear about what a jerk he was.

And that brings me to the Atlanta Comic Convention on February 5, 2012. I was there with my family and Mrs. Troublemaker insisted I go and speak to Bobby Nash, a writer friend of hers. He was involved with some sort of podcast and she thought I might be good as a guest or something. I had done exactly one podcast before and I had never listened to one. I don’t have room on my Zune and the only time I would really listen to such a thing would be in the car.

So I went over and talked to Bobby and he was cool and this other guy named Mike was there as well. As so often happens in conversations I am involved in, the subject of Doctor Who came up. And I was invited to be on the Earth Station One podcast to talk about “”Keeper of Traken”, one of my favorite (and most familiar) Who stories. This Mike guy also mentioned he was planning a Doctor Who specific podcast, but asked me to keep it under my mask. He showed me the logo and everything. It sounded cool and I told him I’d love to be a guest whenever my day job allowed.

Then the time came for the ESO podcast and it went great. I had fun, I was comfortable, and Mike, Mike, and Bobby were cool. I looked forward to future appearances.

The next day I got an e-mail from Mike offering me a co-host spot on the forthcoming Earth Station Who podcast series. I’m not entirely sure what plotzing is, but I plotzed. What an amazing opportunity! To not only be able to sit around with other nerds and talk about something I loved, but to further increase my media exposure as Phantom Troublemaker, the identity I have been building for the past five years.

Naturally I accepted and Mike sent the schedule for the first year (!) of shows. I would have to miss a few because of my day job, but for the most part things lined up. I had to do a little finagling at work to make sure I was going to be on hand for the crucial Pertwee and Baker stories.

They’re calling me “Dave” instead of Phantom Troublemaker because four letters cost less than nineteen. And besides, nineteen is ka and that’s a whole different area of dorkery.

-Phantom

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About Phantom Troublemaker

Phantom Troublemaker has been pursuing perfection in dorkery for over thirty years now. Born on the coast of North Carolina - where absolutely nobody relates him to the Lost Colony of Roanoke – this masked creator first heard the call when his strangely straight-laced parents took him to see A New Hope in 1977. Obviously he doesn't remember that at all, but the Force has been with him ever since. An avid toy collector since birth, Phantom also collects comics, movies, music, and of course luchador masks. He co-hosts Earth Station Who as "Dave" because "Phantom Troublemaker" cost too much to put on the stationary.

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