I have two very remarkable students. The first (we’ll call him Richard) is five. I’ve been teaching him for two ninety-minute lessons a week, going on a year now. As a result I think we know each other pretty well. He knows not to give me brown mooncakes at Mid-Autumn Festival or cards with hearts and flowers on them for my birthday. And I know he’s not really the five year old he appears to be.
He moves into the room like he’s lived this life before. He looks at everything like he’s too old for this shit. He has an almost hangdog, knowledgeable expression that tells me exactly how he feels about choosing between ‘a’ and ‘an’ for an orange or a car. Sometimes it’s downright scary, other times it’s comforting.
I’ve got into the habit of calling him ‘Old Man’. Cos that’s what he is, and he just smiled wisely when I first did it by accident, so I gave in and just carried on. It’s all cool, all understood and almost expected. It’s 40 year old Ben Sisko calling Jadzia Dax ‘Old Man’ cos she’s really 380-odd years old, not the 28 years she looks. It’s perfectly fitting cos he’s obviously at least 130 years old trapped int body of a five year old.
The second student (we’ll call him Harry) is very nearly six. I’ve been teaching him for nigh-on two years now. I see him once a week, early Saturday morning, and he’s a never-ending source of insight and cunning intelligence that usually leaves me wondering if his parents have taken my advice and had him tested at Mensa yet.
About a year ago he saw the stickers on the front of my folder and asked me who ‘The Doctor’ was. (Gifts from kids going to and from Blighty - bloody marvellous.) I said he were some bloke from a TV show called ‘Doctor Who’. He looked thoughtful and I presumed that was it, endy story. But no. Two weeks later and he’s asking me why the Doctor looks like he’s only his dad’s age and doesn’t have much hair (while his dad still has his). Upon my questioning it turns out the little lad’s made enquiries and managed to wheedle the whole of New Who series one out of his parents. In English. With no subtitles. Or in fact any clue at all of the whole concept of the show. No idea of the origins, the previous incarnations or ideas, absolutely nowt at all. He literally sat down, watched the first episode of series ‘one’, and then patiently watched it again.
Not only did he pick up enough information to understand what was going on and why, he had enough ammo to ask me all about it later. While I had seen the episode, I was vague on the actual details. After all, it’s Christopher Eccleston, and I can’t watch him cos he is my uncle as he was during my formative years. Even has the same accent.
Anyway, fast forward six months and wee Harry has ripped through all of series one and two. Now he’s asking me about werewolves and huge telescopes that aren’t really telescopes. He’s filled with questions, but it’s more than that. He’s full of exactly the same childlike wonder and amazement that these things are laid out before him as a certain actor I like to watch as Doctor Ten.
Now he’s asking how Martha knew some answers to the pub quiz questions on the spaceship, and why she didn’t ask the nice man in the escape pod to join the TARDIS too (which was exactly what I was thinking, but more on that particular point later). He’s just been hit by the ‘Utopia’ episode. I can only wait and see what he thinks of the series finale, replete with John Simm and John Barrowman. Then he hit upon a hyowj conundrum: if the TARDIS translates languages and signs and everything for her residents, then how does the Gallifreyan alphabet work? I asked what he meant, and he picked up piece of paper and drew some circles, looking remarkably like Time Lord type diagrams that occasionally pop up on monitors or on the back of, say, a fob watch. He reasoned that this must be writing, especially when it appears on the monitor in the TARDIS and the Doctor reads the information it obviously gives. So his question became how he could figure out what it says.
He’s still working on how to separate the circles into their different components to try and fathom if a large circle full of smaller ones is in fact an entire word, or a group of words. He’s informed me he’s going to assume that each circle is a single word, and go from there - that the position of the smaller circles within denote separate letters, and the concentric or opposite order in which they appear is the key to finding out the order of reading them. I told him to go easy, as he’s not quite six years old yet.
Like I said, he should be tested at Mensa.
So then, onto the reason I’ve gabbed about these two favourite lads so far. Cos after the news of the casting of Doctor Eleven broke, I had an immediate thought: Who the hell is Matt Smith? But I live overseas, and have missed all the shows in which he’s guest-starred or appeared to warrant a mantle as complicated and worrisome, not to mention exhausting, as The Doctor from legend.
And then just today I was at work. I sat back in my chair, blowing on my exceptionally hot tea, and I had a sudden brainwave. If only there were a way of combining wee Richard and Harry. They would make the perfect Doctor! One half worlds-weary and impervious to the cares of small-minded people and their petty problems like losing a pencil over the edge of the table in the way only such an elderly person can pull off, and one half sparking, voraciously curious slightly nuts scientifically math go-getter who just loves a puzzle. Can you think of anyone better?
As I know nothing about New Boy (and haven’t yet seen the Confidential episode that went with the announcement), I can’t really give an opinion on his appointment, other than I hope he will be everything I hope he will be. If that makes sense. At least they cast a kind of unknown, rather than someone semi-famous. But a part of me (a big part - I don’t go to the gym to show off my trainers) wanted an older actor - Tom Wilkinson would have done fine. I really wanted a return to the old, cranky, crabby, snappy man that really made it worthwhile when he deigned to smile upon you. Not that I think David Tennant’s happy gurning is not without merit - it’s endearing, amusing, knowing. It’s bloody ace. (And, for the record, of course I’m really going to miss Ten. Really really. Really very very. But times moves on.) But I want the next Doctor to be different. And if you have some mardy old goat whose rare smiles aren’t given freely but mean so much more because of it, how much more different could he be? And onto the point I referred to earlier - Riley the lovely lad from Manchester not being asked by Martha to accompany them in the TARDIS at the end of ‘42’. Could we have a male Companion this time? Just to really shake things up (and yes, that was sarcasm). And just for a change, could he not be in love with the Doctor (yes, I know Donna wasn’t, and that part of her success)? And could he also, say, NOT be from fucking London? Just to really be different? Cos if you had a bright young thing, cute as a button but also really quite brainy (for a human) then he would take care of the ratings market. Imagine the legions of fans switching uncomfortably from Ten to Eleven, the blow softened by the new Eye Candy in the form of the new Companion. Easy. (And another mostly unknown actor would be ace.)
I think that’s pretty much all of the points I was trying to make. Should anything else occur to me, I’ll let you know.
Peach and lube, everyone.
BBC ~ David Tennant ~ Doctor Who ~ Matt Smith ~ teaching ~ Hong Kong