There have probably been countless terabytes of information written about the new Doctor Who since its return five years ago. Whilst I am loathe to add to this data pollution, as a wise Icelander once said, "I've started so I'll finish..."
The first few months of 2005 were torture.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating, but it seemed to take a long time to get to Easter when the first episode was due to be broadcast. All sorts of bit of information were leaking out in the press. The new Doctor was apparently going to be played by Christopher Eccleston whom I remembered from The League of Gentlemen and 28 Days Later but didn't know much else about. What I'd seen of the costume made him look more like The Navvy than The Doctor, but I would suspend judgement until I'd seen him in action.

I was more worried about the casting of the companion. Billie Piper? In my mind this seemed like a big mistake - dangerous stunt casting. Had they learned nothing from the casting of Bonnie Langford during the McCoy era?

Time ticked on and I kept having dreams about the return of the show. Shouldn't I have grown out of this sort of behaviour by now? Wasn't it just a TV programme? Then I read an interview with Mark Gatiss (now revealed as one of the new series writers) in which he said when he'd heard it was coming back he couldn't sleep. I was in good company then.

People were talking about the executive producer Russell T Davis. Again I didn't know much about him aside from the fact that he'd written a Doctor Who novel I'd ignored in the nineties and something called The Second Coming which had also starred Christopher Eccleston. And that Queer As Folk programme that people had said was groundbreaking.

The tension was becoming unbearable. Billboards started to appear everywhere. Then an impressive looking TV trailer "Do you wanna come with me..?"

Lots of planets have a North

It was here. I'd seen various clips and trails during the saturation media coverage, but nothing quite prepared me for its appearance on TV. As the time-to-go ticked down I was unavoidably reminded of Today's Sport, a roundup that used to follow the early evening news on BBC1 on Saturdays in the seventies. It was the last thing on before Doctor Who and always seemed interminable. It was adding insult to injury - the televisual day had already been swallowed up by Grandstand, as infinitely dull as it was long, couldn't they just let us have the rest of Saturday to ourselves?

Come on... come on...
My first reaction to was that the theme tune seemed to have reverted to the Delia Derbyshire version; there were some additional bells and whistles but a lot of the original was still quite high in the mix.

But the show itself? It was difficult for my brain to get a handle on it at first. This was something old and familiar in a completely new form. Modern. Funny. Self-referential. And the Doctor... so this was the Ninth Doctor. No regeneration, although it was implied that it had only recently happened. It was difficult to get a handle on him too. "Yes I can, here I am, this is me, swannin' off..." Was this the same man whom we'd last seen fighting the Master in San Francisco in 1999?

I was won over. Even though there were elements I was unsure of it was far better than I could have hoped. And despite my fears, Billie Piper could act.

It was successful too. Even though I'd been vaguely embarrassed about my uncool obsession for years now everyone was switching on and the media attention was unprecedented. Surely it couldn't last?

Almost immediately the tabloids broke the story DOCTOR WHO QUITS!

It seemed Christopher Eccleston was leaving after only one series. To this day it's not clear to me as to whether this was planned or not. Having a regeneration at the end of the first season certainly helped introduce a new audience to the concept - but was this done by design or was it just incredibly good luck that the leading man of the BBC's new flagship drama just happened to leave the only show where a change of lead was not only acceptable but expected?

Whatever had happened behind the scenes the tabloids went into a frenzy of speculation about the identity of the Tenth Doctor. Their questions were soon answered; the new leading man would be one David Tennant, an actor who'd recently starred in Russell T Davis's recent TV drama Casanova. I began to feel a sense of Deja Who as they cast the leading man from another of the Executive Producer's previous successes; what's more wasn't this Tennant guy a bit similar to Eccleston? Time would tell.

The new series rolled on, sometimes brilliant, sometimes OK, always welcome. The standout story for me that first year was The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, a marvelous two part tale that seemed to show just what this new show was capable of being. Surprisingly, the writer was Steven Moffat, the guy who'd written that Coupling comedy show on BBC2.

The new dramatic technique suited Doctor Who. On more than one occasion I could see modern influences, including the occasional nod towards Joss Whedon-style characterisation and dialogue - just watch time-travelling Rose's reaction in the scene in Father's Day when her Dad inadvertently flirts with her - straight out of Buffy!

I broke my arm and an exhibition of sets and props came to Brighton Pier for the summer. The newly designed Daleks seemed perfect. Then we found out what Bad Wolf was and the Doctor regenerated again...

Awww... brilliant!

There was going to be a Christmas Special on Christmas Day followed by an interactive episode on digital TV immediately afterwards. It seemed the public just couldn't get enough Doctor Who.

The episode itself was good fun, although you now got the impression that everyone involved in making it now knew that they had a hit on their hands. It resulted in a subtly different atmosphere.

The new Doctor was great - he seemed to have been born for the part and confessed in many an interview to have been a big fan in his youth. This explained why, despite looking like Jarvis Cocker, he seemed to be chanelling Tom Baker's Doctor a lot of the time. K9 returned. So did the Cybermen. The new range of toys looked fantastic - a million miles away from what had been available when I was a kid.

The show got more and more popular over the next few years, resulting in insanely high ratings on occasion. In the public's eyes it didn't seem to be capable of doing anything wrong.

Showrunner RTD seemed like an superb ambassador for the franchise, bellowing "Marvellous!", "Hooray!" and "Raises the bar!" at least twice a minute during every interview he gave. He also had a tendency to lie through his teeth in an unashamedly barefaced manner about future plans for the show.

I will never bring back The Master. I will never bring back The Master again. Don't be ridiculous of course Kylie Minogue isn't going to be in the Christmas Special!

It was one way to deal with press leaks I suppose.

They made animated versions alongside the regular series. Spin-off shows appeared, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, supposedly adult and child-friendly versions of the parent. Plus of course there was the behind-the-scenes show Doctor Who Confidential. And a behind-the scenes show for kids, Totally Doctor Who. The public lapped it all up. In addition to Doctor Who Magazine (still going strong, thank you) a children's magazine/comic, Doctor Who Adventures, hit the shelves. And more toys. And Dalek cookie kits. And backpacks. And underpants. And voice-changer helmets.

Not bad for a dead franchise.

However, after a while elements of the stories started to bother me. Was I alone in feeling that something wasn't quite right? Don't get me wrong, I thought it was brilliant that it was on the air again, and furthermore a resounding success. It was just that increasingly I found that aspects of the show didn't sit well with me. I found myself starting to have to "put up with" poor plot elements or come up with convoluted in-universe explanations for things that just didn't make sense. That is, narrative sense.

This came to a head in the finale of Season Four in which all the companions, their families and associated characters from the spinoffs came together to fight Davros who had decided to "destroy reality" for no very good reason. The story felt like the kind of thing made up by a child playing with his action figures and wanting to include them all in the game, even two versions of the Doctor (both Blue Suit and Brown Suit editions). It ended up with the TARDIS towing the Earth across half the galaxy.

However, there were still brilliant episodes being made and broadcast and a lot that I was enjoying. It just felt as I was now living in an inverse of the world pre-2005 - everyone liked Doctor Who whereas it was me who had misgivings about parts of it.

And the Tenth Doctor had been steadily getting far too big for his Converse trainers.

To be concluded...
Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 13: In which the series has a year off and I run out of sins to confess.

They've done it again. They keep changing things.

Both Google and Wikipedia have had a minor makeover almost simultaneously. It's most disconcerting. They're not immediately obvious changes, it's quite a subtle thing, but you get the distinct impression that both websites are now made of translucent molded plastic and perfumed mist instead of paper and card.

Of course no matter how disconcerting it is right now, we will all soon get used to it and in a years's time if they suddenly reverted to their previous state we'd suffer from severe dislocative shock.

Just like the physical landscape, these virtual worlds become part of our mental furniture. Everything our minds are is made up of and sculpted by our perceptions of the various worlds around us and the models of them we build in our heads. The infant digital universes that have been springing up in our environment in recent years may not be as conspicuous as the material world, but the internal models we build up of them are every bit as real inside our heads.

If not even more real. Their very nature is pure data, information, so it stands to reason that when we store a model of them in our brain in some way that model is the same as the real thing. Information is information. No-one ever sold a second-hand MP3.

This may be why some people find the online sphere so compelling. If they immerse themselves in it enough they could feel like they're always in that world even when they're not. Whilst offline an internet addict's brain is running a local copy of the dataworld; and when they go online again they merely sync, bringing it up to date.

There's no there, there, as they taught Angie. This is why such changes are so unsettling.

Changes to the physical landscape happen only a few times in a lifetime; the mental nausea thus caused may be strong but we don't have to suffer it often and we soon rebuild the toy country in our head.

Changes to cyberspace are another matter. They happen frequently and are often subtle. Whilst the sickness induced may not be as strong as that caused by real world change, there's far more of it. To keep up, our minds are being remoulded on an accelerating basis. This is not something that has ever have happened before.

Not only are we reshaping ourselves in such a rapid manner, but we also maintain backups, archive copies of the old minds we used to have. Have a look at the 2000 copy of Amazon via The Wayback Machine and, provided you used it back then of course, you will be overwhelmed by cybernostalgia, a sense of "oh yeah, of course, it used to be like that..."

This is the way all nostalgia works of course - the accessing of memories in deep storage. We may not have used rotary dial telephones or compartment train carriages for years, but as soon as we see them we get the "oh yeah..." moment and all the memories of sounds, sights and smells associated with them come flooding back.

That's fine if the world changes at the normal rate. When it starts changing as fast as the internet is, that's another matter. Could this be why everyone (not just older people) have started complaining that time seems to be passing more rapidly now? To make the most of its limited storage space in the face of exponential information expansion perhaps the brain has started storing our memories of time in an attenuated manner so it feels as if they're passing more quickly. I do hope whatever mechanism the brain is using, it's more efficent than DriveSpace was - I'd hate to start losing data.

The long term solution is to get a bigger brain.

Previously on DTC...
At a time when, aside from the 1996 McGann TV movie, there had been no new Doctor Who for over ten years, I suddenly came across a double cassette in Borders - not an audio book, but a proper brand new, full-cast, audio-effects, four episodes, theme music and everything story starring the fifth Doctor and Nyssa.
Well of course I bought it. It wasn't half bad either; neither Peter Davison's nor Sarah Sutton's voices seemed to have changed that much (unlike Steven Pacey who, in the brief audio Blake's Seven comeback of The Sevenfold Crown and The Syndleton Experiment seemed to have turned Tarrant into an unrecognisable gruff voiced old toff) and it being audio they were free to do stuff they'd never have attempted on TV.

They were being produced by a company called Big Finish who seemed to have achieved the impossible by being granted a licence to produce official Doctor Who by the BBC (I was aware of previous unlicenced productions which had always smacked of fanwank - the "official" tag here made a BIG difference).

What was also clear was that this seemed to have been going on for a wee while but had failed to register on my personal radar. I'd lost touch with The World Of Who; whilst the novel range had continued under the BBC banner there now seemed to be so many of them that I wouldn't have known where to start. Once more I'd grumpily told myself that they weren't real Doctor Who, that they were just more fanwank.

This attitude wouldn't wash with the audios. They featured the original actors (including TV Doctors Five to Seven - and in an even more impressive coup, Eight, of which more anon) which made a huge difference. I'd have to collect them all no matter how long it took. Perhaps this was the future of the Doctor - released on Shiny Disc with the listeners' imagination in charge of the special effects (so I'd only have myself to blame if they looked a bit ropey).

It was a daunting task - they'd been going a couple of years and even discounting the various spinoffs it was still a bit of an investment. But it was worth it for stories like the magnificent Spare Parts which told the origin of the real Cybermen (as opposed to the ones that Trigger from Only Fools and Horses built in an alternative universe), Rob Shearman's Jubilee (which was the inspiration for his later episode for the TV series, Dalek) or The Rapture by Joseph Lidster (who went on to write for Torchwood on TV) in which the Seventh Doctor and Ace end up at a rave in Ibiza...

Once I'd caught up on the back catalogue, I subscribed, and have been doing so ever since. It was good to hear the Doctors back in action, especially Colin Baker who'd been somewhat short-changed by his time on TV. The audios gave him the opportunity to prove how good he could have been given the chance.

Then of course there was the "current" Doctor as played by Paul McGann. Denied a regular TV series, he'd been tempted back to audio and his new adventures alongside companion Charley Pollard (played by India "Masterchef" Fisher) were being released in seasons, taking the Doctor ever forward into new and unexpected territories - unlike his previous incarnations, the Eighth Doctor's new audio adventures didn't have to be squeezed into existing continuities.The stories took some risks - having the companion tell the Doctor she loves him felt very radical at the time (remember this was before the RTD era). They told some complex and thought provoking stories - amongst them the minimalist Scherzo and multi-layered The Natural History of Fear.

Of course there were some mis-steps - you can't please all of the people all of the time and producing a brand new Doctor Who adventure every month year in year out was bound to result in output of varying quality. Nevertheless, this kept the candle burning and reignited my own love for and obsession with the show, providing me with a lot of solace during the early 2000s (another period of personal mental negativity) much as the Peter Davison era had got me through the unspeakable nightmare of school.

The audio era of the programme came to mean so much to me at the time that when I first heard the news that the Doctor was returning to his original home on TV, amongst my initial reactions was the thought "Oh no! Does this mean there won't be any more Big Finish CDs?"

Then it hit me properly. It was coming back. It was coming back!

What would it be like?

Back in the mid-nineties I read an interesting post to a Usenet group (remember them?) about a psychological condition that apparently more people suffered from than was generally thought. The gist of it was "Are you lonely? Are you this? Are you that? If so you may be suffering from the other..."

This instantly started ringing bells. Could this be why I'd always felt that I was a bit, well, rubbish when it came to dealing with people and life? Why I rarely seemed to find myself in a successful relationship?

However, as was so often the case on Usenet, this interesting post was immediately shouted down as being a load of old mumbo-jumbo dreamed up by inadequates to give themselves legitimacy. Amongst the more typical of the responses was:

Will you kindly take your quack psychoanalysis, your novice Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques and your painfully inadequate hypnotherapeutic attempts and ram them where the sun don't shine?
I forgot about it and if anything felt a little ashamed that I'd been taken in, even for a few minutes. A pity, because aside from one or two exceptions, the initial message had seemed to describe me to a T.

Some time later in the early years of the 21st century the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (AS) entered the public consciousness more fully (partly thanks to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time) and could be discussed online without belligerent fuckwits leaping down your metaphorical throat. I read up on it and, to quote Jerome K Jerome "...before I had glanced half down the list of 'premonitory symptoms,' it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it. "

Albeit perhaps in a mild form, although it was difficult to tell. I'd been dealing with the way my brain functioned all my life and had naturally developed a number of coping strategies. I'd become quite adept at pretending to be normal. It's true that I had to consciously make an effort to do things that seemed to come naturally to some people, but from the outside of course there was no appreciable difference.

I discovered a test online, which seemed to confirm my self-diagnosis (although of course I was still wary of the Jerome K Jerome Effect I alluded to above whereby reading up on the symptoms of something convinces you you're suffering from it). The only major symptom described that gave me pause for thought was the alleged "lack of empathy" or "difficulty reading people" that was apparently a shoo-in for being diagnosed with AS. I didn't think I suffered from this at all.

If anything I suffered from the opposite - often I worried so much about what other people were thinking or feeling that I could be frozen into inactivity. I was sometimes able to second guess people with uncanny accuracy. This constant awareness of the state of other minds sometimes got too much. This alone seemed to enough to make me question whether I was in fact suffering from AS at all.

That is until recently, when I read about a new theory that put forward the proposal that, far from lacking empathy, people with Aspergers feel other people's emotions far too intensely to cope, and therefore end up shutting their feelings down.

This was more like it. It was exactly how I would have described my feelings in some circumstances, and reading this felt as if the last piece of the puzzle that was me had been slotted into place.

The discovery, the naming, of my condition made me feel a lot better. Suddenly I knew that I wasn't like this simply because I was a crap person, but because my brain worked in a slightly different way from other people's.

But of course we're all different - even people who are "normal". If there is a spectrum upon which Aspergers and Autism sit then surely it's part of the same continuum upon which you'd also find the neuro-typical. Furthermore, neuro-typical probably describes a range of settings within the human mind.

A consciousness is a complex multi-dimensional construct with billions of variables, and there is probably a meaninglessly high number of combinations of these variables, each of which we would call a viable human mind. Just because we label some of these as "neuro-typical" and others "autistic" doesn't mean that any of them are broken.

Especially if from the outside there's no appreciable difference.

Books actually have a lot more in common with radio than they do with TV or film but are probably the hardest work out of all media.

They also offer the greatest rewards. No spoilers here, but there was a point in China Mieville's The City and the City which had me thinking "No! You can't possibly do that!" The author's world building skills were so strong that I felt the shock of the moment just as strongly as the book's characters did. I don't think you could get that in a film; by its very nature a book gets more into your head. Language defines our consciousness, so books become us whilst films are only experienced.

The only thing more pleasurable than reading a book is writing one, but that's even harder work.

One of the tricky parts is deciding which narrative mode to use. There is more to this than meets the eye; it's not just a case of deciding between first-person ("I said") or third-person ("she said"). There are a number of different combinations of mode that work, but an even greater number that don't.

Some authors are adept at combining modes; in his novels from The Straw Men onwards, author Michael Marshall (Smith) successfully combines first-person and third-person by alternating modes on a chapter-by-chapter basis. This has the advantage of allowing things to happen outside the knowledge of the central protagonist, but at the same time allows aforesaid protagonist to vent his spleen in an almost blog-like manner about whatever it is that's currently winding him up ...

However, if spleen-venting is not required, then limited third-person subjective is often better. In this mode all characters are referred to as "he" or "she" but we are only privy to the innermost thoughts and feelings of one character at a time.

This need not be as restrictive as it may initially sound. A clever author can build a novel out of a series of different limited third-person subjective modes which can be particularly powerful if a character is first seen from the "outside" before the mode eventually switches to them. A fine example of this kind of storytelling can be found in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy.

This approach does carry the risk of getting it wrong though and inadvertently flinging the reader out of their comfort zone in the process. I am currently reading Keeping it Real, the first volume in Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity sequence. Whilst the novel itself is great fun, combining as it does near-future SF, fantasy, magic and the music business, there was a moment when my reading of it was almost derailed by an unexpected shift of perspective.

For more than half the book, the narrative was firmly limited to a third-person subjective view of agent Lila Black and we were privy to almost everything that made her tick - which was especially interesting given that she's a cyborg. Then all of a sudden it switched to rock star elf Zal for a single chapter (a trick repeated a couple of chapters later).

That really threw me.

I tend to favour third-person limited subjective myself but make sure that I stick to one viewpoint to avoid any problems of the kind described above. It's a fine modus operandi in theory, but it comes with its own set of problems. Well, one problem, but it's a big one.

The problem is how to get a physical description of the person in whose mind the reader is riding into the narrative. It's more difficult than you might think. As a reader you're eavesdropping on the central protagonist's internal dialogue, and not even the most vain and self-obsessed of us are constantly describing ourselves in our heads.

Some authors get around this by having the character look in a mirror. This works, but strikes me as a bit old hat, a bit cliched.

Others just don't seem to address the issue at all, and that works fine for them. We never really get a description of Case in William Gibson's Neuromancer, but that doesn't seem to matter. His actions and attitude tell us all we need to know and we get an impression of him as a depressed film noir anti-hero in a trenchcoat. Why should we know what he looks like? We're in his head. Most of the time I am sure we have no idea how we actually appear to the world, which is why seeing ourselves on film is so disconcerting at first.

Interestingly Gibson shies away from describing Case even when he has the opportunity - firstly when Case is riding virtual shotgun in Molly's head and then again when the central characters come across Riviera's holographic caricatures of themselves: "The figure that slouched there was a fair approximation of the one he glimpsed daily in mirrors. Thin, high-shouldered, a forgettable face beneath short dark hair."

I'm somewhat unwilling to go along that route. I have a pretty good idea of what my central character Genie looks like, so would like to nip any mistaken impressions the reader might get of her in the bud. Whilst workshopping sequences of the novel during the Creative Writing Certificate course I completed last year, I was told by some of my fellow students that they imagined her as perhaps looking like Rhona Cameron or Kylie Minogue. This is quite some distance from the truth as in actual "fact" Genie is extremely tall with short peroxide blonde hair.

I still don't have an adequate solution to this conundrum. I've planted seeds of the various aspects of her appearance as early as possible in the book (as nothing can break the spell faster than the description of a physical characteristic at odds with what the reader has already built up in their head), but can't put in anything more concrete without transgressing the rules.

This is where TV and film have an advantage, provided you can find the right actress, but you lose the internal dialogue. And this, when it comes down to it, is the most important thing.

Language defines fictional characters even more than it does us.