Originally written for The Public Reviews
As every visible media outlet gears up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this week, Toby Hadoke’s comedy double bill arrives to remind us of the painful 16 year wasteland in which there was no Doctor Who, in which the classic programme that had delighted generations of children was treated as somewhat of a joke.
Hadoke can’t help feeling vindicated in his dedication to the programme through those dark days, as its newfound success has contributed to his career and allowed him to travel the world. What follows, however, is not a tongue in cheek round of in-jokes for seasoned fans, or even a knowing nod at a pop culture phenomenon, but a highly personal story of a childhood hero that helped a boy to cope with an absent father and the eventual journey into parenthood.
Despite occasionally lapsing into rants about the programme’s detractors and competitors (Star Wars as a dodgy incestuous space opera may not be entirely fair), Hadoke revels in the true magic of Doctor Who; a programme whose hero wasn’t immaculately pressed and dressed in a top of the line space ship and entangled in the problems of humanity, but who looked as though he had spent the night in a hedge and preferred to reason rather than shoot his way out of a problem.
In Moths Ate.. Hadoke makes the journey from an awkward childhood to married life and introducing his son to the programme that shaped his early years, and My Stepson.. sees him bonding with his deaf stepson with the aid of a fez and a cactus monster, despite the appropriation of his pristinely packaged sonic screwdriver for use as a toy.
Despite feeling that Hadoke’s dedication must be a little difficult to live with, and being correctly disabused of the notion of oneself as a fan (Hadoke is a fan; most others are just “people with televisions”), he is charming, warm and frank enough to diffuse this when he isn’t shouting about reality television stars’ scorn for the programme.
By the end of the evening it is easy to see, should anyone previously have been in doubt, why this enigmatic man in a box has enchanted children since William Hartnell first stepped on screen. Thoroughly evocative of the difficulty of growing up and the solace that can be found in childhood heroes, Hadoke’s loving tribute to the Timelord is heartwarming, cheering and one of the few places in which you can learn the sign language for Doctor Who, dalek and cyberman.