Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dr Who?

Q. When is a heart throb not a heart throb?

I may have mentioned that our home has recently become a shrine dedicated to the religion (and it really is just that) of Dr Who. Scrappino has never been a sci-fi fan, and I have only vague (and frankly terrifying) memories of watching Dr Who as a child. So it was with only mild interest on both our parts that we sat down earlier this year to watch the new series of Dr Who, starring the rather lovely, but at that time almost unknown (to me, at any rate) Christopher Eccleston.

By the time the end credits rolled 45 minutes later, Scrappino and I were both hooked. He was smitten with the fantasy, the story telling and the adventure. I was smitten by Eccleston’s smack-yer-mother good looks and hard Salford accent. The next week we were both ready and waiting to watch the second episode, and then the third. We were Dr Who addicts for 12 long, glorious, Gallifreyan weeks.

Now the people at the BBC are very clever. They know how to keep addicted viewers supplied with their sci-fi fix. Within weeks of the series’ end, the DVDs were on sale. Not the whole series in one go, obviously. BBC pushers are too clever for that. They released the DVDs one by one, over a period of four months, so that we could experience the same anticipation, the same excitement, the same rush of fulfilment with each release that we had enjoyed during the series. (And it only cost me £12.99 a pop).

Now the thing about kids is that, if they like a particular TV programme, they’ll happily watch it over and over again, regardless of how many times they’ve seen it. And Scrappino really likes his Dr Who. So he began watching them on a loop, to the point of being able to recite whole scenes, whole episodes almost, off by heart. Whenever my friends called and asked what I was doing, I replied “watching Dr Who”. Before long, they stopped asking what I was doing and instead inquired “what episode are you watching now?”

So, slowly but shortly, in 45 minute increments, Christopher Eccleston seeped into my psyche. He may have notoriously protruding ears and a ridiculously (some would say Semitically) long nose, but compared to the Daleks, Autons and other alien competition, he began to appear extremely easy on the eye. Obviously, I had to get over the slightly paedophilic relationship between the 900 year old Dr and the 19 year old Billie Piper (not easy, considering that the last time I’d seen her she had been dancing in the street with a bunch of 12 year olds singing “Because we want to! Because we want to!”). But relationship age-gaps and CGI effects notwithstanding, Eccleston became a constant feature in our living room. And who can blame me? I defy any red-blooded, single, 30-something woman to spend hours watching Eccleston in leather jacket and hob-nail boots, staring broodily at the Dalek fleet, and not feel at least the slightest heart flutter. Put it this way, the fantasy was not restricted to alien invasions and stellar landscapes. While Scrappino stared at the green monsters, I stared at Eccleston. And on some nights, after a glass or two of red wine, I could have sworn that Eccleston stared back.

Anyone who knows me well will testify that I am not one to do things by halves. If I do something, I like to do it properly. When I went through my Beatles phase (does 20+ years and still going strong count as a phase?) I didn’t just own every LP (remember them?). I collected every song, every book, every photo, every newspaper article I could find. Others might accuse me of being obsessed. Personally, I like to think that I was just being thorough. It happened again when I discovered David Gray. I don’t mean ‘discovered’ in that sense. I’d not have just spent three months fitting a standard MFI bathroom if I’d discovered David Gray. But you know what I mean. When I first became aware of his music I had to own every CD he’d released. I scoured record shops for his entire back catalogue. Owning White Ladder wasn’t enough. I had to own his entire output. (Some might say that, in the case of David Gray, owning one CD is pretty much tantamount to owning them all, since all his songs sound the bloody same. But people who say that have no soul.)

Anyway, I am digressing. The point is that when I become fixated with something, or someone, it doesn’t take long for fixation to become obsession. And that’s exactly what happened with my Christopher Eccleston fixation. First off, I searched the internet for information about what he’d appeared in. I bought DVDs of TV shows he’d starred in. I started with ‘Our Friends in the North’. (A masterpiece, by the way. Admittedly, there is a hell of a lot of dialogue about housing policy, but it sweeps through forty years of British history, taking the viewer on a journey of four decades of love, betrayal, dreams, despair; all of life is there. It’s the kind of TV you can watch on a mid-week evening and not feel remotely like you’re wasting your time. And Eccleston, it goes without saying, is magnificent in it.)

Next, I watched ‘Second Coming’. Written by Russell T Davies, it tells the story of the 2nd coming of Jesus, who returns to earth in the form of a 30-year old chap from Manchester. The basic premise is this: if you believe that Jesus will one day come a second time (and, let’s face it, billions do), he’s likely to look and sound like one of us. So, what would happen if he looked and sounded like, say, a 30-year old chap from Manchester. Or, put another way, what if he looked and sounded like Christopher Eccleston. Now I’m not saying that Christopher Eccleston is a god. Not even I could be that blasphemous. But that’s the premise of the drama. And it’s very cleverly developed. Interestingly (and I use that word advisedly. I mean, of course, interestingly for Christopher Eccleston addicts who have also watched every episode of the ninth Dr Who), the writer of ‘Second Coming’ wrote most of the Eccleston episodes of Dr Who. And the two have a very similar style. Christopher Eccleston’s Dr Who does, on occasion, sound like Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount before he saves all of mankind forever. Which, seeing as he is about to destroy the very last surviving Dalek in the galaxy, I suppose he is.

And so, in the space of a week, I treated myself to 14 hours (it didn’t seem like that at the time, but now, reading the DVD inserts, I see that that’s what it was) of total Christopher Eccleston immersion.

Like any addict, I had to have more. I knew he had starred in Cracker. But after a hard day at work I couldn’t face the thought of wallowing in such misery, not even to catch a glimpse of Christopher Eccleston. Though I’m told his murder scene is terrific. Plus, in our house at least, Robbie Coltrane is one thing and one thing only. And that’s Hagrid. I can’t risk Scrappino stumbling into the lounge and being confronted with the sight of the loveable giant wizard drunk and swearing and cursing every woman he’s ever known.

I had similar misgivings about watching Christopher Eccleston in the film Jude, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. I’ve only read two books by Hardy. The first was Tess of the D’Urbevilles, a book so utterly depressing that it’s enough to plunge the most elated of readers into the depths of despair. I thought, erroneously, that this was a one-off and so I then tried Jude the Obscure. I have never read a book so unremittingly miserable as this. Just when you think the plot can’t get any more gloomy, you turn the page and it’s even more awful than the last one. Every character endures a fate more terrible than the last, so unrelentingly desperate that by the end of the book, the reader is ready to slash his (or her) wrists just to forget the plot. There was no way I was prepared to sit through 120 minutes of such desperation, no matter how fixated I might be with the lead actor.

A cursory search on Google then led me to reviews of ‘A Price Above Rubies’. The reviews, I’m sorry to report, were almost universally negative. They admit (happily for this die-hard fan) that Eccleston’s performance was excellent, but the film as a whole, its plot and its premise, were slated by all the reviewers that I came across. The story, it seems, revolves around a Jewish woman, played by Rene Zellweger, who is married to an Orthodox Jewish man (from the photographs I suspect he’s Lubavitch) who falls in love with, and eventually has an affair with, her equally Orthodox brother-in-law. (I wonder if he had her after Shalom Aleichem). The brother-in-law is played by Christopher Eccleston. And this is when my Christopher Eccleston fixation started to falter. One film site generously posted a huge number of still shots from the film. There, in full technicolour glory, was Christopher Eccleston, dressed in hat, suit, tzitzit, tallis and, in one photo, massive black velvet kippa. There is even a photograph of Christopher Eccleston holding a silver cup, about to make Kiddush. And so, with one click of the mouse, the Eccleston pack of cards came tumbling down. How is a girl supposed to fantasise about a ruggedly handsome Northern hero when he’s dressed in tallis and tephilin? The Eccleston fest is officially over. Fun while it lasted, but now, very definitely over. As I stated when I began this post.

Q. When is a heart throb not a heart throb.

A. When he looks uncannily like every rabbi you have ever known....


Blogger bangedmyhead said...

i also remember the Ian Bowtham and Rowan Atkinson days!!

7:47 am  
Blogger R.x said...

thanks for reminding me - and for sharing...
i think we're going to have to recap on the blog-rules
1. don't reveal my name
2. don't reveal Scrappino's name
3. don't reveal the rowan atkinson thing

6:18 pm  
Blogger baldricka said...

There's nothing wrong with having a Rowan Atkinson thing!!!

9:05 pm  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Maybe you could think of it in reverse and keep him in the fold - maybe every rabbi you have ever met looks like Christopher Eccleston? Not a bad thing....Who is Ian Bowtham?

6:28 pm  

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