London 1965.

TV Back in the Wilderness years when I became a Doctor Who fan, the ability to access old episodes fell between sell-thru VHSes when I could afford them, loans from friends and the off-air recordings from UK Gold my Auntie was good enough to capture. My first purchase was The Keeper of Traken at the exhibition in the Dapol factory in Llangollen. Although I managed to snag and watch a fair amount of the television series, it wasn't until the dvd releases that I really began to collect them. Even then it took until 2013 when I watched the whole of the series in one go, did the pilgrimage, that I finally saw Terror of the Zygons and listened to a number of the missing episodes for the first time.

Imagine my surprise and curiosity that right now, as I type, the gaming website Twitch is streaming almost the whole of Doctor Who in a marathon series of broadcasts for the next few months, barring orphan episodes and curiously the Dalek stories from the 1980s.  As I type, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is playing at the moment, Susan and David diffusing a bomb.  I didn't see television's Dalek Invasion of Earth until the DVD release (although the film version was well known to me) yet here it is streaming for anyone who's interested and even on a television if you have the wherewithal to cast the stream to a Chromecast or what have you.  If this had been available when I was first becoming a fan, I expect I'd be watching all night.

But for us old schoolers (I've been at this since the 1990s so I can't deny it any more), the real curiosity is the chat stream which runs up the side of the browser window which allows the up to eleven thousand viewers to comment on what they're watching, and its here we can see young fans, perhaps whose only exposure is the revival seeing these Hartnell stories for the first time.  Now I don't really understand live tweeting a drama when it's the first time you've seen it, but you know kids but what's here is fascinating as they notice most of the things which have been in-jokes for years or ask questions about who everyone is and best of all, create new memes which would never have occurred to us before.

Example: between episodes, Twitch are running a trailer for the particular era being shown and at the moment that includes a clip from The Chase of the school teachers  finally making their way home and Ian's exclamation, "Its London 1965!" and ever since the chat box has been filled with commenters repeating the phrase or versions of it.  But the love for Ian and Babs has been charming.  Even before The Daleks/The Mutants/The Dead Planet or whatever had completed broadcast, they'd already begun 'shipping them.  They really love Barbara.  They'll be crushed when she's gone some time in the next couple of days given the relentless nature of these broadcasts.  But it does suck you in.  Despite having a mountain of Big Finish to catch up on, and everything else, I'm really tempted to watch all of this again.

Watching these comments is addictive and it's a draw just to see what they make of the various reveals and cliffhangers (assuming someone doesn't come in and spoil everything).  The Rescue's playing later and I'm half tempted to stay up just to see what they make of Koquillian.  How many will have been indoctrinated enough so that when Sixy strangles Peri it'll be treated with the correct level of revulsion?  Or will they, like much of the contemporary tv audience become bored by then and moved on to something else with just a hardcore couple of thousand still tuning in? Oh sorry, Ian's just encountered a slither which has led to this comment: "Brain it with a rock like the Doc did the cavemen, Ian!"  Lest we forget that Hartnell's Doctor was a dodgy old soul at the beginning.

The nature of fandom has regenerated.  The recent idiotic criticism of the changes in Doctor Who Magazine to skew their coverage towards the new crop of fans with cosplay tips and a younger Time Team ignores the fact that this is a family show and more than that, if it spends its time trying to cater for older fans rather than embracing inclusivity, it'll kill the thing stone dead, just as it did in the mid-80s.  We might not quite understand what's happening in that chat box, what the thing is with the avatar faces or the capital Fs or why London 1965 has become such a popular thing to repeat but that's ok.  We have the eyepatch joke, the toilet in Tooting Beck, the lightbulb, "No, no, not the mind probe" and whatever the illustrators were snorting during the production of the 1977 annual.

Of course, a dozen thousand people watching a live stream won't necessarily have a huge cultural impact but it will surely make memories.  Instead of "Do you remember sitting around in that tent at Longleat watching a tenth generation copy of The Horns of Nimon", it'll be, "Remember when Twitch streamed all those Doctor Who stories for free"?  The fact that these fifty year old shows are attracting an audience is nothing short of miraculous and apart from anything else, it's giving these young viewers an education in the history of television.  Perhaps some of them will move on to finding out how the episodes were made and which will spur them to go into working in television themselves.  What Twitch is doing right now is a precious gift and we should all be grateful.

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