My interest in writing emerged in earnest alongside an intense fascination with the television series Doctor Who. I remember it being quite scary in B&W, and I have a particular memory, from when I must have been about 6 or 7 years old, of the Jon Pertwee story Terror of the Autons in which people were shrunk by the evil Master into dolls, and wax figures were animated by an alien consciousness. This fear was intensified by the fact we were visiting friends on a property in rural New South Wales, and I was watching the programme from an isolated farmhouse with a long central hallway that captured the wind.
I remember at some point, around 13 years old, realising that the Doctor was not going to materialise in my backyard and whisk me away in his time machine, the TARDIS. That recognition was coupled with a short lived period of despair, that evaporated when I decided that if the Doctor wasn’t real and wasn’t coming to take me on an adventure or two, that the next best thing was to become an actor and take up the role as some future incarnation of the BBC Time Lord! However, even at that age I knew that it was unlikely the show would be still going by the time I reached an age suitable for playing the part. That turned out to be both true (as the show was axed in the late 1980s, about the same time the Berlin Wall came down hailing for some ‘the End of History’ if not ‘the End of Time’) and not true (when the show was resurrected for the new millennium, in the spirit of the Doctor himself). Not knowing that at the time, I figured that the next best thing to playing the Doctor had to be writing Doctor Who adventures, and so I began hammering out short stories on my old typewriter.
In 1979, Tom Baker (at the time the fourth incarnation of the Time Lord, who remains for many the preferred personification of the Doctor), visited the nearby suburb of Top Ryde, and I went along to get his autograph. As he signed my Genesis of the Daleks record cover, I handed him a copy of a story I had written, made up in the form of its own little book. While this was a memorable moment on my journey to being a writer, I can’t help but hope that Tom put that little book away never to see the light of day again!
Of course, a great deal of time has elapsed since then, and in the late 1990s when attending the University of Sydney, I came to the realisation that the fantasy I had sometimes held about writing in a castle by the sea, could actually come to fruition by becoming an academic (perhaps the only career where you can combine writing and teaching, two of my great pleasures; and work in a building that at least looked like a castle, depending on where you were appointed).
As I went from my undergraduate study into a PhD to become a Doctor myself, I again contemplated the 900 year old Time Lord in a new way, realising that in his mercurial mind, penchant for venturing into the past and investigating possibilities for the future, and hermes-like capacity to communicate with the high and the low, as well as his sometimes forgetful and impatient attitude, he is somewhat the archetypal academic, travelling in his office to new worlds, with his research assistant always in tow. Although I haven’t ended up publishing in the area of science fiction (or speculative fiction as it is “properly” called) as I once thought I would, there is something of the speculative philosopher in my academic writings, as well as a time lord’s concerns with the past (historical consciousness), the present (visual media culture), and their implications for the future. I thank the good Doctor for inspiring my scholarly adventures, and hope you find my work interesting, engaging, and of some use.