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Tansy Rayner Roberts

How My Six Year Old Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Doctor Who (thanks to the Ood Cast)

May 20th, 2011 at 12:48

For a while there, I lost the ability to watch Doctor Who with my daughter.

When Raeli was tiny, Doctor Who was as familiar to her as the Wiggles. I often joked that the music she had heard most often in the womb was the classic theme tune – because when I was pregnant, the ABC were still on their ‘repeat all the classic eps in proper order’ kick. She was born early in 2005, a date forever associated (for some of us) with the launch of New Who.

When she was 2-3, Raeli adored Doctor Who, as did her friend Inigo, a year older – they were familiar enough with the show that when his mum and I discussed how to break it to the kids that Greg was leaving the Wiggles, the Doctor’s tendency to regenerate seemed like the easiest metaphor to grab! Our Christmas tradition was making gingerbread or shortbread daleks.

But while Inigo and his brothers stayed true to their Doctor Who obsession (if sometimes only peeking at it behind fingers) Raeli pulled away from it as she got older, as she found it quite scary and had developed a deep horror of Daleks as well as many other monsters. I couldn’t even show her The Sarah Jane Adventures because even her fear of Daleks was nothing to the shrieking meltdowns we had to deal with if she even caught sight of a picture of a Sontaran (AKA “the Humpty Dumpty men!”). K9 had worked for a while, but it was a pale imitation of the real thing, and she only remembered the show when I pushed it on her, though she and the boys did enjoy drawing multiple versions of K9.

By the time the Matt Smith era came along, Raeli was steadfast in her commitment to quite liking Doctor Who as long as she never ever EVER had to watch it. The only episode of the whole season she watched live was The Hungry Earth, because she was staying at Glammer’s house and anything Glammer likes is automatically awesome. It had scared her enough, however, that she absolutely refused to watch part 2, though she did ask me quietly for a summary as to how it ended. I seem to recall that in true parental cop-out style my version went something like “and then it all ended happily and they said goodbye and nothing bad at all happened, especially to Rory.”

That was when she was five.

But this year, something changed. Raeli and I started listening to music in the car together, on the school run. I created a ‘Raeli favourites’ folder in my iTunes, and regularly dropped new songs into it for her to try out and decide if she wanted to keep them there. Real music, not Wiggles music! And I introduced her to Trock.

Any introduction to Trock (Timelord Rock, aka music about Doctor Who) starts with Chameleon Circuit, of course. Raeli very much liked some of their songs, a particular favourite being Journey’s End, which details the whole plot of that episode with great humour and joy. She learned the song forwards and backwards, and could sing along perfectly (“Harriet was killed and then everyone was sad, awww…”) but any attempts I made to suggest we watch that episode were met with horror. She could sing about Daleks, but she didn’t want to have to watch them.

Enter Laura Simpson, and the Ood Cast. If you’re a New Who (Matt Smith era) fan and you haven’t listened to The Ood Cast, you’re missing out. It’s a short, sweet podcast which combines enthusiastic, positive discussion of the show with sketch comedy and most of all, songs. During Season 5, they went weekly, with an episode and at least one song for every story. I love them for many reasons – the chemistry between the friends, the cute English accents, the Littlest Doctor, the fact that there’s an actual woman on the team – but Laura’s songs add a whole extra level to the show. It’s filk, plain and simple, but her creative choices are so clever as well as being very well executed that it’s exciting to hear what she will do next.

So Raeli started listening to the first Album of the Ood Cast. She didn’t like some of the songs at first – and in fact was so repulsed by their version of “Vincent” that she insisted on taking it out of the folder straight away. She also wasn’t keen on the River Song themed version of The Streets’ “Wipe your Eyes, Mate” which is one of my favourites.

BUT.

She really liked “Amelia Waits,” the Eleventh Hour song, to the tune of the Dawson’s Creek theme tune. She laughed like a drain every time she heard the line “he climbed up all wet, he destroyed her shed.” And when she asked me to explain the song as a bedtime story, she was excited to hear that the episode featured a little girl. So we watched The Eleventh Hour together, finally, and Raeli fell in love with Little Amelia.

I’d like to say ‘and the rest was history’ but in fact it turned out this was the only episode that was safe. It wasn’t that safe, of course… the barking dog scenes and several others were scary and Raeli watched them from behind the couch (LITERALLY, I’m so proud) and sometimes from the doorway. But she has two ways of dealing with scary things: blind panic, and dogged attempts to repeat the experience until it’s not scary any more, and she worked on The Eleventh Hour with the latter technique. Buoyed by the success, I tried for The Beast Below, only to discover that, um, those Smilers? Are apparently quite scary. Cue shrieking, running away & refusing to watch any Who except the Eleventh Hour, on high repeat…

I tried running through all possible other Matt Smith episodes. Any reference to Daleks, Vampires or Silurians was met with screaming and running away. Football, though. Could we do football? So I tried her on the Lodger, to moderate success, and she was so fascinated by images of a pregnant Amy on the DVD that we went with Amy’s Choice. Which became her new favourite.

“Amy’s Choice” is also a song on Laura Simpson’s Ood Cast Album, and I’m not quite sick of it yet, which is good, because I’ve apparently listened to it nearly 40 times in the past couple of months. The thing about our school run, is that there’s time for at least 3 songs, and so we also got to hear a lot of the songs straight after “Amy’s Choice” on the album, which were the boppy, cheerful ‘going underground’ and ‘sound of the underground’ from The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood.

After listening to those songs more than a dozen times, Raeli decided she was ready to revisit the episodes. From there it spread rather quickly. She would listen to the song for an episode, several times, ask me questions about the episode, and then we’d watch it together, usually several times over several days. Then she would move on, and back and forth.

She even made it through Victory of the Daleks, though she spent most of the episode outside the room, and decided from there her new rule: less than 3 Daleks are fine, 1 is acceptable, more than 3 is TOO SCARY FOR WORDS. Are you listening, Mr Moffat? Five Daleks is too many.

We were told she wanted a Doctor Who party next birthday, and that she wanted to dress as a Silurian. Raeli drew picture after picture of the lady Silurians in their natty military outfits, and I sent pics to my Mum, reminding her that she had always said that in another life she would have loved to work in a BBC Costume Department, and here was her chance.

Vincent and the Doctor was the last episode she came to, in part because we’d wondered how to deal with some of the adult issues like depression/mental illness/suicide in it. But she was determined, so we let her, and she watched intently, and then she watched it again. She had a lot of questions about Vincent and why he was sad, and how he saw the world. She listened to the Ood Cast Vincent song, and where she had resisted it before (it occurs to me now that her earlier dislike probably had more to do with the male, unLaura voice than anything else) she now fell in love: with the song, with the episode, with Vincent Van Gogh.

At a friend’s place, given a bucket of chalk and some empty concrete, she set about recreating the paintings featured in the episode. Starry Night, and the self-portrait, and the church, and the bedroom, and – and – and. We bought her chalk for her own concrete at home, and she did the pictures again, more, better. She reproduced them as faithfully as she could in biro and pencil, as well. She declared she was going to become an artist, like her Glammer, “and Vincent.”

When I went away at Easter, the gift I brought her back was a picture book of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, and it blew me away how delighted she was. She now knows more about his art than she learned about from Doctor Who, and squealed at the revelation that he painted irises, as that’s her middle name.

In recent weeks, Raeli and Inigo started working on The Tardis News. I overheard them discussing how one of the headlines should be ‘Hello Sweetie.’ Honestly, we have one such a good job raising those kids! They draw page after page of illustrations – and it fascinates me what Raeli chooses to draw. The Silurian sisters, one dead at the other’s feet. Vincent’s paintings. Little Amelia and Big Amy holding hands. The Doctor, of course. The TARDIS. River and her gun. (the gun, I am told, is essential) Roman Rory (she knows the way to her mother’s heart). Vampires.

She still doesn’t draw Daleks.

I wondered what we would do about this new season, though. It looked scary, at least for a 6 year old. I wasn’t sure that my little girl would be up to dealing with the Silence. I asked her if she wanted to watch it with us on Saturday night, or if she wanted to wait so we could tell her how scary it was. She decided to wait. Then once I had assured her there were no Daleks in it, she watched it. Sometimes she ran out of the room – oddly at parts that we would not have dreamed might be scary, while she seemed unpeterbed at scenes we assumed might be disturbing. She thought about it. She watched it again. She drew lots of pictures of River and her gun.

And she asked me where the song was.

I couldn’t provide it to her easily, as the new podcast episodes have the song right at the end, not available yet in album form. But it occurred to me that she might be interested in hearing the whole episode. Raeli was unsure.

But then came the pirates episode, which she loved with a fervent passion that surprised me (though the Siren was Quite Scary) and as we had a longish drive to a party last week, I let her listen to the Ood Cast pirate episode in the car. To be honest I don’t think it’s one of their best – it’s enjoyable, but none of the sketches struck me as being especially clever, especially on (by now) the third or fourth listen. But Raeli is in love. She loves the Ood Cast News, and the jokes, and the silly voices, and the song. She was horrified when I told her the podcast disappeared from my phone after the first listen, and demanded it several times when it wasn’t there. I changed my settings, and now the Pirates episode is there for perpetuity.

I’m getting a bit sick of it. So I also put on all the episodes that correspond to last year’s season of Matt Smith stories. I’m hoping that she will recall her love of The Eleventh Hour, and Amy’s Choice, and those daffy Silurian wenches, by listening to Chris Alpha, Chris Sigma, Andrew & Laura chatting and being silly. I’m hoping that I don’t have to listen to the pirates episode a zillion more times this month.

But I’m also really grateful, because the Ood Cast has been a vital tool in my daughter’s processing and learning to appreciate the new era of Doctor Who. Maybe if they also did classic episodes, I’d finally get her watching Carnival of Monsters or The Three Doctors! I love the fact that for my daughter, loving a TV show is also about creativity, whether that be fan art, or playground imagination games (she used to choose to be K9 or Amy or Litle Amelia, I am hanging out for her to tell me that today she played River Song), singing trock songs at the top of her lungs in the car, or dressing up as a Silurian for her birthday party.

I hope she’s over the Dalek thing by then. Not sure other parents would approve of a cake shaped like River Song’s gun.

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10 Responses to “How My Six Year Old Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Doctor Who (thanks to the Ood Cast)”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    I really loved this post, Tansy -sweet and funny and charming. Actually behind the sofa? Hehe.

  2. tansyrr Says:

    I know! The best thing about 6 year olds is they have no self-consciousness about cliches.

  3. Laura's Mum Says:

    Hi, just to let you know that when I was a little girl I watched Doctor WHo from behind the sofa too, it’s good to know that there is consistency between generations! wishing you many years of viewing together.

  4. Kerry Says:

    What a gorgeous post – although I can totally understand where you’re coming from with listening exhaustion.

    My seven year old son, who fled from David Tennant Doctor Who because the theme tune scared him, fell for Matt Smith’s doctor with The Eleventh Hour.

    If I said I was putting on some Doctor Who he’d ask me if it was the Eleventh Doctor.

    But like you, I was a bit concerned about series six being too scary. Maybe the Ood Cast is the thing to try. I shall check it out and see.

  5. Laura,s Dad Says:

    Laura and Chris bounced down into the kitchen and thrust an IPad in my hand insisting that I read your post. I was forewarned, (as the singer/writer of the Vincent song) that I was to be initially dissed, followed by a later redemption. I adopted Raelis technique of revisiting things, and finally finished reading it this morning. What a fabulous posting, I can see why they were so pleased and wanted to stop people on their way to work (me) to share it with them. I watched the first ever episode on a tiny black and white TV, with my own Mum and Dad, and the last one on a huge High Definition screen with a Cinema surround system with my own daughter and her husband to be. Over the years I have watched countless episodes while hiding, although my favourite method is to peer out between fingers. Laura watched yesterday’s peeping from behind a large hairy cushion. Please tell Raeli that compared to Laura’s voice mine is like having root canal treatment without anaesthetic, and I too always skip over the Vincent track when I listen to the album.

  6. Dragonsally Says:

    Up until I was 6, and we moved into our brand new house mum kept the vacuum cleaner under my bed. It terrified me, because it looked exactly like a Dalek to me, and I was often too scared to get out of bed. I also remember an episode when gooey scary stuff came out of the drains, and that made me scared to go near any water sources!

  7. Celia Says:

    Thank you for this post, which caused me to download and listen to a couple of Ood Casts, and then after that download every. single. one. ever. recorded. How cute are they!

  8. Daniel Simpson Says:

    Great post Tansy. I remembered glancing over it when you first posted. I say glanced because I have been ardently avoiding getting into more TV.

    But then I saw some of the Youtube “Vincent and The Doctor” and, well, yeah. Downloaded it from iTunes last week, loved it. Downloaded “The Eleventh Hour” – loved it. Grabbed three more episodes today to watch this weekend. Gulp.

    How can a show be so comical and terrifying at the same time?

    It really struck me how much it made me feel like a child again. My last “Who viewing” was as a 7 to 8 year-old in rural WA in the 80s – with nothing but the ABC to watch…

    I had been thinking that I want to share these with my 8 yr old and have been wondering how she would go with the monsters (barking man scared me, a little bit) and – as you said – Vincent’s depression.

    This post has given me a way forward, for which I thank you!

  9. tansyrr Says:

    Glad I could help. Daniel! Also if you’re looking for a Doctor Who experience which is very compatible with an 8 year old, I did just get hold of the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who & the Daleks movies on Fishpond – cost me $11 for the pair! Technicolour Daleks, gold face paint and a touch of slapstick humour…

  10. Daniel Simpson Says:

    Technicolour Daleks?

    Gold! Will have to check it out.

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