Monday, 30 June 2014

Want to be the Doctor's companion? Go on a hairdressing course first!

Want to be the Doctor's companion? Go on a hairdressing course first!

By Marjorie Fitzsimmons (as told to backwards7)

When people find out that I used to be one of the Doctor's time-travelling companions the first thing they usually ask me is whether I can get them Davros's autograph. The answer is I can't, no matter how much you beg or plead: At one time Davros and the Doctor were in business together. That professional relationship turned sour many decades ago and the pair no longer communicate, except through their solicitors.

From there the conversation moves on to any encounters that I may have had with Daleks. Sometimes I am asked whether a Cyberman has ever attempted to upgrade me. There is a certain type of individual who always wants to hear about the Zygons. I have learned from past experience that it is wise to steer clear of these people. Every once in a while I meet someone who is a bit surly and evidently jealous of my time with the Doctor who will make a rhetorical comment along the lines of “I expect it's all screaming and running down flimsy corridors, isn't it.”

Addressing each of these points in turn:

(1) I have only ever encountered one Dalek. Her name was Gemma and we met at a fĂȘte in Winchester where she was running a cake stall. She apologised profusely for the behaviour of her species in the past (“It was our grandparent's generation - we're not all like we're portrayed on the BBC”). I, in turn, apologised for the negative stereotypes of Daleks perpetuated by the media. Contrary to what the BBC might have you believe they cannot make a robotic eye-stalk spontaneously emerge from the centre of a human forehead.

In fact, outside of Earth, the Daleks are better known as a race of accomplished plumbers. The sink-plunger appendage common to most models is a symbol of this proud tradition. Gemma gave me some excellent advice on the installation of a downstairs lavatory. She was delightful company and we have kept in touch by email ever since.

(2) In the event of you meeting a Cyberman it is highly unlikely that they will consider you worthy of being upgraded as there is a very stringent person specification. Those wishing to make the transition from human to post-human entity must first undergo a succession of rigorous interviews and aptitude tests. The few who are successful must sign a consent form, after which there is a three month cooling off period prior to the upgrading process.

(3) The flimsy corridors are very much an invention of the Doctor Who television series, which I will discuss in greater detail in a moment. During my four years with the Doctor, the only occasion when I can recall running screaming down a corridor was when my friend, Colleen, and I were racing to catch the last space bus from Mars Base Delta back to the Earth's moon. As I recall the corridor was of sturdy construction and did not wobble when touched.

When I look back on my years as a reluctant time traveller, I realise that I actually spent very little time on alien worlds immersing in the culture of the inhabitants. The thing that I remember doing the most was tidying up the Tardis and taking care of the doctor who, while he may be a genius, retains the emotional intelligence of a toddler. This is a man well over 1000 years old who still believes that he can iron a shirt simply by waving a sonic screwdriver at it.

Fanciful theories abound as to why the he chooses to travel with mostly human companions. The truth of the matter is that he needs someone to cut his hair for him and, in his opinion, Earth has the best hairdressers. Despite his high IQ he seems unable to grasp the fact that not everybody on my home planet is born with innate hairdressing skills. He would be far better off selecting a companion who has trained in the profession rather than picking up people at random off the street. By way of example, I am not a hairdresser. I am a 54 year old music teacher from late 20th century Durham, England.

My first few months in the Tardis were spent tiptoeing my way around the Doctor's tantrums, provoked by me cutting his fringe unevenly, leaving one sideburn slightly longer than the other, or because the colour I had dyed his hair was no longer to his liking. He once yelled at me for three days straight because I had picked his hat up off the floor of the control room and placed it in his wardrobe where it wouldn't get stepped on.

Eventually I learned to stand up for myself:

“BUY SOME FUCKING PROFESSIONAL HAIRDRESSING SCISSORS!” I once yelled at him. I don't usually swear but I was at the end of my tether.

When the Doctor wasn't ranting and raving he would often descend into petulant sulks during which his part in our conversations would be reduced to monosyllabic grunts at best. It was during one of these huffs that he attempted to abandon me in 14th century France which for some reason had been occupied by Sontarans.

The Doctor has many vices and bad habits. In the past he had accrued significant gambling debts. To pay off the money he owed, he sold the rights to his image to the BBC who continue to produce a children's television show loosely based around events in his life. These stories are always airbrushed in a manner that makes the Doctor look good. In many of the events that inspired episodes the he was undoubtedly the aggressor. I was once told by a previous companion that he went through a phrase of throwing rugs and tablecloths over Daleks so they couldn't see where they were going, before pushing them into ladies changing rooms.

This cruel streak was still very much in evidence when I travelled with him:

All my life I had been haunted by a childhood memory of a mean old lady pushing me into a puddle. I later discovered that the old lady in question was me! The Doctor had pointed out a small child and claimed that she was an Auton – a sentient plastic being controlled by the Nestene Consciousness. If I didn't go over and push her into a puddle immediately she would probably strangle a kindly policeman. Needless to say none of this was remotely true.

The Doctor eventually returned me to England 20 years after I had left on the day of my sister's funeral. By this time I had also been declared dead; something that continues to cause me problems with my state pension. I am also in dispute with a former friend over the ownership of my pet tortoises, which she has looked after ever since I went missing.

Fortunately I am able to earn a small income as a public speaker and as a guest at Doctor Who conventions. I also do charitable work where I go into schools and warn impressionable young ladies – the type the Doctor seems to favour these days – of the dangers of getting into a blue box with a stranger.

He is not a terribly pleasant man. 

His real name by the way is Kevin Michael Edwards.

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