That was until Russell the T. came along and managed to re-brand both Easter and Christmas as times of Gallifreyan goodness, with the very first episode of new-Who, Rose, broadcast on Easter Saturday in 2005. The last few years have seen the show scheduled later in the year, leaving us all munching on forlorn eggs decorated with Teletubby-coloured Daleks and Matt Smith’s eyebrowless, foot-shaped mug.
But never fear, in light of the Beeb’s continuing seasonal intransigence, the Horror Channel have stepped bravely out from behind the sofa (they weren’t hiding from monsters, there were some sticky-paged back-issues of Fangoria tucked down there), and are determined to make Easter 2014 a time of extra plenty for chocolate-gorged geeks. And it’s not just Christians who can celebrate, either, with Horror Channel generously ensuring this is one festival Jewvians (Jewish Who-fans, obviously) won’t want to pass over.
This Saturday sees the launch of a whole TARDIS-load of classic Who on the Horror Channel, starting with the 1963 debut story and climaxing on Easter Sunday with the stiff-upper-lipped late-80s masterpiece Remembrance of the Daleks. Following this weekend-long blowout, Horror are treating us to daily double-bills of classic episodes from across the show’s original 26-year run.
In keeping with their business model, the channel have selected more heavily from the horror end of the Who-spectrum, and focused on episodes that pit the Timelord against creepy plastic people (Terror of the Autons, Easter Saturday from 3.45pm), grand guignol Frankenstein-alikes (The Brain of Morbius, Saturday from 6pm) and the relentless Cybermen (the surprisingly watchable Attack of the Cybermen on Sunday from 2.30, in which Colin Baker’s Doctor rather unexpectedly picks up a big gun and shoots a Cyberman in the chest at point-blank range). Later in Horror’s run we can expect to be served vampires (The Curse of Fenric), icky giant bugs (Planet of the Spiders) and Tom Baker’s favourite story, The Horror of Fang Rock, which is, it must be said, an absolute belter.
Speaking of Lord Tom of Baker, the mad-eyed one was on hand earlier this week at London’s swish Ivy Club to help Horror launch the season. As well as submitting himself to a public interview with the eternally-pregnant Emily Booth, the once and future Gallifreyan demigod took time to speak to the assembled press, in which the reliable old rogue sprinkled the refined air of the Ivy’s loft with such gems as “I am almost immortal”, “the Doctor is a rather priggish fellow” and my personal favourite “What’s the point of having a rich wife and taking on cheap jobs at the BBC?”
Asked about his return in Who’s 50th Anniversary episode, the almost incomprehensible but rather joyous Day of the Doctor, Baker pulled no punches. Diplomatically beginning with the assertion that he wasn’t “keen” on the script, the actor spun one of his trademark diatribes against his former paymasters at the BBC, comparing the Corporation’s managers to Daleks and bacteria, and musing aloud that if the two wires he was holding in the famous Genesis of the Daleks moment “have I the right?” were set to target the sixth floor of the BBC instead of the nascent Skarovian menaces then there would have been no question about whether to touch them together. “Boom!” he twinkled, to the merriment of all. Of course the assembled press weren’t going to let it go at that, and after several pressing enquiries, Baker confessed that he has no idea exactly who his character in The Day of the Doctor was actually meant to be – “typical of the BBC,” he observed, “nobody knows. I could have been the Director General for all I know.”
With the hand that feeds thoroughly bitten, Baker moved on to take a few pot-shots at his fellow Doctors, gleefully recounting tales of upstaging the poor chaps at conventions and gorging on adulation that should have rightfully been theirs, and in a particularly mischievous dig showing his delight at Messrs Davison, Baker and McCoy’s reported annoyance that Tom was in the Anniversary show but they were not. “Yes,” he said, “I should hope so!” And that’s Tom Baker – witty, garrulous, slightly cruel, utterly bonkers and, due to a recent run-in with prescription medication, increasingly scatter-brained. One gets the feeling that there are few scores left to settle for Tom, whose professions of immortality are clearly not to be taken seriously. Like his audience, this is a man who knows that it is almost the end, and can only hope that the moment has been prepared for.
But Doctor Who will live on with or without its elder statesman, who seems satisfied at least to have outlived former enemies Terry Nation and Jon Nathan-Turner, and the Horror Channel’s bulk-buying of classic stories should ensure that today’s Tennant-raised whelps continue to have the opportunity to experience proper Who, enjoying episodes which have a notably different and far more intellectual flavour than the recent four-year-long arc plot about a skinny boy with a magic wand who can’t keep a girlfriend for more than two seasons without inexplicably growing old, growing young again and turning (for the second time in his unnaturally-prolonged life) into a rumpled Scotsman.
It is a good time to be a Whovian, and with the aforementioned Booth and the mighty Kim Newman on hand to celebrate, Horror seem delighted to be at the forefront of classic Who’s post-Anniversary renaissance. While the BBC remain keen to scotch the endless rumours of newly-discovered missing episodes, with Andrew Beech issuing the succinct and inarguable “Ian Levine is mad”, the once-missable Horror Channel are re-branding themselves as a channel of geek quality.
This weekend alone, alongside oodles of Who, they are screening Pan’s Labyrinth, Day of the Dead and the matchless Hammer and Amicus double-bill The Devil Rides Out (Christopher Lee’s best film by a country mile) and Blood on Satan’s Claw, which artfully continues the Who theme with a scene in which erstwhile companion Wendy Padbury (Zoe Herriott to Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor) is stripped to the waist and sexually assaulted for the amusement of a coven of blankly staring Pagan youngsters.
And if all that isn’t enough to get you tuning into the Horror Channel, then I’m sorry, you must have come to the wrong universe.