Sunday 14 August 2022 09:31 AM PETER HITCHENS: Why didn't Doctor Who warn us? Comprehensives are far scarier ... trends now

Sunday 14 August 2022 09:31 AM PETER HITCHENS: Why didn't Doctor Who warn us? Comprehensives are far scarier ... trends now
Sunday 14 August 2022 09:31 AM PETER HITCHENS: Why didn't Doctor Who warn us? Comprehensives are far scarier ... trends now

Sunday 14 August 2022 09:31 AM PETER HITCHENS: Why didn't Doctor Who warn us? Comprehensives are far scarier ... trends now

We have to face it. Doctor Who was a dismal failure at warning us of the perils to come. 

In my schooldays, William Hartnell went off into the future and found the Daleks, who could not even climb stairs and had no sense of humour.

But he did not discover comprehensive schools, in my view much, much more frightening than any Dalek. Had he done so, we would not have made that mistake.

Nor did he manage to warn us that criminal justice was going to dissolve into mist, or that marriage would collapse, or that the English Channel, which foreign tyrants foolishly saw as an obstacle for centuries, was a doddle to cross.

For a long time I have wondered what the point of this programme was. Now I propose a replacement, Doctor What?, in which a grizzled old geezer with dodgy hearing voyages intrepidly into the past, perhaps aboard a steam train, with an attractive younger assistant. 

Imagine the little ones hiding behind the furniture when they catch their first glimpse of teachers with authority, blackboards, exams you can fail. A stock image is used above [File photo]

Imagine the little ones hiding behind the furniture when they catch their first glimpse of teachers with authority, blackboards, exams you can fail. A stock image is used above [File photo]

There he finds out how much better we used to do so many things. I could do this, I’m about as decrepit as William Hartnell was in 1963.

I don’t think Doctor Who has frightened anybody much for years. But the things Doctor What? would reveal to an astonished audience would have many of them rigid in their chairs. 

Imagine the little ones hiding behind the furniture when they catch their first glimpse of teachers with authority, blackboards, exams you can fail.

Picture the frisson of horror that would run through wrongdoers as Doctor What? encounters a policeman patrolling a street on foot. Perhaps the greatest national dismay would be reserved for the portrayal of a couple marrying before having children, and staying together even when things got rough.

Picture the frisson of horror that would run through wrongdoers as Doctor What? encounters a policeman patrolling a street on foot, writes Peter Hitchens, pictured

Picture the frisson of horror that would run through wrongdoers as Doctor What? encounters a policeman patrolling a street on foot, writes Peter Hitchens, pictured

Footage of a criminal sent to jail, especially if the crime involved drugs, might have to be shown after the watershed, with trigger warnings before and a helpline after.

You might follow it with a comic interlude about life before central heating, or the amazing way people got about without cars, when we still had railways and trams, and it was safe for children to walk and cycle to school. 

Once, it would have been worth pointing out the horrible fact that everyone smoked cigarettes in those days. But in the age of the vaping pandemic, and when cities stink of dope, that’s not as scary as it might have been.

There would, for obvious reasons, be no mention of man-made global warming, no swearing and no nudity, features which might gain the series a cult following. All we need is a theme tune.

When he complained about some failure of service, which he did quite a bit, my late brother Christopher always responded to the stupid defence ‘Nobody has complained about this before’ by saying ‘Well, you won’t be able to say that again’. Now, we need a united and equally devastating reaction to the infuriating claim made by so many retailers that ‘Sorry, we can’t accept cash’. I suggest: ‘Please explain why exactly you cannot accept cash.’ Because of course they can

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