Monday, October 23, 2006

Dr. Who and Aikido of San Jose

In the early ‘80’s KTEH, the local public broadcasting station, used to run an extensive amount of Dr Who. Created in 1963 by Sidney Newman, who also created “The Avengers”, Dr Who was originally a BBC science fiction program aimed at children. In the 80’s the show gained a great amount of popularity in America by being run by PBS stations. My daughter and I would watch the show almost nightly. Individual episodes would run week nights from 6:00pm to 6:24, and the evening aikido classes would begin at 6:30pm. In addition on Saturday nights from 11:15 to about 1am there would be a Dr Who movie, where all the episodes of a story line would be broadcast back to back. Needless to say, Jenny and I would be glued to the tv set late Saturday nights.

The main reason for the show’s sudden popularity on American television was a British actor, Tom Baker. He played the 4th incarnation of the character, a time lord who traveled the whole universe in a time machine stuck in the shape of a British police box. Upon the physical death of one incarnation, the character would regenerate into another version of himself, played, of course, by another actor. Tom Baker brought a powerful, self-deprecating and humorous sense to the character. Although I am a fan of Dr. Who in general, I am, in particular, a fan of Mr. Baker’s 4th Doctor.

In 1983 there was a Dr Who Convention at the Hyatt in Palo Alto, and, the special guest was none other than Tom Baker. At that time there was a student training at the dojo named Jack Martin. He was none other than the person in charge of security for the convention. When he found out that both my daughter and I were fans, he arranged for me to work security at the convention. On Saturday I showed up and was given a pretty busy day of doing various tasks. When I saw Jack at the end of the day, he asked me what I had done that day. When he found out he seemed a bit embarrassed and asked me to show up at a different location the next day. Well, come Sunday I got to be Mr Baker’s bodyguard for the day. My daughter accompanied me. When she was introduced to him she was so shy she ducked away when he tried to kiss her. After all, we watched this man save the universe 6 nights a week, seeing up front and this close was rather overpowering. Noting her shyness, he smiled and said”She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, and I don’t blame her!”. Well, fortunately for me none of his real heavyweight opponents(Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans) showed up, so all I basically had to do was just hang out. After the convention we went to a party for the volunteers who had assisted with the convention. Mr. Baker was kind enough to come. He even came up to me and asked if he could make me a gin and tonic!

For a time there was a real tie through Dr. Who between channel 54 and Aikido of San Jose. We would phone in donations in the name of the dojo during pledge breaks. KTEH even asked me to get a group from the dojo together to be bodyguards for 2 of the later, post-Baker Doctors: Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy. Even though the later Doctors were in their own way quite good, none of them could match the brilliance of Mr. Baker and the popularity of the show wained.

There was a connection between the character of the Doctor and aikido. Jon Pertwee, the 3rd doctor, practiced a form of martial arts called “Venusian Aikido”. Especially in the story “The Green Death” there is an extensive use of aikido throws. This was not a major part of Tom Baker’s Doctor.

As I speak the show is again in production and is being aired on the Sci-fi channel. I guess you can’t keep a time lord down. Here is a short clip from Tom Baker's first episode:


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