Pitch black. My hands are sweating around the RC cars remote. There’s a faint electric nervousness flowing through the air. A blue light flashes, then a purple one. The stage illuminates and a familiar vworp noise fills my ears. The curtain swings back and there’s a person dressed like a small schoolboy who got lost in Oxfam; that’s him, that’s Doctor Whom - that’s my Doctor. 

Doctor Whom was the first show I co-wrote with my writing partner Jasper Cresdee-Hyde. We’d somehow convinced Pembroke Players that we should have a late show with nothing more than a name and some rather sincere loving words for Doctor Who. The script was written in a google doc of all things, this being long before we had any idea you could use actual software for that. We got our cast together and within a couple of weeks we had a show. 

"The shows went on with a thousand hitches, and a thousand duct tape solutions"

For three nights in Pembroke New Cellars Doctor Whom was alive. A rag tag team of non-theatre kids, not a single one of us had any idea what we were doing. The shows went on with a thousand hitches, and a thousand duct tape solutions. It was hilarious, at least for me, and driving our little Robot Dog around the stage, and off it, was still the highlight of my year. The theatre scene at Cambridge is a scary one, in no other do you have to so visibly and publicly flail yourself, but in those three nights I discovered I could make my own space, filled with people I admire and look up to. It was one of the first times I felt truly at home in cambridge. 

After the success of the show the next step seemed obvious: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The pandemic was merely just some second tier headlines at this point, and the fog of the future was still opaque. But, at least in 2020, it was not to be; with all in person activities being cancelled due to a novel coronavirus, theatre had a dire future - and even the Doctor couldn’t save it. The script would remain on my laptop for nearly a year without a single edit; without even being opened. Multiple cancelled, or pandemic troubled shows later we had just a glimmer of hope. With the rise of vaccinations helping ease the burden of the pandemic, the Fringe was announced to be going ahead. We had one, and only one thought: if the Fringe was happening then we would be going. 

Rehearsing for the first run of Doctor WhomJake Rose

It’s hard to explain the destitute feeling of preparing for something you think isn’t going to happen; it’s quite like watching Chibnall's Doctor Who, you know it’s going to be bad but you still turn on the TV. It had already happened once with our ADC Lateshow, Space Mystery: A Mystery in Space, a script that I found impossible to finish whilst knowing it was likely doomed due to another lockdown.. But with each wibbly wobbly tick of the clock we got closer to the fringe. We’d completed more rehearsals, bought more props and costumes, booked our trains - suddenly, several months had passed and I was sat in the tech box with a RC car remote in hand. 

I won’t lie and say that Doctor Whom was a masterpiece. In the words of one reviewer:

“Doctor Whom is comfortably the most under-rehearsed, shouty, confusing, mumbly, jittery show I’ve seen at the Fringe, and yet it is the only one that has the spark of genius”

This reviewer came on our first night - which we spent the remaining two weeks questioning why we let happen - and let me be frank, the show that night was under-rehearsed, shouty, confusing and jittery; but I wholeheartedly stand behind that spark of genius; you could hear it in the actors voices and see it in their eyes. The script I wrote was, in many ways, just a template for what went out on stage. Every single person involved in the show improved it in some way; from suggesting new jokes, to coming up with entire Dorlek Oil™ related subplots.

"Watching that spark light up a room every night in Edinburgh gave me one hell of an education" 

Every night had a new joke, or a new bit of ad lib; sometimes it didn’t work - and I mean really didn’t work - and other times we found a comedic goldmine. That ‘spark’ was almost certainly nothing of my creation, but formed by every person who had a part in the show. I don’t have any formal training in performing, or writing, or comedy, yet watching that spark light up a room every night in Edinburgh gave me one hell of an education. 

Doctor Whom was the end of Cambridge for many of those involved, including myself. For some, it was the only piece of theatre they had ever been involved in. Now, we’re all going on to quite disparate things - even consultancies - but still, in twenty years I know that I’ll be thinking of my little Doctor and his band of merry villains; I hope they are too.