I spent pretty much all of yesterday reading the BBC’s Doctor Who Episode Guide. I think I’m undergoing some kind of internal audit – all the things I liked when I was a kid and brutally blue-pencilled in my worried 20s are now up for guiltless grabs. Role-playing games (intriguing); Elvis Costello records (excellent); iffy sci-fi (iffy); Stephen King (rotten); and now the Doctor.

Something I never twigged until yesterday, probably because this had been lost by the time I started watching, is how Doctor Who could work as a kind of possessing spirit, inhabiting and twisting other BBC programmes and processes. The BBC was good at costume drama, so a lot of Who stories, the “historical” ones in particular, found the programme materializing inside the skin of some other proto-drama about smugglers or Romans or 20s dandies. Nomadic and cannibalistic, Doctor Who would roam around willy-nilly, trying on costumes and funny voices for the joy of it. The cheapness, the not getting it quite right, was part of the charm: an imagined world brought to life for a week or two, lashed together with gaffer tape and magic, then vanishing to make way for the next.

(Ed 2006: Having just edited this for punctuation, I have no idea what the Who bit has to do with Kate Bush’s The Dreaming!)