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Happy Birthday to Who

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Today is the 48th birthday of a television show that I can truly say changed my life - Doctor Who. Back in 1963, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy, on television a policeman wandered down a foggy London street, stopping briefly outside a junkyard emblazoned with the name 'I.M. Foreman, Scrap Merchant, 76, Totters Lane'. As the doors slowly opened, a humming blue box was revealed.

This was a good 14 years before I was born, but even watching the opening scene of An Unearthly Child today I get tingles down my spine. It's so gloriously unassuming yet incredibly weird.

When I say Doctor Who changed my life, I'm not merely being rhetorical. It truly shaped my view of the world, introduced me to some of my best friends, and gave me an interest in, well, everything. If the Doctor could be a polymath, then I could try my damned hardest to be too.

One man stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the Doctor Who pantheon for me though. It's not Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat, as marvellous as they are. It's not even William Hartnell or Tom Baker. The man I'm talking about is a name only Doctor Who fans will recognise instantly - Terrance Dicks.

As well as writing for the series at various times from Patrick Troughton's era right up to Peter Davison's 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors, he was also script editor for Jon Pertwee's reign.

But, more than that, Terrance Dicks is a man who basically taught me to read. New Doctor Who fans wont remember the days before video recorders - or even what video recorders are. To gain a taste of Doctor Who that had already been on the telly, and was highly unlikely to be repeated again, you had to search out the Target novelisations. These were usually 128-page paperbacks, written with brevity, and more than 60 of them were written by Terrance Dicks.
As a child I devoured these books - I still have them all - able to deduce which Doctor was having this particular adventure if he wasn't pictured on the cover by Terrance's shorthand descriptions of crotchety old men, white shocks of hair, bohemian jackets and pleasant open faces.

Basic they may have been but for an eight-year-old boy they were everything books should be. Pacy, funny, exciting and with just the right amount of long words to send me scurrying for the dictionary to check what 'jackanapes' meant.

As well as writing Doctor Who books, Terrance has written well over 100 books for children, promoting children's literacy and keeping libraries well stocked to boot.
To me, the man deserves a knighthood for his services to children's literature and, frankly, I'm surprised he hasn't got one yet.

In lieu of official recognition, as well as raising my glass to Doctor Who at 48 years old tonight, I'll also be appreciating the man who helped make me who I am today.

Terrance Dicks - thank you.