England

Doctor Who fan's wife's epic labour of love

Sue and Neil Perryman
Image caption Sue and Neil Perryman now plan to watch all of Blake 7, and possibly build a house from scratch

When Neil Perryman decided to call in a favour his wife owed him, he perhaps did not realise what a labour of love it would turn out to be. The diehard Doctor Who fan persuaded Sue to watch all 697 episodes of the show. Two and a half years later their journey through time and space was complete.

Beginning in January 2011 - with the viewings organised in strictly chronological order - the couple sat down to supper at their home in Elwick, near Hartlepool, and watched one of the programmes.

Sue Perryman, a lecturer in media at Sunderland University, said: "I started blonde and now I'm grey."

When they met, in 1993, Neil hid his "fanboy status" at first, and for years confined his Doctor Who viewings to late at night on his own.

Then came Sue's "crazy project" to build a house.

"With a few other members of my family, we took over a group of redundant farm buildings and renovated them into homes for each of us," she said.

"I told him it was going to take a year and we would have to live in a caravan.

"It took longer than we thought, and we ended up in it for three years, along with a dog, a cat, and a daughter who was doing A Levels at the time.

"So I owed him a favour."

'Missing episodes'

About two years' later Neil decided to call it in.

By that time Doctor Who was back on the TV screens, and Sue was watching it, although she had never seen any of the classic series.

He set up a blog - Adventures with the Wife in Space - and they began watching from the beginning on official DVDs and old VHS recordings.

Image caption Adventures with the Wife in Space became a popular blog

The missing episodes were covered by a combination of reconstructions including photos of TV screens, recordings on reel to reel tape, and animations, mostly made by other fans.

Neil said: "We watched in chronological order, the aim was an episode a night, although life sometimes got in the way and you'd miss one.

"If you had a busy week then they'd get back up so you'd end up spending the weekend watching."

It was not always easy going, and surprisingly, it was the Doctor Who fan who found it more of a problem.

"He struggled a bit sometimes because he knew what was coming," Sue said.

"While I was a fresh pair of eyes and didn't know whether it was going to be good or bad."

'Scruffy drunk'

Neil said: "I expected Sue would give up because some of the early black and white ones are heavy to watch.

Image caption Sue's favourite doctor, Patrick Troughton, reminded her of Matt Smith

"If I knew, for instance, that a not-so-good 12 part one was coming up then I'd want out.

"The blog was a kind of trap I set myself. If I gave up everyone would know. It was an incentive to keep going."

When it comes to the big question - favourite doctor, Patrick Troughton - or "the scruffy drunk" as they sometimes referred to him - trumped the others, as far as Sue was concerned.

"I never used to watch as a kid, so wasn't aware of him, but Matt Smith reminds me of him, something about his mannerisms."

Neil added: "And his bow tie. My favourite was Tom Baker, I think he was the first actor who really believed he was the doctor."

'Shoot dogs'

Watching again made him realise quite how violent and frightening the classic series was.

"There were things you wouldn't get away with nowadays," he said.

"In Terror of the Autons aliens dressed as police officers and questions were raised in the House of Commons because it was thought it would make children frightened of the police.

Image caption Earlier episodes proved frightening

"There was also one in which dolls came to life and strangled children, and they used to shoot dogs all the time. Sue hated that."

The couple wrote a book about the project, and they are now considering what to do next.

Ideas include building a house from scratch, taking up archery and even tackling another TV sci fi classic, Blake's 7.

"I'm looking forward to it," Sue said.

"I've not seen it, it's much shorter than the Doctor Who series, not such a marathon. And we'll be together."

Neil added: "When we started on Doctor Who, friends joked that it would end in divorce. The irony is that it's brought us closer together."

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