Once Upon A Geek – Doctor Who Technical Manual (1983)


Dr. Chris Lewis and The Irredeemable Shag use the 1983 publication, “The Doctor Who Technical Manual” to frame a discussion about growing up as Doctor Who fans!

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30 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – Doctor Who Technical Manual (1983)

  1. Great show, Doctor and Shag! I also still have my copy of the Technical Manual from 1983 or perhaps 1984. I remember that most of the Doctor Who books were easily available in the regular bookstores in Canada, in malls and such. And I remember the Target novelizations in my school libraries. Was the store where Shag bought his Targets a rare beast for having Doctor Who stuff or was it as common there as here?

    I got into Doctor Who during the big 1983 anniversary year. Not specifically because of the 20th celebration. But because I finally gave into my friend’s pleas to give what seemed like … well, as Shag puts it an amateur college knockoff of Star Wars a chance. We were up at the trailer park where we’d spent much of the summer (it’s where I visit in my head when Rob Kelly talks of Mountain Comics). We only received three regular channels half-decently on our little TV set. CTV, CBC and TV Ontario. TV Ontario is kind of like our PBS, although the pledge drives were less frequent, less tacky and less entertaining. They showed Doctor Who weekly, repeating the same episode twice in a week

    And my first episode was Armageddon Factor episode 5, part of their rerun season. TVO had a strange viewing order back then. They’d start with the second story of a season and then run through that season and show the first story of the next season.

    So, like Chris, I have a nostalgic love of Destiny of the Daleks too, as it would have been likely the first full Doctor Who story I saw. (I can’t remember when I returned home and caught Doctor Who on the Buffalo PBS station that was running the show daily.)

    I first saw Destiny episode 1 on August 27, 1983 according to this amazing site:

    Doctor Who fandom was odd back in the 1980s. The books were plentiful. Everyone knew what the show was. But we were sort of second-class geeks for loving it. I joined the local branch of DWIN, Canada’s Doctor Who club, We’d watch blurry episodes taped by someone pointing a US video camera at a UK TV months or years before the episodes turned up on PBS or TVO. (In fact, one of our hosts, a teenager at the time, went on to become a Human Rights legal expert in the UK)_

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find the Earth-Titan shuttle in Blake’s 7 — the designer of The Invisible Enemy Mat Irvine worked on Blake’s 7. (Heck, a Sea Devil turned up DW’s sister show.) But it’s not the spaceship London — the prison ship that Blake is exiled on. I’ll keep an eye out for it as we cover Blake’s 7 over on Straight Outta the Federation podcast (shameless plug).

    Thanks for letting us find our joy as you find yours!

    1. And oddly, The Armageddon Factor also plays a role in me both finding the Fire and Water Network and doing a Blake’s 7 podcast.

      It was my nostalgic love of my first (incomplete) Doctor Who story that caused me to follow the Warlord Worlds (Mike Grell podcast) hosts Ruth and Darrin Sutherland over to the Straight Outta Gallifrey podcast. I kept listening to that podcast which begat our Blake’s 7 one. And then I followed the Sutherlands over to their Fire and Water guest appearances.

  2. Best Cybermen: Earthshock. They have guns. Guns which can be stolen and used on them by companions! Best episode: The Doctor Falls. Because those early Cybermen are indeed really great.

    Best Daleks: the original. Best episode: Evil of the Daleks.

    Best other villain: The Ice Warriors. Great 2nd Doctor episodes. Rubbish 3rd Doctor episodes.

    Best console: Hartnell. Eighth Doctor is a good extrapolation of the console room, but it’s far too much of a jump. He flies through seven incarnations and only now does he get all “great curator”? The TARDIS has other rooms; why does it look like this is the only one he uses? At least there’s no bed.

    Best companion: Lalla Ward as Romana II. Tom’s smarter foil, but maybe not as clever. Book smart not street smart? Equally as adept as serious and funny. Great how you can see how Tom responding to someone who’s his equal. SJS is great, but she’s undermined by writing and everyone else’s interaction with her. Harry is overprotective and calls her “old girl”. The Doctor tells her “stop blubbering” and expects her to keep getting in trouble. The Brigadier acts old-fashioned and not always supportive. And Robot has to bring up the whole “woman’s lib” thing, where with Romana you never need to bring up a woman’s equality to men. Pertwee’s relation with her is unimpressive – is she assistant or office furniture that goes off and does its own thing? Is he creepy father or mentor? Things improve after Harry leaves and they become more like best friends, though he’s still the impenetrable alien and she’s the human. Tom can’t get anything over on Lalla because they’re both Timelords.

    Sidenote: I did pick up the Timeslip series through a thrift and watched it with John. Fantastic start. It weakens in following storylines, but I like it.

    I also carried around a tire gauge that was meant to be a sonic screwdriver.

    Good point with V about the producers taking the sci-fi fans for granted and going after the Dynasty crowd. Often an offensive mistake. Reminds me of Clinton assuming the progressives have no option but to vote for her and and so post-nomination she goes after the conservative swing voters. Good luck with that. Just like “good luck with the Dynasty crowd, V producers”.

    1. Thanks for your comments VotRS! Agree with you on Earthshock. Companions can also wear gold badges for mathematical excellence which come in surprisingly handy now and again! ;o)

      I’m in two minds about the Pertwee-era Ice Warriors; I don’t have a problem with them becoming less villainous in the Peladon stories, but for my money they’re not as well executed as in the Troughton stories. In the New Series I thought Cold War was terrific, but Empress of Mars didn’t really float my boat – they’re a great monster, but a bit too inconsistent in the execution for me.

      I like McGann’s TARDIS as a link between Classic & New Series designs – the floor to ceiling time rotor was visually outstanding and was carried all the way through (until the very odd current crystalline design).

      I’m a big fan of the casting of companions throughout the series. Given how many companions there have been in the nearly 60 year run there are really very few lesser performances, so no arguments here about Romana. Either of them!

  3. I really enjoyed this episode! As a recent convert to Doctor Who, it’s great to hear all the lore that’s been around since the 1960’s and joy in both of your voices as you talk about some great memories!

    I don’t think I ever saw Doctor Who as a kid, but it must have been in the social consciousness because I kind of knew about it. It was that British sci-fi show on the PBS station, right? Or was that Red Dwarf? Or am I just remembering Pigs In Space? Regardless, the show really passed me by. It’s only in the past couple years that I’ve tried to search out and watch Doctor Who episodes and thanks to BritBox, I now can watch (almost) all of them in order! Right now I’m in the middle of Jon Pertwee’s run and am loving all the episodes I’ve seen so far. I can’t imagine what this would have been like if I started watching when I was 10 and then to find out out there is so much merchandise out there. Books, toys, magazines, shirts, conventions!? Amazing!

    I’m huge fan of your new show, Shag, and I’m looking forward to what’s next! Keep up the great work!

    1. Welcome to the club, Mike – you’re never too old to start with Doctor Who (although I still think 8-12 years old is the optimum time to watch!)
      In a funny way I’m deeply envious that you can start watching stories and have no idea about the twists & turns! (A few years ago, the BBC put up all the Classic shows up running on a loop on Twitch, and there was a flurry of 1960’s Doctor Who memes appear, as teenagers got into old episodes of Who for the very first time.)
      Have you got any favourite stories from your watch-through so far?

      I would pay good money to see a Doctor Who / Pigs in Space crossover episode! ;o)

      1. I’m glad to be aboard this amazing club. I may be in my 40’s, but mentally, I feel I’m between 8-12!

        I think the only thing I’ve absorbed from pop culture about the Doctor is that…
        1) people have their favourite Doctors
        2) Dalek’s like to exterminate
        3) and apparently there’s something about blinking and angels that people really loved?

        Other than that, I don’t know any twists and turns so I’m really enjoying the stories so far. I’m currently watching the Mind of Evil (the second story from Season 8, with the 3rd Doctor) so I’ve just been introduced to the Master in the last couple of stories, and I’ve been enjoying the start of the building out of the mythology of the Doctor. As far as favourites of what I’ve seen so far? The ones that immediately come to mind are The Romans (because I like Ian and Barbara), The Krotons (because I have a crush on Zoe), The Mind Robber, and the War Games (the War Chief is fantastically over the top). Sadly, as you know, a lot of the second Doctor’s stories are missing but I did enjoy the ones I was able to watch.

        As an experienced Who fan, what are your favourite stories? What should I look out for in the coming seasons?

        1. Wow… what a question! With so many stories there’s something for everyone!
          I grew up watching Tom Baker & Peter Davison, so my favourites tend to come from that era: Terror of the Zygons, Robots of Death, The Pirate Planet, Caves of Androzani.
          However, your mileage may vary!
          What can you expect? What else… the Unexpected! Hope you’re enjoying the journey.

  4. Great episode!

    I have a strange history with Doctor Who.

    The first time I ever saw Doctor Who was ads in Marvel Comics. I’m guessing they were drawn by the great Dave Gibbons. 

    When I was in either high school or college, our PBS station began showing Doctor Who. They started with the 1st Peter Davison serial. The Doctor was dead, then he was alive. He was confused and so was I. The Doctor looked different, dressed differently and didn’t have a robot dog. I finished the serial and swore that I’d never watch Doctor Who again.

    Thankfully, a few weeks later I gave it one more try. I’m guessing that’s when I found out the Doctor traveled in time. Thanks to The City on The Edge of Forever, I LOVE time travel.

    While technically, Colin Baker was my second exposure to the Doctor regenerating, it was the first time I understood what was going on. So, I’m one of those rare people who loved Colin Baker.

    While PBS was showing Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, I moved to a different state. My new PBS station didn’t show Doctor Who. CUE OMINOUS MUSIC. Little did I realize that I would never see Doctor Who again. 

    Right about the time modern Doctor Who began, I became ill. My eyes became “allergic” to light and motion and I began having excruciating nerve pain. 

    Everyone I knew was watching Doctor Who, but me. A few years later, I discovered Big Finish!!! I couldn’t believe that they were producing full cast audio adventures with Peter, Colin and Sylvester. I’ve even become a fan of modern Who characters like River Song, the War Doctor and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. Thanks to Big Finish, I’m a bigger fan of Doctor Who than ever.

    1. Thanks for listening James!
      I’m so sorry to hear about your illness – what a terrible handicap. I’m pleased to hear that Big Finish has come to your rescue – they’re very high quality productions, and I recommend them to any Who fan. Hopefully you’re caught up on all your favourite Classic Series Doctors too.

      I know the New Series DVDs came with “Audio Navigation” menus for the visually impaired – does that extend to Audio Description tracks too?

      1. Unfortunately, descriptive audio wasn’t designed by someone visually impaired. I find descriptive audio extremely difficult to use because they don’t pause the video while doing the narrating. The end effect is that you’ll have the narrator and the characters talking at the same time.

        I have the greatest wife in the world. I’m a massive fan of Star Trek. So for Strange New Worlds, she watches and narrates the episodes while I listen. When needed she pauses the video and describes what is going on visually. I am one lucky man!

  5. Impressive podcast most impressive. Pretty cool to hear a story about the doctor again. Well going down amnesia Lane, of things we all liked and still due to a point. I’ll give the new Dr. chance I haven’t watched much of the 13th Dr., well she’s really the 14th doctor. Since I count the war Dr. sincerity mentioned by origin with the show. I shall move on to other things. I do have quite a few action figures now of the show. In fact I have all of the doctors in action figure form. If you’ve the companions as well. And three TARDISes. A few of the sonic screwdrivers. Including the to build a sonic screwdriver. And if the extra sonic screwdriver thing that was Victorian that you could change to make a singular with. I have an action figure of the Pepper Potts. Though now that you say they had a clause in the movies I wish they had adapted it to the TV show. Then running around yelling exterminate would’ve been slightly more interesting if they had lost the suction cup. As well as one of the Cyberman.

    Let’s see my favorite version of the TARDIS is oddly enough the fifth Dr. one. I miss the circles. I liked when they mentioned them in the 50th anniversary special. Since the war Dr. had them in his . The 10th and 11th Dr. was going on about them. It was kind of fun. I never made a control panel. But, I did use an old VHS tape to act as the TARDIS. It was a big blue box so I thought close enough. I had the data from the bionic six cartoon. And his daughter and pretended they were the doctor and Romana 2. I also have a few of the which way books. I tried playing the fuse video games, but couldn’t really get into them. Even the one that was online. That was kind of a MMO. It was done as a flash game. With a bunch of puzzles. My theory companion is Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

    What he counts? He was even in the TARDIS for a while. And other than the new series easy. With every doctor. Maybe not the eight. I’ll have to check the audiobooks. Technically he did appear with the first Dr., but Nick Courtney did play a character in one of the episodes. Though the character himself didn’t first appear until the second doctors in coronation at that point he was a colonel. Fighting the yetis of all things. I first saw him when he and the fourth Dr. were fighting evil plant creatures. And he pulled out his gun and did the five rounds rapid routine. Was it for? Haven’t seen it in a while. Though no way before he passed Mr. Courtney did in fact a peer on the Sarah Jane show. And thus technically he fits as can for the new series. By the character was mentioned a few times by the 11th. And a Cyberman that was alluded to being him was shown during the 12th technically 13th doctors time.

    I have heard a bunch of the big finish stuff. And some of them have been quite fun. In fact time Lord victorious he kills me, he kills me not CD is in fact on my desk as I’m typing this. Which is a eighth Dr. story. Big finish have definitely given him a better chance at being the doctor as he deserved. Paul McGann definitely deserved better than he got. I have heard a few versions of shoda. Though I count the one where it’s the eighth Dr. and done with flash animation. They got the guy who played the villain to come back invoices character. I’m not sure if they had just added in McGann’s audio with Romana 2. Lalla Ward. Or if they had rerecorded the whole thing. Still it worked out pretty well.
    Through big finish I am getting into the sixth and seventh doctor. Over through truthful I’m an American Board of the 70s. So by default by Dr. is the fourth Dr. moving along. I can’t wait to hear Dell’s coverage of Blake seven. Weirdly, I hadn’t seen it till I was an adult. Mostly to her about it until I ran across it on a podcast. And it wants to watch episodes on YouTube. It was pretty good. Avon is awesome. Wouldn’t call him a hero early: antihero. But as Lee Hughes Prickett. Since Blake left halfway through the show. And didn’t return until the very last episode. And oh my word. Surprising that Terry nation had created the Pepper Potts for Dr. who. And they went to this much more darker show specifically that ending. Still it was pretty good.

    Other than the big to my favorite monsters from Dr. who are The Sontarans. I was never worried about high-temperature myself. So them being the shorter monsters didn’t bug me. Though they were pretty strong and tough. And were always entertaining. Though for some reason Dr. who forgot they were supposed to be short. And at the point of the two doctors they had the second doctor having to look up at one of them. When the six Dr. one of your taller doctors is looking I try to why these guys. You have done something wrong in your casting. Luckily they were never defeated easily. And always gave a good show in their fight with Dr.

    There one weakness being that spot on the back of the neck. Strax definitely being a fun companion in the newer episodes. I did buy the RPG for doctors. The one that follows the D 20 rule system. There were a few different ones that this one seemed the most simple. Since it followed the same rule says that the Star Wars D 20 rule system using feats and all that. Can’t wait to hear the next podcast.

    1. Good news! The Brig does indeed meet the Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish adventure ‘Minuet in Hell’ – https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-minuet-in-hell-644 . I’d love to see more televised McGann stories, but Big Finish has done the incarnation proud in my opinion. Shag will be able to weigh in on the novelisations, I’m sure.

      I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Sixth Doctor’s portrayal at the time, but I love how Big Finish have given him a slightly more mellowed personality, and I’m delighted that all the Classic Doctors have have more time in the spotlight due to the audio adventures. I highly recommend them.

  6. Oh when Shag said the printed pages of this was 30 pages. I thought that’s nice. So that must count for mine and Frank comments. But, what’s the page count for every one else’s comments? 😀

  7. So the “Space Freighter” in the book is not actually a space freighter. It’s a prison ship and was from the 3rd Doctor episode Frontier in Space. I’m assuming they may have thought it important because that episode had the first use of the Draconians, had the Daleks and was the last one to have Roger Delgado as the Master who happens to pilot that ship.

    1. Thanks! While they were talking, I remembered watching a 3rd Doctor story, and being excited to see the Space Freighter, but I couldn’t have identified the title. With the Earth/Titan Shuttle, I go the other way. “The Invisible Enemy” is one of my favorite stories, although I’d only seen it once when I got the Tech Manual. Seeing the drawings and even the photo of the shuttle stirred no memory of having seen it before.

      Are any of the Doctor Who spaceships really signature? Off the top of my head, I can only suggest the Jagaroth ship as distinctive and with special effects inserts playing well against the actor’s concern for the plot.

      I hadn’t wondered about the patchwork nature of the book — it was thin for twenty years of stuff, but Who novel were slim, too, that’s how they did things. Of course, to ask why the Doctor Who staff would present random, almost disconnected fragments is to suggest one thought to fans’ minds: when they searched the offices for production drawings to work from, THIS is what was accidentally kept when everything else had been thrown away!

      1. As far as spaceships that are signatur I’d think the Daleks with the flying sauce shape and the Sontaran ball. There probably aren’t that many iconic ships because except for the Daleks and Cybermen you don’t have that many recurring races surprisingly. The few examples don’t even show up in that many episodes the Martians, and Sontarans are some of the ones that returned the most and they only appear in 4 episodes each.

        1. The Sontaran golf ball is a great design. Cybermen lack a definitive ship design, seemingly preferring to borrow any old rocket they can get their hands on – which I suppose fits with their habit of accumulating and repurposing of organic matter as well.

      2. That probably is the case with production drawing and items the BBC was notorious for not keeping things. However Doctor Who things do show up in weird places. For example Blake’s 7 used a ship from Doctor who a monster from Doctor Who and an Actor from Doctor Who ;). Though my favorite reuse was in Empire Strikes Back.

      3. The Jagaroth ship is certainly a classic. Too distinctive to be used elsewhere!

        In the early 1970’s the BBC got it’s hands on some of the model spaceships from Gerry Anderson’s studio (For those who don’t know, they made the Thunderbirds, Stingray, UFO, Joe 90 etc shows). The BBC had to be very careful not to show spaceships from those programmes which might be spotted by eagle-eyed viewers, so they tended to go for the ships of a more generic design to show onscreen.

        I agree about the Manual – there is a certain “thrown together” air about it! Not that that detracted from my enjoyment of it at the time.

  8. I weirdly don’t know which Doctor was the first one I saw. This has to do with the time and place when I started watching it. I grew up in the Dayton area of Ohio and got their PBS that was showing Doctor Who however I could also get the signal from Cincinnati and of course they weren’t showing the same episode or even same Doctor. They also showed them differently one of them would close their Broadcasting on Doctor Who so they showed the whole episode (so a big difference between when they stopped if it was something like Edge of Destruction or The War Games) the other station showed generally 2 parts of an episode though might show 3 if it was an odd numbered one. However weirdly all I remember about the first episode I saw was that it was in color so had to be from the 3rd Doctor or later. The first episode I truly remembered watching and starting from was actually An Unearthly Child So I basically started watching it from the first episode of the first Doctor. But because of the weird way I started watching it I’ve never had the the Doctor you started with is your favorite. Mine has always been tied between the 3rd and 7th and I’ve never been someone to dislike the 6th Doctor (who yes was on the bottom om my list but someone had to be, well until the 11th Doctor (yes I know heresy git over it)).
    For my favorite companions it would be Ace, then Turlough, then Ace, then Rory and I guess then Ace.
    As for favorite monster I had to think long and hard and it’s the humans behind Operation Golden Age… OK it’s the Sontarans,

    Then followed by the Time Lords (the Master and Rani), then the Ice Warriors

    However in regards to the Cybermen and Daleks for Cybermen My favorite episode is Attack of the Cybermen the version is probably the one from the 5 Doctors. For Daleks episode wise split between Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks version is probably the Special Weapons Dalek.

    1. Sontarans are fine, if you like baked potatoes! ;o)
      I feel that it’s only in the New Who series that the warlike nature of Sontarans has been adequately explored – they need to be shown as massive armies of cloned soldiers, ruthless and well-versed in the stratagems of war – The most recent “Flux” did them well, I think. The Classic series tends to present just one or a handful of Sontarans, and they don’t always seem to be that much of a threat. (Although “The Invasion of Time” is probably my favourite Sontaran story overall).

      I love your earliest experiences of watching the show – it’s like some sort of Doctor Who roulette wheel – you never know what gem you’re going to get next!

  9. The first story I watched, the one that made me an instant fan: THE POWER OF KROLL!
    My whole family watched that one, we were at a rented beach house. My memories of that beach house:
    10% clearanced Battle Beasts, 10% early Excalibur issues, 80% season 16 & 17 Dr Who.

    1. Season 16 and 17 are right in the middle of the Golden Years of Who for me too. Arguably both seasons ran out of steam (and definitely cash!) in the later stages, but the show was clearly enjoying a fertile spell, and it’s got some nostalgic feelings for me too.
      I wouldn’t say KROLL is my *most* favourite story, but the ambition of showing a Godzilla-sized octopus on the tightest of TV budgets has to be applauded!

  10. What a great excuse to talk about Doctor Who, and as usual, Dr. Lewis was great. I sincerely believe there are no wrong opinions about “what and who to love in Doctor Who”, so let me once again defend the giant clam in Genesis of the Daleks, sirs. It’s one of the best parts! (I like a touch of the ridiculous in my Doctor Who.)

    The love for the TV Movie console room didn’t surprise me, at least from Shag, but how can a one-off beat the console rooms that actually became iconic through use? Personally, I like Capaldi’s, with all the bookshelves. That’s just my kind of space.

    The other weird one was Shag thinking the fluffy, huggable Yeti (either version) are at all creepy. Maybe your idea of them reading Target novels, but in actuality? I get it if you have some sports mascot-related trauma though.

  11. I just listened to your Doctor Who Technical Manual episode and enjoyed it even though I have never watched Dr. Who and barely know anything about it. I have intended for awhile to rectify that however it has to be at some point when I feel I will have the free time and energy to do a real deep dive into all things Dr. Who, from the beginning. (So probably not until I can retire.)

    I love technical manuals, though, especially those on Star Trek and Star Wars. I would love to hear you do an episode all about the 1987 “Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise” by Lora Johnson and 1991 “Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual” by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda.

  12. Perfect timing. I’ve been doing a rewatch of classic Doctor Who on BritBox, (I’m up to Battlefield: Part 3 from Season 26), so I was in the perfect headspace for this episode. I was a big fan of the classic series, watching it religiously as a teen on our local PBS station. I’m not as familiar with the new series, having only seen the first three seasons. I plan to delve more deeply into the new series, once I finish my classic rewatch. As to some of your questions:

    Favorite Doctor: The 4th Doctor was the first version of the character that I ever encountered, so he holds a special place in my heart, but the 7th Doctor is probably my favorite. I like that he is more proactive than his predecessors, with his long term plans and strategies. I also like that they hinted a bit at the Doctor’s mysterious past in this iteration.

    Favorite Companion: Romana II, because she was more of a peer to the Doctor.

    Favorite Dalek episode: Remembrance of the Daleks, because it highlights the reasons why I like the 7th Doctor. Also, we get to see the Daleks conquer their greatest enemy… stairs.

    Favorite Cybermen episode: Tomb of the Cybermen. I remember what a big deal it was when this previously “lost” episode was rediscovered. Also, Toberman rules!

    Favorite other villain: The Valeyard. I thought this was a cool character concept (i.e., an amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker side) that they could have done more with.

    Favorite console room: The alternate console room from Season 14 of the classic series. I don’t know if Victorian is the right term to describe the style, but that’s the sort of image it conjures in my mind.

    Thanks for another amazing episode.

  13. Just started listening to the ep, but wanted to throw out my Doctor Who story:

    My first ever episode of Doctor Who was “Father’s Day”, the 9th Doctor story. What a fantastic introduction into the show! I had heard of Doctor Who, but didn’t know anything about it other than the basics. Self-contained, emotional, time travel, alternative history. It was great. And immediately got me hooked. This was around 2006 (?), when Sci-Fi was airing the episodes.

    My favorite Doctor is always a tough question to answer. I *love* the 8th Doctor. But depending upon my mood, it’s usually 2 or 3 that takes top billing. Depends on what episodes I’ve recently watched. My favorite Doctor/companion mix is definitely the 2nd Doctor and Jaime, though. There’s something about their dynamic that I just absolutely love.


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