In short: being a Doctor Who fan was profoundly embarrassing.
I get it. I mean, I've always been acutely aware of the show's flaws. Doctor Who - in its original 1963 - 1989 incarnation - was largely terrible; impenetrable storytelling, slow-paced stories, homespun production values, flat characterisation. It's almost impossible to defend loving something so, frankly, bad. Yet love it I did, for reasons I actually struggle to put into words, but can best liken to adopting a badly damaged orphan.
Don't get me wrong; some of the stories it told were near perfect - I'll defend City of Death, Remembrance of the Daleks, and An Unearthly Child until I'm blue in the groin - but alongside that you got Timelash, Delta And The Bannermen, and The Trial of a Timelord.
Weirdly, I somehow have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the show despite struggling to make it through an entire serial since the original broadcast. You can put that down to being a subscriber to Doctor Who Magazine for as long as I can remember, reading the novels and associated reference books, and listening to Big Finish audio dramas.
When I bought the DVDs, it would be the special features I'd turn to first. How they made the show - with such limited resources - was often more fascinating to me than the actual show itself. I wanted to know how they'd conjure an entire universe from a sprinkle of imagination, a couple of washing-up bottles, and some bubblewrap. I probably wouldn't be doing the job I do now if it wasn't for DWM's behind-the-scenes articles. It was one of the only publications that managed to demystify screenwriting and TV production, and democratised it for all.
I think, perhaps, like many Doctor Who fans, I mostly loved the show's potential. As an idea, it's brilliant. Its mythos is equally genius and bonkers. Its visuals are iconic. And when it came back with Russell T. Davies at the helm, we finally got a show that lived up to the promise of its original run; it understood how ridiculous Doctor Who was and should be, but imbued it with more heart than it ever had in the entirety of its first incarnation.
What's more, when Moffat took over, I loved the intricacy of the storytelling and his wit, the cleverness of his ideas, and Matt Smith remains my favourite Doctor. It felt simultaneously right and wrong to have a version of Doctor Who that was consistently good, and enjoyed by almost everyone.
Admittedly, my love has gone off the boil a bit in recent years. I wasn't sure about the final series of Capaldi's run. There were highlights, and the performances were largely strong (though I wished they'd kept the rude, crotchety, Doctor from his first series), but I missed the sense of a larger, epic, storyline that we got during the Matt Smith years.
Like many, I did question whether Moffat was burnt out and overstretched from pulling double duty on both Who and Sherlock.
The time-spanning epicness was something I also missed during Jodie Whittaker's first series, with Chris Chibnall in charge. I thought casting a female Doctor had to be done, yet it still took me by surprise how little difference it made to the character. Whittaker just was a Doctor, albeit one hewn from the bones of Tennant. I guess there was a degree of playing it safe, but I sorely hope that the current regeneration finds a distinct voice soon.
However, the stories in that first Whittaker series felt small and inconsequential to me. They seemed more serious, by and large, than we'd gotten before. I missed an arc, something which had become part of the show's format since it returned. I felt three companions was too many, and didn't leave room sufficient room for everyone. No returning monsters - barring a Dalek in the New Year's Day special - felt like a misstep which alienated (hilarious pun intended) the hardcore fans.
Consequently, as we approached New Year's Day 2020, for the first time ever I wasn't particularly looking forward to a new series of Doctor Who. I even wondered whether it was time to give the show a rest.
And I admit, I didn't love the first episode of this latest series either, though the final five minutes, with the reveal of The Master's return, gave me some hope that Chibnall was ready to start dipping back into the Doctor Who toy box.
And that hope paid off in episode two; it feels, at last, like Doctor Who is back on telly.
Don't get me wrong: Spyfall Part 2, narratively speaking, was kind of a glorious mess. It was all over the place - I didn't really understand the alien plot or its resolution - but it had energy, and pace, and epicness. It had a pair of laser shoes. It didn't take itself too seriously, plus it embraced the mythos - and then some - and more than hinted at a meaty arc for this series. It had a returning villain who hammed it up beautifully, even if I am disappointed by the reversal of the Capaldi years' development of Missy's character.
It kind of ticked all the boxes for what I want from Doctor Who, and at this point I'll take what I can get. Admittedly, it didn't quite reach the heights of the Davies and Moffat eras - yet - but it was a huge step in the right direction.
Besides, for me, the show should never be perfect - it should be careening all over the place, throwing ideas at the page and not bothering to hang around to see what sticks. Doctor Who is at its best when it's embracing nonsense and its own inherent absurdity.
I mean, that's why the outcry - albeit a rather impotent one - over the Doctor regenerating into a woman was so absurd. This is a show about an alien who lives in a phonebox that's bigger on the inside, who changes their appearance entirely every few years. Since the very start it has been necessary to suspend disbelief. It's meant to be ridiculous.
Arguing that such a move betrays the show is pointless, because it assumes there has been some sort of logic integral to its DNA, when Doctor Who's entire format is about the times it goes off-piste, and takes the audience by surprise. It's fantasy far more than it is science-fiction. Any objection to a female Doctor is rooted in misogyny, whether the individual is aware of that or not.
So. We'll see. I want this run to succeed. I want the series to continue to have legs for years to come. I want Whittaker to become as iconic as every other Doctor. And I want Doctor Who back appealing to the entire family, as the most ludicrous, funny, exciting, thought-provoking, and heartfelt show on British television.
That, for me, has always been Doctor Who: it felt like it could never have been made anywhere but Britain, a show that is entirely ours. We should never be embarrassed of Doctor Who, but proud that something so stupid should have this much longevity.