It was 49 years ago today that a pair of school teachers followed an unusual student into a graveyard. The encountered a silver-haired stranger and his time/space machine. Their lives changed forever and a legend was born. Long before the sonic screwdriver, K9, timey-wimey writing and River Song there was Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert along with writers Donald Wilson and C. E. Webber. A concept designed to push the boundaries of fantastic entertainment that never talked down to viewers and used the limited resources of the BBC utilized by the special effects boffins and the marvelous Radiophonic Workshop to make a ground-breaking program.
Doctor Who has changed and mutated over the years, adapting to the demands of the public along with the changing visions of the production team. From historical to comedy, Gothic horror to slapstick and even high concept drama, it seems that there is little that Doctor Who cannot do. Doctor Who, unlike any program before or since, has reinvented itself so many times that there’s nothing like it out there.
When I was getting into Doctor Who back in the day, it was entering its hey day thanks to the efforts to publicize the 20th anniversary. It was something that kids my age were interested in. With Star Trek long gone and Star Wars having waned in popularity, this weird TV program screened late at night on PBS stations filled a void. The rich legacy of Doctor Who along with the numerous handbooks, novelizations and a table top role playing game all became available around this time. This was before the internet as we have it now, before DVDs and long before a cable TV station that screened the episodes the same day they were seen in the UK.
Today Doctor Who is a viral phenomenon. When David Tennant’s costume premiered, images with the message ‘oooh, he dresses just like ME’ appeared online of fans dressed in plimsoles, pin stripe suits and NHS specs appeared. When the Master used a device to turn everyone on the planet into duplicates of himself, twitter icons were changed that night to images of John Simm grinning like a loon. Videos of fans trying to eat fish fingers and custard flooded the ‘net after Matt Smith’s Doctor acclimated to his new taste buds.
It is now so cool to like Doctor Who that it is no longer an obscure cult TV series and is now something else entirely. It is hardly the same Doctor Who as viewers had witnessed on their screens back in November 1963, filled with atmosphere and menace. Neither is it the colorful and bizarre oddity disguised as pantomime seen in 1988. It is its own creature, ever-evolving, ever-changing and timeless.
I invite you to read my many articles on Doctor Who by clicking on the image below and I hope you will take the time to share your favorite memories of this remarkable TV series.