The longest running science fiction program on television, Doctor Who is possibly the most influential and ground-breaking series of its kind. Making advances in storytelling, electronic music and special effects on a budget best suited for a comic drama such as All in the Family or Party of Five, it forever changed what was possible with TV serial sci-fi. With stories set in the past, future, parallel dimensions and other worlds and realities, viewers watched the strange nameless adventurer known as the Doctor along with him triumph against any number of menaces that spat green goo from their rubber mouths.
Today, Doctor Who is still a cult series but it is enjoying an unparalleled popularity since its triumphant return in 2005.
But back in the day, it was this lot who pulled in the viewers and put down the paving stones that the BBC Wales Matt Smith series prances across (and knowingly so, if the inclusion of several references to the program’s past is any indication).
Doctor Who has been adapted in comic strips, video games, table top role playing games, bathrobes and underwear (yes, underwear). The neat trick of Doctor Who was that it could appeal to adults and children alike as well as continuing past the loss of the lead actor by replacing him with someone entirely new. In that fashion, Doctor Who stayed fresh and new for decades to come.
While it achieved acclaim in the United Kingdom and abroad, it never really broke through in the Unites States to the same degree. In the late 1970’s, Doctor Who made its appearance in the US through public television affiliates. Fans grew accustomed to Tom Baker’s seven year stint as the duffle-coated time and space traveler but seemed reluctant to follow the series past his tenure when the lead actor was replaced several times over.
Lasting from 1963 straight through to 1989, Doctor Who was off the air for some time but found new life in another format, audio. Big Finish reunited the cast members of the classic series and introduced some new ones in exciting stories that delved into the rich legacy of Doctor Who while paving new ground with the eighth actor (there are some others you can shoe-horn in here such as the great Peter Cushing) to play the Doctor, Paul McGann. The audio series by Big Finish has taken the mantle of Doctor Who and fleshed out a wonderfully impressive realm of adventure, drama and sometimes comedy that brings an entirely new set if facets to the beloved program.
It is still unclear what the plans are for the anniversary year on TV, but for the 50th anniversary, Big Finish is pulling out all the stops. The crew at Big Finish is bringing Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and several supporting actors and actresses for a celebratory extravaganza.
In November 2013, Big Finish will be releasing Doctor Who: The Light at the End, a very special 100-minute story to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. Tom Baker (1974-81), Peter Davison (1982-84), Colin Baker (1984-86), Sylvester McCoy (1987-89) and Paul McGann (1996) will all reprise their roles as, respectively, the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, whose paths suddenly intersect when they face imminent destruction.
“We wanted to do a proper, fully-fledged multi-Doctor story for this very special occasion,” says writer, director and executive producer Nicholas Briggs, “and it’s wonderful that all the surviving Doctors threw themselves behind the project so enthusiastically. That’s not to say the first three Doctors don’t appear – we wanted to pay homage to the whole history of the classic series.”
The Doctors will also be joined by a number of their regular companions: Louise Jameson reprises the role of the savage Leela, Sarah Sutton plays the scientist Nyssa, Nicola Bryant is American botany student Peri, Sophie Aldred is streetwise kid Ace and India Fisher returns as Edwardian adventurer Charley Pollard.
“And that’s not all,” says producer David Richardson, “because Geoffrey Beevers is back to create mayhem as the Master, and there will be a number of appearances from some much-cherished old friends from the TV series…”
Doctor Who: The Light at the End will be released in two different versions. A five-disc limited special edition comes with two hour-long documentaries, plus The Revenants, a Companion Chronicles tale which began life as a free Doctor Who Magazine download. It’s performed by William Russell, who starred in the very first TV story as Ian Chesterton. The special edition comes in beautiful special packaging, and will include a number of exclusive professionally photographed images of the cast.
The standard edition comprises two discs, featuring the two hour-long episodes of the story.