Happy 51st Birthday, Doctor!
At 5.16pm on the 23rd November 1963 the BBC premiered An Unearthly Child and UK television viewers were introduced to the incredible world of Doctor Who for the first time.
William Hartnell was the Doctor, a strange old man who could travel through time and space in his police box. Little did anyone know that this was just the first incarnation of a character who would go on to be so iconic for over half a century.
With audiences growing across the whole world, the show is arguably more successful than ever today and long may it continue.
It’s a show that promotes the “the victory of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism” and for that reason alone has earned every single amount of love that comes its way on this special day…
Exactly 51 years since the hauntingly wacky theme tune first erupted on British televisions, the good Doctor has survived through 14 equally incredible incarnations and shows no sign of slowing down or of declining in quality. Today, join me as I choose 1 moment (And I use that term “moment” very loosely) for each decade of the show’s long history that deserves a heightened respect in Who Appreciation and wish the best television show in the history of the universe a very Happy Anniversary.
The Sixties: “An Earthly Origin”
Where else could we begin our countdown if not at the very start? The Sixties were a time of global change and cultural explosion, but for us today there only seems like one specific moment worth revisiting which is of course November 23rd 1963, in a dirty old junkyard located in Shoreditch, London – where a peculiar looking Police Box was about to be discovered by 2 curious school teachers who decided to follow one of their students home one afternoon…
And so, with ironically quite an “Earthly” origin, an amazing journey in space and time kick started its engines to soon become one of the most ground breaking shows of its time. The Sixties were headed of course by William Hartnell’s era, before both Patrick Troughton had his own equally historic run in the TARDIS, fighting all those who would elect to corrupt and attack the universe… while of course learning, maturing and enjoying every step along the way. Before long the decade drew to a close and with colour TV making its way onto our screens, so did a brand new era of Doctor Who.
The Seventies: “Sarah Jane Smith”
As Jon Pertwee’s and Tom Baker’s respective era’s raged on with a sense passion and charisma never seen by Doctor Who before. At the core of the show’s legacy are companions that both define their respective eras and are perfect examples of humanity that we, the audience, find ourselves forming a natural connection to. Who better then to attribute our second ‘moment’ to today, to the ultimate and quintessential companion of all time: Sarah Jane Smith, played so honestly by the dearly missed Elisabeth Sladen. Sarah Jane totally revitalised the role of the companion, as Toby Whitehouse puts it: “She changed the companion from being a rather helpless hysteric to being a feisty, opinionated, strong equal to the Doctor. And, at the time, you know that was quite an extraordinary thing to do. That was not the role the companions, or women, were meant to be playing. They were meant to be playing the victim, they were meant to be decoration. Sarah Jane confronted that nonsense head on!” And it’s for that that very reason alone the show will forever been in debt to such an inspiring character and an incredible actress who lives on through her amazing work across countless generations of the show.
The Eighties: “Doctor Who’s Survival”
The Eighties is often remembered for one dark day in 1989 where Doctor Who looked as though it had finally run its course and “died”… but I’d like to challenge that description and label the 80’s where Doctor Who SURVIVED. Through constant trails and hardships including a horrifically low budget, a troubled production team and a considerable lack of belief from the BBC, Doctor Who still achieved the impossible in delivering 3 iconic and respected era’s featuring Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy respectively, and gave birth to stories still being enjoyed and respected by fans today. Doctor Who should never in my opinions base its success on the number of fans, but on the passion it instils in whomever it’s enjoyed by. Its ability to unite and capture so many people’s adorations and affections even decades after its broadcast is what will ensure that Doctor Who never dies. The eighties may have been a decade where the Doctor was temporarily taken off our screens, but to the very last moments on its final televised story it was exceedingly clear that the motivation and passion of the show to forever survive — be it through the memories of fans or a future revival. The Doctor’s work was far from done.
The Nineties: “Big Finish Productions”
With the dark times restricting audiences from the wonder of televised adventures, it fell to the duty of other media platforms to continue the much loved story of the Doctor’s journey – and none more passionately or successfully as the incredible Big Finish Audios that still continue providing top quality “Doctor Who” stories to this day. Undoubtedly and wrongly one of Doctor Who’s most undervalued formats, the audio adventures is a concept that seems a bit primitive and ‘out of date’ to many people, especially in this “technology centred” day and age. The beauty of an audio story however that it strips the plot bare! There are no special effects to draw your attention away from the narrative, no attractive actor or stunning starlet for you to gawp at through domineering pages of dialogue, and no sets to convince you of a setting. It all comes down to the acting and expression: the pure plot and your imagination are all that’s needed to dream up a world and step into an adventure…and it’s wonderful! Audio stories bring to life the adventures of the Doctor into your mind and in such an intimate way that you can’t help but feel more connected to the story than ever before. It’s a stroke of brilliance that all began with the first Doctor Who Audio story “The Sirens of Time” in 1999, that while not being the strongest adventure opened the door for such a treasured and rewarding relationship between Doctor Who and Big Finish that continues today.
The incubator where the Fans would become the Showrunners…Wicked! 🙂
The Naughties: “Run…”
After a few doubtful years and times of loss and yearning, Doctor Who returned with a bang to exactly where it had and will always belong: On our screens to be enjoyed by all. Through the show’s constant will to survive and the devotion of people like Russell T Davies, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and so many more, 2005 saw the revival of the classic tale, re-paced and refreshed for a new generation and a new, modern audience. Only due the success of Series 1 has Doctor Who spawned almost a further 10 years of greatness, and it’s all due to the intensity of one moment in one episode. I’ll be the first to admit that “Rose” is far from the strongest episode Who has to offer, and further then that has not aged all that well – however there is no disputing how crucial it has been for Doctor Who continued successes. The first episode of the new series expediently brought Doctor Who into the new millennium, giving viewers unfamiliar with the character pretty much everything they needed to know in 45 minutes. But it gave old-school fans plenty to chew on as well. The episode introduced the concept of the Time War, and showcasing a bruised incarnation of the titular Time Lord that was unlike any Doctor before him. Aggressively modern, and character-driven in a way that the series had never been before, “Run for your life” was an ideal jumping-off point for the revamped Doctor Who.
The Twenty-Tens: “The Day of the Doctor”
No… not the episode! Well partly… In a decade that is only just about to reach its half way mark, one would think we’d be quite restricted in a range of Who to choose a decade defining moment from. However, thanks to the efforts of Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, John Hurt and so many more the last 5 years of Doctor Who has seen such a wide array of welcomed and successful development for the show’s existence. I stated earlier that the term “moment” was going to be used extremely loosely, and while I’ve not really adhered to any of my own rules for the first 5 choices, the last is an unquestionable breach as it’s being awarded to the entirety of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. Be it “The Day of the Doctor”, “An Adventure in Space and Time”, “The Night of the Doctor”, “The Light at the End” or “The Fivish Doctor’s Reboot” just to name a few, there was something to suit and please everyone and anyone once the day rolled around. On top of that, the real special moment of the 50th was watching and experiencing such a passion erupt from the fan base. We banded together like never before in support, anticipation and celebration of this wonderful television show we are privileged enough to call our own. It was lying in bed on the night of the 24th of November, reeling from the extraordinary 50th Anniversary weekend that I had never been prouder to call myself a Whovian. Never been prouder to be part of such a massive group of people who are spread across different generations, different nationalities, and different social standards – All united by one constant love for A Mad Man in a Box.
51 Years still going strong, now there seems like only one logical place to look next… where will Doctor Who be this time tomorrow?
This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea
This time tomorrow what will we know
Well we still be here watching an in-flight movie show
I’ll leave the sun behind me and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by
Seven miles below ma I can see the world and it ain’t so big at all
This time tomorrow what will we see
Field full of houses, endless rows of crowded streets
I don’t where I’m going, I don’t want to see
I feel the world below me looking up at me
Leave the sun behind me, and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by
And I’m in perpetual motion and the world below doesn’t matter much to me
This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across any empty sea
This time tomorrow, this time tomorrow
Happy anniversary Doctor Who!
Posted on November 23, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged 50th Anniversary, 51st Anniversary, BBC, Cardiff, companion, Day of The Doctor, Doctor, Doctor Who, doctorwho, Eleventh Doctor, fandom, Happy Anniversary, History, John Hurt, Peter Capaldi, Robert Holmes, Russell T Davies, Sarah Jane Smith, Steven Moffat, Sydney Newman, Sylvester McCoy, TARDIS, The Doctor, Time Lord, Tom Baker, William Hartnell. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.