In the last few days it has been difficult to ignore the 5oth Anniversary of Doctor Who, so I thought I’d add my small contribution to the reminiscences.
When the programme appeared in 1963 I was aged eleven. I had already discovered science fiction in the books of John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids) and was looking forward to this, the first television SF series. At least, the first I was allowed to watch! I had heard about the Quatermass adventures in the 1950s and A for Andromeda in 1961. My parents mentioned a giant eye in a washing machine in the later, but of course I was too young to see it.
In my memory, children’s television seemed to consist mainly of westerns, so a science fiction series was something new. I have to admit that I don’t remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot, but I know where I was when Doctor Who started – in front of the television. The now familiar music, the police box, the doctor himself (played by William Hartnell) and his assistant (in this first episode it was his granddaughter), the main ingredients were already in place. I was hooked.
Soon the programme became a permanent part of Saturday evenings. Of course, as it was transmitted at tea time, certain food became connected with it: crumpets for a time and the family expression “meringues with Doctor Who”.
The early series seemed to be as much about history as monsters. I think they alternated. There would be one adventure about Daleks, which I didn’t find frightening and I never hid behind the sofa! The next would go back in time to some historic event. I remember one adventure where the Doctor was travelling to China with Marco Polo – I think it lasted nearly as long as the original journey.
In 1966 came the first transformation, when Patrick Troughton took over. I didn’t like him as much and some of the adventures got a bit peculiar. I remember one that involved travelling across a chessboard. In 1970 Jon Pertwee took over and I went to university. In those days it was still just a children’s programme, not event television as it is now, but I continued watching when I was at home. I got used to the Tardis never going anywhere (the monsters came here and were always a man in a cheap costume) and the Doctor travelling in that old car. The UNIT years, caused, I think, by a lack of money.
In 1974 Tom Baker arrived and it all started to seem a bit silly – the curly hair and the long scarf. I was now at work and meeting my husband to be. I liked K-9 though, who joined the cast in 1977 – the year I got married. After that I lost interest as one doctor merged into another. I expect other viewers felt the same as Doctor Who ended in 1989. A brief comeback in 1996 was not a success and that seemed to be it.
Then in 2005 the series returned, with Christopher Eccleston. This was a different, modern take on Doctor Who, still meant for children, but with another level for adults. You could enjoy the jokes and spot topical references. The Doctor quickly regenerated into David Tennant, probably one of the best Doctors and the series started spawning spin-offs. There was something for younger children – I didn’t watch this as by now even my children were too old for children’s programmes. Then there was Torchwood – Doctor Who with sex. I wonder what happened to that? Torchwood, that is, not sex!
In 2010 Matt Smith took over. Why do actors stay just long enough to become “The” Doctor and then are replaced by someone else who seems wrong? And it all starts again.
Then, to celebrate the anniversary, Saturday was “The Day of The Doctor”. Multiple Doctors, including a new (old) one played by John Hurt, fighting Daleks and other monsters in multiple periods of time. I think I’ll have to watch it again to work out all the action. And at Christmas we look forward to the next incarnation.
It will be nice to have an older actor, Peter Capaldi, playing the Doctor. But wouldn’t it be more interesting to have a female Doctor, perhaps a 60ish genealogy blogger? I’m here if the call comes! It won’t, but I’ll be there, hopefully, for many years to come, sitting in front of the television (or some other machine) waiting to see what happens next.
It seems like only yesterday I first started watching Doctor Who.
To the Doctor, it probably was.