There was a gap in time and space.
A gap between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, primetime on BBC1. They needed something that could appeal to everyone, that could run and run, that would capture the imagination of the nation. And thanks to a team that included Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, Waris Hussein, and William Hartnell, Doctor Who was born.
The very first episode was broadcast 50 years ago today. This immense anniversary surely can’t have passed anyone by; it’s something that TV really can’t do that often – simply because not much lasts that long, not much can become compulsive television, not much is ingrained in society’s psyche quite like Doctor Who.
What’s its lasting appeal? Well, watch an episode. Longevity is ingrained in its very DNA.
Showrunner, Steven Moffat, recently called the show immortal. Even in The Wilderness Years (the 1990s and early 2000s, for those uninitiated), the Doctor and his wonderful TARDIS lived on in books and audio and comics and in the minds of many generations. It’s a living legend.
Despite its proud British iconography, that famous Time Lord has travelled the globe: tonight’s 50th anniversary celebration, which stars Matt Smith and David Tennant as the Eleventh and Tenth Doctors respectively, will be simulcast around the globe.
It would be easy to propose a toast to those who have made the show what it is. But the weight of those individuals would be incredible. Of course, let’s look at those Doctors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi – splendid fellows, all of them!
But then there are the companions, the guest stars, the writers, the directors, the producers, designers, floor managers, assistant directors, executive producers, showrunners… Oh, there have been so many.
So thank you all.
Doctor Who has changed my life; that’s no secret. And one day, I want to write for the Doctor. Yes, one day. But for now, I’m happy celebrating in my own little way. I’ve watched An Unearthly Child this morning; went to see the actual TARDIS last weekend (!); have been writing Introducing: Doctor Who feature articles for Kasterborous since January; rewatched Cold War (just because); am reading The Only Good Dalek; am poring through the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine; and (something which I’m almost sure no one else in the world is doing to celebrate) am reading the TARGET novel, Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy.
I can’t wait to find out what I’m doing on the show’s 100th anniversary.
Another amazing thing about Doctor Who is how it brings people together. I’m part of a fandom, a network of dedicated people, all who love the same thing. I now have friends I didn’t have before 2005, when I became a fan… No, actually, I now have friends I didn’t have before last year – and it’s all thanks to Doctor Who.
To paraphrase the Eighth Doctor – friends I’ve known: I salute you.
The show has also given me countless hours of entertainment. And there’s not a person in the UK who doesn’t know what the TARDIS is. There’s not a person in the UK who doesn’t know what the Daleks are.
And as a fitting paradox, there’s not a person in the UK who doesn’t know who the Doctor is – even though we don’t actually know much about him. Doctor… Who?