On Saturday 23rd November 1953 at 17.16.20 3 children under 9 watched with open eyed amazement as the first episode of Doctor Who was screened by the BBC. That was myself and my 2 brothers and when I think about it Dr Who was the only TV programme that we never argued about watching.
That first episode was said to have started 80 seconds late because of the sad news about the assassination of president John F. Kennedy the day beforehand. Funny how many of us including myself can remember first hearing about the assassination and I can also remember equally well watching that first episode, but none of us kids hid behind the sofa in fear. The first episode was screened again the following week just in case it had been missed by those who had been watching news of the assassination on the other channel ITV.
Dr Who was intended to be an educational programme for families. Somehow that altered when the sonic screwdriver carrying rogue timelord and his assistants burst onto our screens with a very memorable theme tune and captured the imagination of children and adults alike.
The Doctor as he was called, although looking humanoid came from the planet Gallifrey and travelled across time and space in a blue London police box called the Tardis. It looked the same as a police box from the outside but inside was enormous. Step inside and you see huge mushroom shaped controls and a vast amount of space and rooms.
53 years ago William Hartnell played the Doctor in the first episode ‘An Unearthly Child‘. I had a memory of the Doctor and a classroom that I thought might be faulty but when I watched that episode today found I was right, that is how memorable the tv series is to me, You can see a video of ‘An Unearthly Child’ if you scroll down.
The Doctor and his granddaughter picked up his first assistants 2 schoolteachers back then and over the years he has had lots of aides in his battle against evil. Jamie, my favourite was played by Frazer Hines who went on to be the eye candy in Emmerdale Farm for many years.
The timelord has an amazing ability to regenerate every time one actor quits and another takes his place. At present we are on the 12th Doctor, but I have a vague memory that he was only supposed to regenerate 3 times. Needs must I guess. My favourite Doctor Who was played by David Tennant. He was perfect for the role in my opinion, nutty, eccentric and very believable.
The second episode introduced the Daleks and profitable merchandising. Looking like upside down metal shuttlecocks on wheels with a plunger sticking out of the head the Daleks were introduced as formidable enemies of the Doctor and baddies of the universe. My brothers and many youngsters clamoured to be Daleks either using their mum’s tinfoil and cardboard or buying a Dalek outfit. It was fun then and now for the kids pointing their plungers at others and saying what was the only word you heard from the Daleks in the early days exterminate, exterminate.
More evil monsters and baddies from across the universe followed, they include the Cybermen, Weeping Angels, Sensorites, Ice Warriors, the Meddling Monk, the Master (another timelord), Sontarans, Silurians, Davros, Ood, Zygons and more. Doctor Who has fought and won them all with I’m sure many more battles against evil to come.
Although the programme is 53 years old it fizzled out in 1989 and successfully returned to our screens in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston in the title role. Probably would have been on the 20th regeneration by now if there hadn’t been a break.
Since 2005 Doctor Who has gone from strength to strength with spin off programmes Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and K-9 Class. There are Doctor Who conventions, board games, toys, costumes, videos, t shirts, mugs and dolls. Doctor Who is a big part of British pop culture and a national treasure loved here and overseas. I still enjoy the programme 53 years on, do you?