Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy 47th birthday, Doctor Who

I can't remember life before Doctor Who.

The iconic British science fiction program, which premiered in the UK on this day, November 23rd in 1963, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. While there were periods where my love for the program waned (such as the mid-to-late 1980s, after I moved out of home in January 1986 at the age of 17 into a share house with no television, meaning that I missed almost all of the Sixth Doctor and the entire run of Sylvester McCoy's mischievous and manipulative Seventh Doctor; nor did I see the Doctor Who telemovie when it screened on the ABC on July 7, 1996, the day after my 29th birthday) the series - and its mad, time-travelling protagonist in his stolen blue box - has always been close to my heart.

According to my mum, our family accidentally discovered Doctor Who some time in the very early 1970s, when Jon Pertwee was playing the role of the Third Doctor. We were, she tells me, collectively hooked after just one episode, and thereafter it was a Watts family ritual to sit down to dinner at 6pm so that we were ready to watch the Doctor's latest adventure (or the endless repeats of certain episodes the ABC showed with monotonous regularity in the late 70s and early 80s) at 6.30pm, just before the news.

My sister, who is older than my by two years, says she, like me, cannot remember life without the Doctor.

While none of us can pinpoint the exact moment our family became Doctor Who fans, research leads me to believe that my family's accidental discovery of the Doctor - driven, I suspect, by my science fiction loving father, who similarly introduced me to 2001: A Space Odyssey and later the writings of Asimov and Clarke at an early age - may well have been in July 1971, shortly after I had turned four. It was that year that the ABC began to screen the Third Doctor's first adventures (in black and white, as the ABC didn't begin broadcasting in colour until 1975), starting with Pertwee's very first episode, Spearhead From Space.

While I can't remember it, it seems logical to think that the ABC's promotion of a new series of Doctor Who, with a new actor in the title role, would have caught my dad's attention; and once we'd watched the program, sparked my whole family's imagination.

Today, decades later, we all still love Doctor Who. My father died on March 9th 1989, but my mother, my sister, her husband and two children, and most definitely myself still love the program. As I write this, there are small figures of the Third, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors standing on my desk (together with a Cyberman and an even smaller TARDIS), and come Boxing Day I have no doubt that the three generations of my family will be gathered together to watch the new Christmas special, A Christmas Carol.

A time-travelling hero whose brains and non-violent approach to the universe around him will triumph over brawn, no matter whether his opponents are Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons or Sontarans. A clown, a dandy, a bohemian, an alien who can never quite belong to the world around him. A madman in a blue box.

Whoever he is, wherever his adventures in time and space take him, I will never stop loving Doctor Who.

Happy 47th birthday to my favourite Time Lord and to a remarkable, inspiring, entertaining and wonderful television program.


Sam said...

And what better way to celebrate than with the release of my favourite episode - The Seeds of Doom!

richardwatts said...

Indeed - it's a brilliant episode!

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