50 Years of Doctor Who, 30 Years of Fandom


I love Doctor Who. Always have and always will.

It’s been a constant source of fun and adventure in my life, from the moment I could first climb behind my sofa in fear of the Daleks, Cybermen, or the Zigons. For thirty years I have traveled as a virtual companion across space, time, and a dimension or two. Doctor Who helped shape me as a child and the lessons I learned from the show have stuck with me all my life.

Most important of which:
1. Never, NEVER cross your own timeline
2. Time is a big ball of wibbly wobbly … time-y wimey … stuff.

And I have not been alone on my journey. I have been joined by an army of fans at first in the UK and now across the world. The show is now hugely popular across the pond with the American fans and to them I say: “Hello and welcome to the party!”

Doctor Who first appeared on BBC television on 23 November 1963, an idea developed by the head of drama for the BBC by a Canadian by the name of Sydney Newman. The Doctor was originally played by WW2 veteran William Hartnell. Hartnell took the role of Doctor Who in 1963 with the “pilot” and then “An Unearthly Child.” He played The Doctor until 1966, his last episode being “The Tenth Planet” and his last words being “Ah, yes! Thank you. It’s good. Keep warm.”

We moved on into the history books. A TV giant was born. Patrick Troughton took over from 1966-1969, followed by a constant succession of regenerations: Jon Pertwee 1970-1974, Tom Baker from 1974–1981, Peter Davison 1981-1984, Colin Baker from 1984-1986, Sylvester McCoy from 1987-1989. Seven years after the television run ended, Paul McGann reprised the role in 1996 for a feature film version called “Doctor Who.”

This is what many consider to be the end of the classic Doctor Who, with a movie that was full of ideas, had in my opinion one of the best Doctors — but ultimately failed to bring Doctor Who back into the mainstream. With that, the world thought they had seen the last of Who. The franchise continued with books and audio adventures narrated by McGann (as well as Richard E. Grant, who would later make a comeback as the Great Intelligence in season 7), but it was thought to be long dead to the TV audiences.

But then, in 2003 there was a hope. Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner were appointed producers to a new series, and on March 26, 2005, Doctor Who was back. The role of the ninth doctor was taken on by Christopher Eccleston, followed by David Tennant and Matt Smith.

One of the show’s unique qualities is that when the moment comes for the main character to leave (in the form of a regeneration), you can feel sad and excited all at the same time, wondering who is next and if they will live up to expectations, and relishing in the excitement of seeing the Doctor and the new tardis layout.

Another is the rich history. Watching the new series, classic fans can trace the Great Intelligence back to Patrick Troughton and the yetis. Even after fifty years, it works as one coherent show.
These days, I work with kids and it amazes me how a show that started fifty years ago is still inspiring children to find the back of the sofa — just like it did when I was young — and that we are still asking each other the question “Who is your doctor?”

I now have a son, and come Saturday nights, I love sitting down with him to watch Doctor Who. I hope he, like his father, has many wonderful adventures in time and space with his Doctor. (And maybe, just maybe, can one day be the doctor.)

Want to learn more about the history of Doctor Who? Check out Doctor Who Who-Ology: The Official Doctor Who Miscellany. Feeling lucky? Hop on over to Twitter to try to win one of five copies.