Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Doctor Who...

Yesterday was the 50th birthday of Doctor Who, the celebrated British television show that premiered on the BBC on 23 November 1963 at 17:16:20. Doctor Who was the creation of a Canadian, Sydney Newman, the British producer Verity Lambert, without doubt one of the most important women in British and global television, and others. Its remit was to teach British children history and science. It went on to teach children fear, fear of the Daleks, the pepper pot shaped Nazish nemeses of the Doctor. It went on to become one of the longest running television shows beyond soap operas running from 1963 to 1989, when it was cancelled by BBC brass who hated it, only to be rebooted in 2005 by noted British writer Russell T. Davies, the writer of the original version of Queer as Folk.

I began watching Doctor Who in the 1980s thanks to PBS affiliate WMHT in Albany, New York, which ran the show on its second channel, channel 45. I continued to watch it when I moved to Utah in the 1990s thanks to PBS affiliate KUED. My first doctor was the fourth doctor, Tom Baker and I have loved him most ever since. I have a sneaking suspicion that for most of those of us who watched and watch Doctor Who our first doctor is our favourite doctor. Thanks to PBS affiliates, however, I was able to see all the episodes featuring the fourth doctor, the fifth doctor, Peter Davison, the sixth doctor, Colin Baker, and the seventh doctor Sebastian McCoy. Thanks again to PBS I was able to see all the episodes featuring the third doctor, Jon Pertwee, and many of the episodes featuring the second doctor, Patrick Troughton. Thanks to DVD's I have been able to see many episodes of the first doctor, William Hartnell.

Needless to say, I loved Doctor Who. I loved its engagement with serious issues, its discontinuity, and perhaps most of all its often sophisticated humour something that made it much more appealing to me than its very serious US TV cousin Star Trek which followed, to some extent, in Who's footsteps, and its discontinuity. As someone said online, looking for continuity is Doctor Who is a fools errand but that is one of its joys. Each doctor is different yet similar to the others. One of the most useful books on Doctor Who, in fact, is titled The Discontinuity Guide.

I was rather hesitant to watch Davies's reboot of Doctor Who. I had very fond memories of the old Who, of classic Who, and I feared that the reboot would not pay homage to the history of Doctor Who before it. I found out when I started watching the new Who that my trepidations were misplaced. Davies's Who reboot, a reboot Davies admitted was influenced by Joss Whedon's brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was, if tenuously at first, loyal to the history of Doctor Who and new technologies and great storytelling made the new Who as good and sometimes even better than the old Who. The third series Stephen Moffat episode "Blink", for instance, is as good and perhaps better than any episode of Doctor Who before it and is one of the best episodes of TV I have ever seen.

So I want to end this brief blog post by wishing one of my favourite TV shows ever a happy birthday. Happy 50th Birthday Doctor Who Long may you reign.