Did you know that the BBC Science Fiction Series Doctor Who premiered on the 23rd of November, 1963? Chronicling the adventures of a time travelling alien who calls himself The Doctor, the series celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend with a special episode entitled The Day of the Doctor simultaneously broadcast in more than 70 countries coinciding with the time the original pilot (entitled An Unearthly Child) was screened 50 years earlier.
In Australia, this meant the program was shown on the ABC at 6:50am on Sunday the 24th. Fortunately, the ABC re-broadcast the show in Doctor Who’s usual timeslot of 7:30pm that same day.
Technically, Doctor Who has not been broadcast continuously for 50 years. The original run, or ‘Classic’ series ran from 1963-1989 at which point the BBC ceased production. An attempt to re-launch the series occurred in 1996, however it was not until 2005 that the series finally returned to our screens.
One of the unique aspects of Doctor Who and the secret to its longevity is the concept of ‘regeneration’. The Doctor hails from the world of Gallifrey and is a member of the planets hierarchy known as the Time Lords. One of the benefits of his alien physiology is that, when injured to the point of death, his body can renew itself, effectively transforming him into a completely new person. Thanks to the concept of regeneration, the BBC could replace the actor playing The Doctor as needed.
To date there have been twelve (well 13, but in the words of River Song would be ‘spoilers’!) actors to play the character. The original Doctor was William Hartnell (1963-1966), The Second Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton (1966-1969), next came Jon Pertwee (1970-1974) followed by Tom Baker (1974-1981), Peter Davidson (1981-1984), Colin Baker (1984-1986) and Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989). McCoy would return for a regeneration sequence in The Doctor Who Movie, which saw Paul McGann take on the roll for a single performance (though he did continue to ‘play’ the role in a series of audio adventures and has returned for a 6 minute ‘mini-episode’ as part of the 50th Anniversary). With the revival of the series in 2005, Chrstopher Eccleston became the 9th Doctor and was followed by David Tennant (2005-2010) and Matt Smith (2010-2013). It was recently announced that Smith would be stepping down from the role in this year’s Christmas Special with Peter Capaldi announced to be his replacement.
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