Thursday 23 November 2023

60 years of Doctor Who

Happy Thanksgiving to our US-based readers! On its 60th anniversary, watching Doctor Who is one of my earliest childhood memories. At the age of 2, from behind the sofa, the demise of Field Major Styre in The Sontaran Experiment and Daleks exterminating everyone in Genesis of the Daleks was nightmare fuel and a stark contrast to Rainbow.

From shapeshifting Zygons to an android Sarah Jane Smith (Lis Sladen) to the bubbling brain of Morbius, Doctor Who was a Saturday teatime staple watched with my dad.

When I was hospitalised in the wake of an unreported head injury in primary school, Denys Fisher's action figures and Jelly Babies took my mind off of a life-changing trauma as I began years of rehabilitation having undergone a regeneration (the key to the beloved BBC sci-fi series’ longevity) of my own.

Despite a brief hiatus watching flashy US imports on ITV following the box office success of Star Wars, Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor was my Doctor. Dad was a fan of Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor and the sonic screwdriver had been passed from one generation to the next.

The Fourth Doctor's regeneration into the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) was met with heartbreak before The Five Faces of Doctor Who season, which coincided with our first-ever VCR. I vividly remember watching An Unearthly Child and how I lamented not being able to see The Dead Planet AKA The Daleks. However, the latter is now available on BBC iPlayer, and a colourised omnibus edition has been released today on the streaming service.

In my teens, I again abandoned adventures aboard the TARDIS. This time for MTV. However, the TARDIS never went away, and enduring friendships with fellow Whovians continued to be forged in higher education and beyond. Special shoutouts to Professor Michael Williams, Nick Smith and Andrew Lewin. Alas, Stephen Miles passed away a few years ago, but I'm thinking of him.

In 2005, Doctor Who returned from the wilderness to television screens under the auspices of series showrunner Russell T Davies. All the more poignant, as my mum was in a nursing home due to an NHS never event. Like Luke Skywalker, the Doctor symbolises hope in the darkest of times.

Over the years, Target's novelisations of classic serials were instrumental in a lifelong love of reading and writing. My letters and tweets have appeared in Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) and Starburst magazine. And I've attended unforgettable conventions with family and friends.

As fans (myself included) celebrate six decades of adventures in space and time, a new era is about to begin.

The Star Beast, the first of three 60th anniversary specials starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), will be broadcast on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland on 25th November. Ncuti Gatwa takes over control of the TARDIS on Christmas Day.

What are your memories of watching Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

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