Happy 52nd Birthday Doctor Who!!!

It was on this day, fifty-two years ago, that the very first ever episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, was broadcast by BBC One, on the evening of Saturday, 23rd November, 1963. The world of television sci-fi would never be the same again.

This story introduces us for the very first time to a strange, mysterious young girl Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford) and her even stranger grandfather (played by William Hartnell), who both turn out to be aliens, from somewhere else in time and space. This strange old man would later become known to all of us as the very first Doctor, albeit a much more abrasive, alien, and less cuddly Doctor than most of his successors. We also get to meet the two unwilling new human companions, Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) and Barbara Wright (played by Jacqueline Hill), who are to become not only the eyes and ears of the audience on the adventures with the Doctor and Susan, but also the very close friends of the two alien central characters.

The first episode of this four-parter is an excellent piece of television, and very different in tone to everything that comes afterward. To a viewer back in 1963, it would’ve been a strange story indeed, as they would’ve had absolutely no idea who the old man and his granddaughter were, what they were doing living in a police telephone box in an old junkyard, or what the hell was going on in general. The new viewer would’ve been just as curious and mystified as Ian and Barbara, as they stepped onto the TARDIS for the first time, taking a huge leap sideways into the twilight zone (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun).

We’d all have been just as shocked and confused as both frightened schoolteachers are at the end of the first episode, as they are whisked off (kidnapped is nearer the truth) into time and space on their very first adventure with the Doctor and Susan. To the jaded modern audience, all of this is probably no big deal nowadays, but back then, there was absolutely nothing like it on British television. What must it have been like watching that for the very first time? It must’ve been an incredible experience.

I didn’t get to see An Unearthly Child until almost twenty years after it was first televised, when it was first repeated on BBC Two, in November 1981. I was much too young to have seen it back in 1963, only a little nipper, really – the third episode, “The Forest of Fear”, was aired on my third birthday, 7th December 1963. It would be another two or three years after that before I would be old enough to start noticing Doctor Who on television, and my very earliest vague memories of the series come from about 1965-66. Ever since then, the show has been a life-long obsession of mine, and today I could never conceive how my life would ever have been without Doctor Who in it. But I’m so envious of those old codgers who do remember watching the very first ever episode way back on that cold November evening in 1963.

So I’d like to finish off by wishing my very favourite sci-fi series of all time a VERY Happy 52nd Birthday. And long may it continue.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR WHO!!!!.

Doctor Who – The Beginning (DVD Box Set)

The Beginning UK DVD

Recently, I decided to conduct an interesting experiment in total immersion in classic Doctor Who, go right back to where it all started, and start watching my Doctor Who DVDs in order, starting with the earliest episodes first.

Well, you can’t get any earlier than The Beginning three-disk DVD Box Set, which contains the first three Doctor Who adventures, starring (of course) William Hartnell as the First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and the very first companions, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill).

The Beginning is an excellent box set, and the three stories it contains – the first thirteen episodes of the classic series – are, fortunately, complete, with no episodes missing. It’s the fourth Doctor Who adventure, Marco Polo, before we run up against the first of the Missing Episodes. Unfortunately this classic Doctor Who historical adventure is entirely missing from the BBC Archives, although it still exists in audio format.

The Beginning US DVD

The three stories in the box set – An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction – lay the foundations of everything that came afterwards, from the first appearance of the mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter, to the first appearance of his most iconic adversaries, the Daleks. There are also quite a few fascinating featurettes on the three DVDs, a few of them oriented around the behind-the-scenes developments during those dim and distant days when the series was first created. Fascinating stuff!

I will be posting my thoughts here in this blog about each individual story as I watch the DVDs. I would also recommend that anyone who considers themselves a serious Doctor Who fan should do the same as I’m doing, and watch these earliest episodes, in sequence, maybe one a day to get more of the feel of their original appearance on television. Sure, these old stories can be a bit slow and are radically different from modern frenetically-paced Doctor Who, but they’re also the well from which all modern Doctor Who springs.

I find these early classics absolutely fascinating, both as television and as historical artifacts, and I strongly believe that they are required viewing for all true Doctor Who fans.