In 1962, Canadian Sydney Newman, the head of BBC Drama, needed a new Saturday night family series to fit snugly between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury. Concepts pitched for the show included telepathy, flying saucers, scientific trouble-shooters from the future – and a time machine. We all know who won.Main stars of the show would be a couple of school teachers – the square-jawed Ian Chesterton and the improbably bouffant Barbara Wright. The teen audience could identify with Susan Foreman, one of their pupils. Even if she was an alien.Finally, a mysterious anti-hero in the mould of Conan-Doyle’s Professor Challenger would complete the line-up. He would be known only as ‘The Doctor’. Doctor Who?Travelling in their time and space machine, the TARDIS, the Doctor and co. began their adventures on November 23rd 1963 by voyaging 100,000 years into Earth’s past to help some slightly dim cavemen discover fire.
The Theme Music
I think most people would recognize the theme music even if they didn’t watch the show. Composed by Ron Grainer, responsible for the slightly less hi-tech Steptoe and Son and later The Prisoner, the theme was electronically realised by Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. According to Derbyshire, Grainer popped into the studios and scribbled a few notes and suggestions for the theme before disappearing on holiday. Upon his return, the composer was delighted with how the pair had interpreted his ideas. Synthesizers were still in the very early stages of development at this point, the few that existed being the size of a small house. Most of the elements of the theme tune were recorded one note at a time from primitive banks of oscillators, noise generators and modulators before being spliced together onto a final tape. Derbyshire and Mills were way ahead of the studio trickery used on Sergeant Pepper.
Since the original version, Peter Howell, Dominic Glynn, Keff McCulloch and John Debney and Nick Romero have all reworked the theme with varying degrees of success. Current James Bond composer David Arnold created a new version for the current series of CD audio adventures and dance pioneers Orbital included the theme on their latest album.
The TARDIS is the Doctor’s method of travel through both time and space – all Gallifreyan Time Lords use TARDISes for getting from A to B – and from then to now. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space or Time and Relative Dimension in Space. The Doctor’s rather unreliable type 40 TARDIS appears as a Police Box – but only because the chameleon circuit that allows the TARDIS to appear in any form got jammed on earth in 1963. Police boxes used to be everywhere – they contained emergency telephones for ‘Bobbies’ to use before the Police got walkie-talkies. Of course, the external dimensions don’t bear very much resemblance to what’s inside. The interior of the TARDIS occupies a separate set of dimensions to the exterior – so it’s a lot bigger on the inside than the outside. How the TARDIS actually travels through space time is a mystery. It does appear as though the whole ship (both external and internal dimensions) move through the time vortex, allowing the TARDIS to cross time and space. Hence the TARDIS interior shaking when the exterior is attacked. The TARDIS is almost indestructible. If it was completely indestructible then life wouldn’t be very interesting, but it does appear to be resilient to extermination, being plunged into black holes and falling off cliffs. Inside the TARDIS there are an awful lot of rooms – libraries, gardens, swimming pools, and even a cricket pavilion. Plus two control rooms, a boot cupboard, a very large costume wardrobe and a pink Zero Room. The idea of the TARDIS was originally mooted by Verity Lambert – the Police Box exterior was invented by Anthony Coburn, writer of ‘An Unearthly Child’. The console room was originally designed by Peter Brachacki , who worked on the show’s pilot episodes. Ask a Time Lord, though, and they’ll tell you that Rassilon and Omega together worked on making time-travel and TARDISes possible through a mighty feat of temporal engineering. No-one give the BBC credit for anything, these days. Over the years, the TARDIS has entered the national consciousness. Although the word isn’t in the dictionary yet, it often gets used to describe something deceptively big on the inside – or automatic public toilets! Most recent proof of its enduring legacy is an artwork by respected contemporary artist Mark Wallinger, featuring two TARDIS replicas at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford.
Don’t you hate when they change actors in your favorite television show? The actor steps off camera in one episode and a new actor walks on in the next. We don’t get that with Doctor Who. When the actor decides to move on, we have regeneration.
Here are all the doctors one through eleven. We will meet number twelve in the Christmas Episode 2013 but we know it is Peter Capaldi.
There is so much more I could write about Doctor Who but my purpose today is to note the 50th Anniversary. There are many sources to read about the episodes, the companions and of course the villians/monsters. Who can forget the Daleks.