On November 22nd, 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX – an event in history that would change the world as we know it. The very next day, the BBC premiered a television show about an alien with the ability to travel through time. While not nearly the same Earth-shattering event that the sudden death of a beloved world leader was, the introduction of Doctor Who into the popular culture of the U.K. and, eventually, the entire world would still have a massive impact. Creative luminaries such as Steven Spielberg, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Edgar Wright and Gene Roddenberry have cited the adventures of The Doctor as an influence on their work.
This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the first televised episode of Doctor Who, currently the longest lasting franchise still on television. You thought The Simpsons has been on the air for a long time? The original series of Doctor Who ran from 1963 until 1989. Times and tastes change, like they do, and the BBC took the show off the air – although novels, comic books and radio dramas featuring The Doctor carried on. In 1996, the Fox network produced a Doctor Who TV movie, starring Paul McCann as The Doctor and Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight) as his nemesis, The Master, in the hopes that it would spawn a new series. It didn’t. However, in 2005, the BBC started the series up again, this time with Christopher Eccleston (Destro in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, 28 Days Later, TV’s Heroes) in the lead role.
Flash forward to today. The BBC is currently in the middle of the seventh season of the revised series (now starring Matt Smith as The Doctor, following Scottish actor David Tennant – yeah, look, we know that’s confusing, we’ll get to that later) and after years of American fans having to wait for episodes to re-air on the ScFi Channel (or SyFy or whatever the hell they call it now) months later, BBC America now airs new episodes on the same day as the regular BBC – and it’s by far their highest rated show. And this is the network that airs Top Gear, which has ridiculous people driving fast cars, which are two things Americans love.
Like any convoluted science fiction show involving space travel, aliens, time machines and British people, things can be a little complicated. If you’re familiar with the original series and just remember the terrible special effects (and, yeah, come on, they were pretty awful), you probably weren’t ready to give the new series a chance. And that’s fine – there’s a lot of great TV out there worth watching.
But, if you’re interested, over the next few months, we’ll be going over the history of the show and helping you get somewhat caught up on the mythology of it all. The majority of the show – both the original and the new series as of 2005 – is available on Netflix Instant, and also BBC America runs a marathon of episodes every now and then.
In the coming months we’ll be discussing:
- Just who the hell The Doctor is, anyway, as well as who has portrayed him (we promise, we’ll get to why so many people have been able to play the same guy if you don’t already know)
- The Doctor’s enemies, including The Master (if the The Doctor was Batman, The Master would be The Joker… sort of), The Cybermen and, of course, The Daleks.
- Everything else you need to know to get caught up with the show, and…
- Memories of the show from the Nuclear Salad staff and, you, the readers….
Or, if you don’t want to wait, check out this six minute video from the Fine Brothers:
Expect a new article on the 1st and 15th of each month until November! And please share these as much as you can!