Here’s a fanmade trailer that I’ve found and played for the past few years to begin my Doctor Who celebration. Sadly, it doesn’t include Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, but it’s still pretty epic.
November 23, 2019 marks the anniversary of BBC’s Doctor Who, which made it’s debut in 1963. Fifty six years later, and despite some problems along the way, the Doctor is still going strong.
In 1963, the BBC’s new Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, along with members of the script department, Donald Wilson, Alice Frick, John Braybon, and Cecil Edward Weber worked together to develop a childrens series to fill in a timeslot in the BBC’s programming. Being a science fiction fan, Newman thought the genre should fit in well with that timeslot. Wilson and Weber contributed heavily to the program, developing the characters and their names, Newman came up with the title “Doctor Who”, as well as the idea of the time ship being bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Production was handed over to producer Verity Lambert and story editor David Whitaker, with Mervyn Pinfeld as associate producer. Staff writer, Anthony Coburn, wrote the pilot episode and came up with the idea of the time machine, now called TARDIS, would look like a police box externally.
Originally intended to be an educational series, with The Doctor and companions travelling to different points in history, the TARDIS was supposed to take the form of an object from the time period that was visited. Greek column in Ancient Greece, as an example. After the budget was calculated, it was determined that they were financially unable to continue dressing the TARDIS each week, so the TARDIS was a police box.
For the cast, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill were cast as Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, school teachers who were concerned about one of their students, Susan Foreman, played by Carole Ann Ford. The role of The Doctor was played by William Hartnell.
The original pilot episode to the series was met with some technical problems, and Newman ordered a second pilot to be made, along with a few changes made to the characters, especially The Doctor, who in the pilot was more callous than he should be. When the second pilot aired on November 23, 1963 at , that was met with more problems, with a power failure affecting most of the UK and news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The episode was re-aired the following week along with episode two which featured the crew of the TARDIS travelling to the days of primitive man. The next serial strayed greatly from Newman’s original idea of travelling to historical moments on Earth, which was against the advice of her superior, David Wilson. The story, written by Terry Nation, introduced the world to The Daleks, and gave the series a ratings boost. Wilson informed Lambert that he would no longer interfere in the production, as she knew more about the show than he did.
The William Hartnell Years
Before Doctor Who, William Hartnell was mostly known for playing tough characters and army sergeants in different films, however it was his role as a rugby league talent scout in the film This Sporting Life that impressed Verity Lambert.
Originally, Hartnell’s Doctor was bossy and, at times, a bit ruthless. The Doctor described himself and Susan as “Travellers Of The Fourth Dimension”. Eventually, the Doctor mellowed as he became closer to his companions, and soon became extremely popular with the children that watched the series.
During the third season of the series, which also introduced The Cybermen, due to his failing health, which affected his performance, it was agreed that Hartnell should step down as The Doctor. Thus introducing the viewers to regeneration, but referred to as “Renewal” in the early episodes, making way for Patrick Troughton.
The Patrick Troughton Years
Actor Patrick Troughton portrayed The Doctor in a slightly more comical way, but retained the hatred of evil and desire to do good quality. On occasion, he would show a darker side, and would, at times, manipulate his companions and those around him for the greater good.
Sadly, a good majority of Troughton’s episodes have been lost, due to the BBC’s policy of erasing tapes to be recorded over, though, over the years, some of the lost episodes of both Hartnell and Troughton have been discovered.
It was during the Troughton years that we were introduced to the character of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, originally a colonel then promoted to brigadier general, and the organization UNIT, which originally stood for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, which was charged with protecting the Earth from alien invasion.
Tiring of the workload of being in a regular series, Troughton chose to leave after three seasons. During the final story, The War Games, we were introduced to the Doctor’s people The Time Lords, who put The Doctor on trial, sentencing him to exile on Earth, and was forced to regenerate.
The Jon Pertwee Years
Actor Ron Moody was the first choice to replace Troughton, after Moody turned down the role, it was then offered to Jon Pertwee, who at the time was known as a comedic actor. Despite his background in comedy, Pertwee portrayed The Doctor very straight, with a few comedic touches here and there, as well as making The Doctor more of an action hero. Staying on the UNIT base, he worked as the scientific adviser for the organization. It was during this time that the Doctor’s car, Bessie, was introduced. Also, The Master made his first appearance on the series, portrayed by Roger Delgado.
Although the behind the scenes purpose of The Doctor’s exile was to cut costs in production, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks tried to get stories in that would allow, with approval from The Time Lords, to travel space and time, again. After the tenth anniversary episode, The Three Doctors, which also featured William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, The Doctor received a full pardon from the Time Lords, allowing him to once again travel through space and time.
After the departure of Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning), and with Letts and Dicks choosing to move on, Pertwee decided, after five years in the role, to also leave the series.
The Tom Baker Years
Tom Baker, perhaps the most popular of the actors during the original run, took over the role, and played The Doctor for seven seasons. Amongst his companions featured were Sarah Jane Smith, portrayed by Elisabeth Sladen, who made her debut towards the end of Pertwee’s run and Romana (full name Romanavoratrelunder) portrayed first by Mary Tamm followed by Lala Ward, a Time Lady from Gallifrey, as well as K9, a robotic dog.
During Baker’s time, the Cybermen, not seen since The Troughton era, made their return. Davros, the creator of the Daleks, was also introduced. We also saw the return of The Master, first played by Peter Pratt, then Geoffrey Beavers, and finally Anthony Ainley. Most notable during Baker’s run was the story Shada, written by Douglas Adams which was only partially completed and never aired, due to a strike at the BBC
Towards the end of Baker’s tenure, John Nathan-Turner took over as the showrunner. Nathan-Turner sought to rein in the humor, bringing more drama to the show, and even commissioned a new title sequence. Baker and Lala Ward did not see eye to eye with Turner regarding the changes, and eventually left the show.
The Peter Davison Years
Nathan-Turner sought to find an actor to portray the Doctor totally different than Baker’s so as to not draw unfavorable comparison between the two. Peter Davison, himself a fan of the series, whom Nathan-Turner had worked with on All Creatures Great And Small was cast as a younger Doctor.
Davison’s youthful appearance and energy worked. In a return to the shows original run, the TARDIS crew originally consisted of Davison’s Doctor and three companions. Anthony Ainley recurred throughout Davison’s run as The Master. Other classic villains included The Cybermen, The Daleks, The Sea Devils and The Silurians. We also saw the return of Nicolas Courtney as Brigadier General Lethrbridge-Stewart, now retired.
Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, along with a few past companions, would return for the twentieth anniversary special, The Five Doctors, actor Richard Hurndall took over the role of the First Doctor with footage featuring Tom Baker from the unfinished Shada, was used as Baker turned down the chance to appear in the special.
At the advice of Patrick Toughton, Davison chose to stay in the role of the Doctor for three seasons.
The Colin Baker Years
Colin Baker originally appeared in the episode of Arc Of Infinity as Commander Maxil, a Gallifreyan guard. When Davison chose to leave, John Nathan-Turner chose Baker to be the new Doctor. His look for The Doctor was…..different.
Despite his first season in the role being successful, Baker’s run, unfortunately, was met with much drama behind the camera. BBC Controller, Michael Grade, was not a fan of the series. When it was announced that the BBC was going to push the series back a financial year, due to Grade’s decision that the budget would be better spent on other drama productions, fans of the show were not happy, interpreting the news as the show being cancelled.
After an 18 month hiatus, the series returned with the Trial Of A Time Lord storyline. Grade was still not happy with the series, but allowed it to continue. However, he ordered that a new actor be cast as The Doctor, and Colin Baker was dismissed. Roughly Baker’s time as The Doctor was one and half seasons, despite, as Nathan-Turner pointed out while trying to keep Baker on, having a three year contract. John Nathan-Turner also tried to leave, but was instructed to remain, as no other producer was available, and as a BBC staff member, could not leave unless he resigned from the BBC.
The Sylvester McCoy Years
Sylvester McCoy, at the time, relatively unknown, portrayed the Doctor, originally, as a bit of a clown. Eventually, the character would become darker, and more manipulative. However, despite his dark take, McCoy and Sophie Aldred, who played Ace, had a wonderful chemistry about them when they worked together
The quality of the episodes were derided by fans, but many viewers were satisfied with the storylines that were provided by the young writers that were hired. However, the series had been moved to a timeslot opposite Coronation Street, and the ratings continued to drop.
Although there were plans for a potential season 27, the original series had it’s final episode for the story Survival air on November 23, 1989, the 26th anniversary of the series.
After The Series
Despite the show going off the air, the adventures of The Doctor continued.
Doctor Who Magazine had been publishing a comic strip, continuing the adventures of The Doctor and Ace.
Virgin Books had started publishing adventures, called The New Adventures, featuring The Doctor and Ace, and introduced us to new companions, such as Bernice Summerfield. The stories continued with the themes and ideas that were featured during the McCoy era, and would feature stories written by Russel T. Davies, Paul Cornell, and Mark Gatiss.
Paul McGann TV Movie
Towards the end of the show’s run, the BBC had hoped to find an outside party to relaunch the show, and Philip Segal had stepped up to accept the offer. After several years, and almost selling the series to CBS as a mid-season replacement, FOX agreed to a TV movie to serve as a backdoor pilot, featuring the character in 1996.
Originally, the movie was to be a clean slate following many British series that were adapted for American television, and not have any connections to the original series. It was decided, thankfully, that it would be a continuation of the original series.
Paul McGann was chosen to be the new Doctor, portraying him with a boyish air about him, while also having occasional flashes of an old soul in a young body. Sylvester McCoy returned for the beginning of the film, to allow a regeneration scene to take place. Eric Roberts also starred in the film as a new incarnation of The Master, with Daphne Ashbrook as Dr. Grace Halloway and Yee Jee Tso as Chang. Despite high ratings on the BBC, the ratings on FOX was not good enough for FOX, who passed on the series.
After The Movie, BBC Books And Big Finish
In the late 90’s, BBC Books took over from Virgin Books to publish novels featuring the Doctor, these included brand new adventures featuring Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor, as well as novels featuring past Doctors and their companions, including spin-offs.
Big Finish Productions, in 1999, began releasing audio adventures featuring The Doctor. Originally, these would feature Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Sylvester McCoy, but would eventually branch out and feature UNIT, the Time War, The Daleks, the Fourth Doctor, The Eighth Doctor, alternate universes and alternate versions of The Doctor, to name but a few.
BBCi, the interactive wing of the BBC, had produced animated webcasts featuring the Doctor, including an adaptation of Shada, featuring Paul McGann, Lala Ward as Romana, now President of the High Council of Gallifrey, and John Leeson as the voice of K9. They also produced The Scream Of Shalka with Richard E. Grant as The Doctor.
The Christopher Eccleston Era
In 2003, the BBC decided that it was time for The Doctor’s return. Russell T. Davies, who had worked for the BBC and said that he would return ONLY if it was to produce Doctor Who, was approached to bring the series back. Despite being a continuation of the original series, the numbering was reset, with the new series being Series One. Another change made to the new series was the show being single or two part 45 minute episodes, instead of the multi-part serials of the past.
Christopher Eccleston was cast as The Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper was cast as his companion, Rose. The first episode, Rose, was broadcast on March 26, 2005. It was the number 3 show that week on BBC One.
The series return would also feature the return of UNIT and the Daleks. We would also learn of The Time War, that apparently wiped out The Time Lords. We would also meet Captain Jack Harkness, a time agent with an eye on……well, just about anyone with half a heartbeat.
Eccleston would only be with the series for only one season.
The David Tennant Years
At the end of Eccleston’s final episode, The Doctor regenerated, introducing viewers to the new Doctor, played by David Tennant. A fan of the original series, David Tennant’s Doctor was reminiscent of the Fifth Doctor, youthful and energetic, he would also get very serious and stern at times.
We would see a return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Jon Leeson as K9. We’d have our first Christmas special. We would also be introduced to Torchwood and to Professor River Song played by Alex Kingston. The Master would return, first portrayed by Sir Derek Jacobi, and then by John Simm. The Weeping Angels would also be introduced, causing us to think twice before looking away from a statue.
Like Tom Baker, David Tennant would prove to be extremely popular with the viewers. In a mini-episode produced before Voyage Of The Damned, he came face to face with his fifth incarnation, with Peter Davison returning.
In 2008 it was announced that, instead of a regular series, four specials were produced, a Christmas special in 2008, and three more in 2009, the final two specials would re-introduce the Time Lords and feature the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration
The Matt Smith Years
After Stephen Moffat took over as the show runner from Russel T. Davies, he brought on Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Smith was 26 years old when he accepted the role. Providing, like Tennant, that youthful energetic tone, while also taking on the mannerisms of a wizened old man. Also a fondness for Jammy Dodgers and bow ties.
The Silurians would return during this time, including Madame Vastra, who along with her companions Jenny (a human) and Strax (a Sontaran), operate in Victorian London as the Paternoster Gang.
The fiftieth anniversary of the series took place during Matt Smith’s run, with David Tennant returning as the Tenth Doctor in The Day Of The Doctor. Due to Eccleston’s turning down the offer to return, John Hurt was cast as The War Doctor, technically an incarnation of the Doctor between the McGann and Eccleston run, but never considered himself The Doctor. Billie Piper also returned, not as Rose, but as The Moment, a Time Lord weapon who took the form of Rose Tyler. Clips of past Doctors would also be featured, as well as Tom Baker in a surprise cameo as The Curator. The special was broadcast simultaneously on BBC-One, BBC-America, as well as in theaters.
Matt Smith’s last full appearance as the character was in the 2013 Christmas special, when he regenerated to the next Doctor portrayed by Peter Capaldi
The Peter Capaldi Years
Like Davison and Tennant before him, Capaldi had been a fan of the series before becoming the Doctor. His Doctor seemed to be a call back to earlier Doctors, especially Hartnell, though Capaldi may have come across as a bit more crass. His performance was a bit mixed with fans. For the younger fans, they were wanting a more youthful Doctor, for older fans, they felt that they were getting a Doctor that they were used to.
Capaldi had a brief, and uncredited cameo in the fiftieth anniversary special and also appeared in a previous episode of Doctor Who during the Tennant run, The Fire’s Of Pompeii, he had also appeared as John Frobisher in Torchwood Children Of The Earth. His run would include Michelle Gomez as Missy, the Master who regenerated to a woman, a final (?) appearance of River Song, and John Simm returning as The Master, in an episode that featured the original Cybermen from the Hartnell era.
In January 2017, Capaldi announced he was stepping down as the Doctor the 2017 Christmas special, which featured David Bradley as The First Doctor, the 12th Doctor regenerated into the 13th Doctor
In a special announcement on July 16, 2017, Jodie Whittaker had been chosen to play The Doctor. Some people were not very happy with the casting choice. The concept of a female Doctor may seem new to many, but in 1986, before Sylvester McCoy was cast, Sydney Newman, the man who basically started it all, had written a letter to the BBC suggesting that a woman be cast in the role.
We’ve only seen one season and a New Year’s Day special of Jodie Whittaker’s run of the Doctor. The stories, so far, may not be the best, but Jodie has proven to be an amazing actress.
Spin-Offs And Movies
Although not related in anyway to the series except in name only, Peter Cushing starred in two films based on Dalek episodes. Dr. Who And The Daleks, based on the television serial that introduced us to the evil pepperpots, and The Daleks’ Invasion Of Earth 2150 A.D. In the films, Dr. Who was an eccentric Earth inventor who invented the TARDIS. Daleks’ Invasion Of Earth also co-starred Bernard Cribbins, who would years later play Wilfred Mott, Donna Noble’s grandfather.
Several stage plays have been produced. The Curse Of The Daleks, written by Terry Nation and David Whittaker made it’s run during the December 1965 Christmas season at the Wyndham Theater. Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday ran for four weeks beginning in December of 1974, which featured Trevor Martin as an alternate Fourth Doctor. A stage play featuring UNIT was produced in 1984, written by Richard Franklin, who also reprised his role as UNIT Captain Mike Yates with John Levene, returning as Sgt. Benton. This also featured the Daleks. Finally, Doctor Who-The Ultimate Adventure would be produced featuring first Jon Pertwee, and then Colin Baker playing the Doctor. This would also feature both The Cybermen and Daleks.
A few television spin-offs were also produced. K9 and Company was a special that aired in 1981, which starred John Leeson as the voice of K9 (Mark III) and Elisabeth Sladen returning as Sarah Jane Smith. The special was not picked up as a series, and considering how annoying the theme was, maybe that’s a good thing. A new series featuring K9 aired in 2009, the BBC opted not to be part of the production, K9 was redesigned for the series, and other than a brief reveal that this was the original K9 (Mark I) no connection to Doctor Who was made.
In 2006, the mature viewers only series Torchwood made it’s debut. Set in a secret base in Cariff, the series starred, in the first two seasons, John Barrowman returning as Captain Jack Harkness, Eve Miles as Gwen Cooper, Burn Gorman as Owen Harper, Naoki Mori as Toshiko Sato, and Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones. Freema Agyeman would also appear during the second season reprising her role as Martha Jones.
Elisabeth Sladen would return in the children series The Sarah Jane Adventures, with occasional appearances by K9. She would be join by her adopted son Luke and his friends in adventures geared towards the more younger viewers. Both David Tennant and Matt Smith would guest on episodes as The Doctor, Katy Manning would reprise her role as the Third Doctor’s companion Jo Grant, and the series would feature the final appearance of Nicolas Courtney as Sir Brigadier General Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. The series went on for five seasons before Elisabeth Sladen’s death.
A final spin-off, Class, which took place at Susan Foreman’s old school Coal Hill School, the show only lasted for one season, with 8 episodes.
A dramatization of the Hartnell years, An Adventure In Time And Space, aired on BBC-Two on November 21, 2013 featuring David Bradley as William Hartnell, with an appearance by Reece Shearsmith as Patrick Troughton. Later Bradley would take on the role of the First Doctor and appear alongside with Capaldi in The Doctor Falls and Twice Upon A Time, as well as a few audio dramas for Big Finish.
Between the novels, the audioplay, the television series, the comic books…..So much has happened in the past 56 years, and this article has barely covered it all.
The fans of the series, Whovians (as we like to call ourselves), have a great love for the character and the legacy, rivaling that of Star Trek’s Trekkies. We’ve managed to keep it alive all these years, even through those dark times. Hopefully, the powers that be respect our admiration for the show, and know that we’ll do what we can to make sure the legacy lasts another 56+ years.
To all those who have been involved in the series, Thank you. We know there are those of you who have dealt with a lot of hardship while working on the series, but we appreciate what you tried to bring to the series. We will always be your fans.
After 56 years, and counting, the Brigadier put it best when he said, of the Doctor, “Splendid fellow … all of them.”
Gary DaBaum, SCIFI.radio DJ, writer, and all around nice guy, can be heard on SCIFI.radio. He’s also on Twitter: @GaryDaBaum.