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!!!!.

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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.

Panic Moon May 2014

Panic Moon May 2014 cover

One of my favourite Doctor Who fanzines is Panic Moon, edited and published by the extra-talented and hard working Oliver Wake. Just hot off the presses (well, last month, so pretty recent) is the newest edition of Panic Moon, dated May 2014.

Now Panic Moon isn’t just one of those fairly common electronic fanzines. It’s a genuine, old-fashioned, paper and ink fanzine. But to add to it all, it isn’t a typical A5 or A4 fanzine. It’s a sexy, tiny little A6 zine, so cute and cuddly that you can just slip it in your pocket and take it anywhere with you. This may seem to be a pretty strange choice of size, but it works. This is definitely an attractive little zine.

And the quality of the contents are nothing to sneer at, either. As with previous issues of Panic Moon, the standard of the contents is very high, covering both classic Doctor Who and NuWho, and illustrated with some very nice original artwork. We also have articles and other bits ‘n’ pieces on the following:

  • An Unearthly Child
  • Marco Polo
  • The Time Meddler
  • The Savages
  • The Time of the Doctor
  • Doomsday
  • The Girl Who Waited
  • Doctor Who in Germany
  • missing episode animations
  • space opera in Doctor Who
  • the connection between The Daemons and Ghost Light
  • in praise of Carmen Munroe
  • Michael Grade
  • the Raston Warrior Robot
  • Tanya Lernov
  • the TARDIS doors
  • Planet of Giants
  • The Enemy of the World

That’s quite a lot to squeeze into a tiny little zine like this. But that’s Panic Moon all over – small and wholesome. For less than the price of a pint of beer (and that includes postage), you get a lovely little fanzine, with oodles of great reading. This is a real bargain, and all self-respecting Doctor Who fans should be supporting fanzines like this. Do yourselves a big favour and grab a copy, while it is still available.

For more information on the May 2014 edition of Panic Moon, head on over to the Panic Moon blog, where you’ll find pricing and ordering details.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – My Personal Favourites

Now that November is over, I can look back upon Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary and state, with some enthusiasm, that it was a very good anniversary indeed, one of the best I can ever remember. There were lots of excellent Doctor Who items on television, on DVD and in the magazines, but these four were by far my favourites:

In first place, it was the sublime An Adventure in Space and Time, which aired from 9-10.30pm on the night of Thursday 21st November. This was simply the best Doctor Who production that I’ve seen in many years. The performances of all of the actors were exemplary, particularly David Bradley in the role of William Hartnell. Indeed, the ONLY real criticism that I could express is that An Adventure in Space and Time, at under ninety minutes, was too short, hence the need to skip over a number of extremely important details (for example, the vital roles played by Ray Cusick, Terry Nation, David Whitaker and a number of other figures in early Doctor Who history) because of time and space constraints (if you’ll pardon the pun). The drama would have profited greatly by being at least half an hour longer, or even forty-five minutes. Many, many thanks to Mark Gatiss for having the dedication and perseverance to stick with this until The Powers That Be at the BBC gave the go ahead to put it into production.

In second place, and, in my opinion, not very far behind An Adventure in Space and Time, was The Day of the Doctor, which aired on BBC1 on the evening of Saturday 23rd November, from 7.50pm-8.05pm. I usually find most modern Doctor Who specials to be a bit hit and miss, a bit of of fluff filler in between seasons or breaks in seasons. But The Day of the Doctor was excellent. Not perfect, but definitely excellent, and I consider it to be, despite a few minor niggles, without a doubt the best Doctor Who special of the modern era.

In third place, it’s the November DVD release of The Tenth Planet. I’ve been waiting to see this one for a long, long time, and it didn’t disappoint. I’d only seen a few surviving clips before (on the Lost in Time DVD), so being able to see the whole story at last was really exciting. Episode 4 is still missing, but was expertly recreated here in animated form by the same people who animated the missing episodes on the Second Doctor stories The Ice Warriors and The Invasion. Excellent DVD release.

In fourth place, it’s the November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine, the biggest and one of the best ever editions of the magazine. There was so much good stuff in this one, simply choc a bloc with 50th Anniversary goodness, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But if I had my arm twisted up my back and was forced to choose, my two favourites would have to be Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the excellent An Adventure in Space and Time, and An Unearthly Beginning, which features never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child. Great stuff!

Those are my four favourites, but there were a number of other notables:

The reshowing of all four episodes of An Unearthly Child on BBC4 at 10.30pm on Thursday 21st November, right after An Adventure in Space and Time ended on BBC2, was one of the highlights

The Science of Doctor Who Special, which aired on BBC2 on Thursday 14th November, at 9pm, hosted by Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith), another excellent programming choice

Yet another was the two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who, which aired on BBC3 from 8pm-10pm, on Monday 18th November, Part 1 of which was reshown on BBC3 last Sunday at 7pm. Part 2 will be reshown on BBC3, on Saturday 4th January 2014, at 7pm.

There were others, notably:

The three-part Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend, which aired on BBC3 over three nights from the Friday-Sunday, 15th-17th November

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited, which aired on Watch at 2pm on Saturday 16th November

These were all good, but the first four were undoubtedly, for me at least, by far the best of the bunch.

November was, overall, a great 50th Anniversary for Doctor Who. With less than a week left until the Christmas Special The Time of the Doctor, and the departure of Matt Smith and the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, the series now moves into its 51st year.

Here’s to the new Doctor and another fifty years of Doctor Who! I hope I live long enough to see it!

Doctor Who – Fifty Years in Time and Space

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of my all-time favourite sci-fi television series, Doctor Who. The very first episode of An Unearthly Child aired on BBC1 at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November, 1963, and the world of sci-fi television, and our lives, would never be the same again.

There has obviously been a lot of recent activity to celebrate the anniversary. The November issue of Doctor Who Magazine is of course a bumper 50th Anniversary special, with some truly excellent and detailed behind the scenes articles and a few other nice bits ‘n’ bobs. There have also been various television programs celebrating the lead-up to the anniversary. Last Thursday (14th November) gave us the excellent The Science of Doctor Who on BBC2, featuring the ever-brilliant and entertaining Professor Brian Cox, the Doctor himself (Matt Smith), and various other celebrities from the worlds of science and entertainment. Monday 18th also gave us the bumper two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who on BBC3.

But the best is yet to come. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, which is being aired on the evening of Saturday 23rd on BBC1. This one gives us not one, not two, but THREE Doctors (plus Clara, of course), and Rose, AND the return of one of the best-ever Doctor Who monsters, the Zygons. I mean, what’s not to look forward to? Add to this the fact that the anniversary is actually falling on Saturday 23rd November, rather than, say, on a Wednesday, or one of the other days of the week. That alone is giving me a huge thrill. Hey, it doesn’t take much to get me excited, eh? Roll on Saturday evening! I’ll be like a young kid again. 🙂

However, as much as I might be looking forward to The Day of the Doctor, there’s something else that I’m looking forward to even more. Tonight, at 9pm, BBC2 is screening An Adventure in Space and Time, which promises to be an absolute gem. Sure, the 50th Anniversary Special is wildly anticipated by all Doctor Who fans, myself included. But Doctor Who specials come and go, and there have been quite a few of them over the years, some good, some not so good. There has never been a Doctor Who programme like An Adventure in Space and Time on television before. It is a “first”, and, as such, is, in my opinion, even more important than the 50th Anniversary Special itself. I consider it to be the most important Doctor Who production of recent years.

An Adventure in Space and Time is a prestigious television drama portraying the origins and earliest behind-the-scenes developments of Doctor Who and the Hartnell-era cast. It’s written by the irrepressible Mark Gatiss, and stars excellent character actor David Bradley as William Hartnell, major Hollywood star Brian Cox as Sydney Newman, and a cast of excellent young British actors including Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein, Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert, Jamie Glover as William Russell, Jemma Powell as Jacqueline Hill and Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford.

An Adventure in Space and Time promises to be something truly special, and is absolutely NOT to be missed by any Doctor Who fan. I’ll make sure that I have the phone off the hook, and all my friends and relatives will be informed that they will suffer the most horrible death imaginable if they come anywhere near my house between 9.00pm and 10.30pm tonight. They have been warned! 🙂