The Return Of The Doctor
It’s not very often one gets to write a 1,000-word article on 50 years of history, so here’s my best go at the situation. March 30th marks the return of the highly anticipated seventh series (a fancy word for season) of, you guessed it, Doctor Who. Now for many of you, the very mention of the good Doctor sends shivers down your geeky spines but for a lot of you, you groan and roll your eyes and spout witty insults such as, “Doctor Who Cares?” Sorry to rain on your bitterly ignorant parade, but Doctor Who happens to be the longest running television show of all time (eat it The Simpsons). But before we get to where the series is now, let’s take a look at how it all started.
The official start of the Time Lord’s kingdom began on November 23rd, 1963. It featured the white-haired William Hartnell as the first Doctor. For those of you lost after Time Lord, the Doctor is a part of an ancient alien race known as the Time Lords, which hails from the planet Gallifrey. After an intergalactic war with the Time Lord’s worst enemy, the Daleks, the Doctor stole a time machine known as the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). Still confused? It doesn’t take much to see the complex universe Doctor Who has created. The Doctor usually travels with a companion because time travel can be an incredibly lonely profession. Matt Smith, the current Doctor, summed up the entire series with this statement: “It’s about a silly man who turns up, ready to save the world with a smile.”
And so the same formula has been held for 50 years. To get around the casting issue when Hartnell left the show, the writers ingeniously said the Doctor could regenerate into a new body if he’s been mortally wounded. By 1974, the scarf-wearing Tom Baker (hailed by some as one of the greatest Doctors of all time) took over the leading role for a record breaking seven-year run. The show became a staple for BBC’s programming.
By the mid-80’s, the show had begun to see it’s time on air ending. The special effects began to look archaic when compared to Star Wars and other extravagant sci-fi movies. What also led to the series demise was after Baker left in 1981, subsequent actors paled in comparison. Its ratings fell from 15 million in the mid-70’s to a meager 6 million by the mid-80’s. By 1989, BBC permanently suspended the wild-eyed Doctor and his blue box promising the show would eventually return (Community fans can relate).
In 2003, Russell T Davies (creator of Queer as Folk) announced he would be developing the new era of Doctor Who. “He’s had a good rest,” said Davies, “But now it’s time to bring him back.” And bring him back Davies did. He hired on Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord and Billie Piper as his companion and together in 2005 they revived the iconic franchise. The premiere scored an extremely solid 10.8 million viewers in the UK.
But why has the revived show become so popular? I would say: love. The show was revived and is being produced by people who grew up watching and loving the show. Steven Moffat, the current head writer, told Entertainment Weekly
Doctor Who used to be a show made by people who didn’t necessarily love it. Some did–Tom Baker did. Everybody who works on Doctor Who now is a devotee, someone who grew up loving it. We regard it as a sacred trust.
This spirit is what has led Doctor Who to ascend above a normal television series. It has become a part of our culture.
Following Eccelston’s departure after one series, David Tennant took on the role. From 2005-2010, Tennant left a mark on the show that will never be repeated. He has and always will be considered the greatest Doctor by many if not the majority in the Whovian sphere (Whovians are Doctor Who fans).
In 2010, Davies left to develop a Doctor Who spinoff named Torchwood and the brilliant Steven Moffat took over as head writer. Moffat was responsible for the greatest and scariest episodes of Doctor Who during Davies run. By then, Moffat basically rebooted the reboot. They started to shoot in HD, Matt Smith was chosen as the new Doctor, a new companion came on board and the TARDIS got a makeover. Moffat switched from the traditional stand-alone episodes to a complex overarching narrative, which involved some of the greatest writing I have ever seen.
Now that Moffat has gotten his feet wet with two and a half series under his belt, Doctor Who, yet again, is seeing a change. After the departure of the beloved Pond duo halfway through series seven, Moffat updated Smith’s wardrobe and the way the TARDIS looks. Moffat stated in an interview with SFX.com, “It’s a sort of progression.” In the future, we’re going to see a more father-like Doctor. Most importantly, however, the Doctor has a mysterious new companion and from the series seven part two trailer it seems the mystery will be great and the danger greater.
Whether you’re a young or old Whovian or someone who doesn’t give a flying fart, Doctor Who has made a tremendous impact on our culture whether you care to admit it or not. If you haven’t become addicted like I have, now is a better time than never; the future of the Doctor Who universe is bright and its fan base is expanding faster than the cracks in the universe (series five reference for you Whovian newbies). Thanks to the love and care of Moffat, Doctor Who will continue on, blazing new trails for the sci-fi universe. As the eleventh Doctor once said,
I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.
Care to dream with the rest of us?