45 years ago, Doctor Who premiered on the BBC. British audiences watched as two normal schoolteachers, Ian and Barbara, try to figure out the mystery of their scarily brilliant but amazingly naive student, Susan. They end up meeting her grandfather, the Doctor, in a junkyard and blunder their way into his remarkable ship, the TARDIS. Thus began a voyage that would take the viewer historical personages and the future of humanity, horrific aliens and monsters, and some of the best over the top acting Britain has ever produced.
Recently, the BBC archive released some of the papers involved in the creation of Doctor Who and reveals what might have been.
[ad#longpost]For example, the Doctor’s companions Susan, Ian, and Barbara could have been Biddy, Cliff, and Lola. They dodged a bullet there. They also dodged another bullet when the BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman nixed the idea of the travel machine being invisible. His comment of ‘Not visual… need tangible symbol’ eventually became the police box we all know today.
What hasn’t changed is networks having a hard time with science fiction. The BBC commissioned a study on how audiences would feel about science fiction programming. There were concerns about how sci-fi was so ‘American’. Another was that any show needed to be rooted in the present day to relate to audiences. That meme still exists today with Heroes, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and Lost. One of the other conclusions was that the BBC should avoid Bug Eyed Monsters and robots in their shows. Of course, Doctor Who defied this with its second story ‘The Daleks’.
Doctor Who has always had a special place in my heart because it was the first show I ready geeked out to. I had the usual interest in Star Wars like most of my generation but Doctor Who offered so much. One story could be in Renaissance Italy, another could be on another world that just happens to have an English village on it, and another could be in the present day with the Loss Ness Monster.
It been able to thrive in one form or another, either on television, in books, comics, and even audio drama. So I think Doctor Who deserves a great deal of respect. I certainly have no problem giving it.