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Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Happy 43rd Anniversary!
Between my seventh and eighth grade years of middle school on a warm summer evening in San Jose, California, my dad asked me a question that forever changed my life.

"So, have you ever watched this show Doctor Who?" he said to me.

"Not really," I replied. I vaguely recalled seeing it once on a PBS station in Alabama but that it was part three of a storyline and I had no idea what was going on, so I'd quickly lost interest. I told my dad I'd heard of it but never watched it as it was a show that had stories with multiple episodes per story and I never seemed to come in on part one. So, my dad said why not try it and flipped over to KTEH just in time for me to see episode one of a story called "Time Flight."

Like any new show you tune into, it was a bit confusing at first--why was this police box bigger on the inside than the outside, who was this guy the Doctor, etc. But as I watched that first episode, I slowly became drawn into the story and the characters. The next night I was back for part two, then part three and the conclusion. And then, a new serial began...

Before you knew it, I was hooked.

I sometimes wonder if my dad regrets that summer evening sometimes since here we are closing in on close to 20 years of my being a complete, total and obsessive Doctor Who fan.

As a Doctor Who fan, today is a special day. On November 23, 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who ever was transmitted in the UK. The show was not an immediate success. It took four weeks before the show became a huge hit and went on to run for 26 seasons on the BBC before being put on "hiatus" for 14 years and coming back last spring. Over the course of 43 years, 10 actors have played the Doctor, the latest being David Tenant who some of you might recognize as Barty Crouch, Jr from a movie about a boy-wizard that opened last week.

Over the weekend, we got our first preview of what Tenant will be like in the role with a five minute preview of the Christmas-themed episode that will air on Christmas in the UK (and then be immediately file shared to be downloaded by those of us stateside since the U.S. networks can't seem to figure out this is a show that people want to see and pick it up for airing here).

Over my years of insane fandom for this show, I've found a lot of people know who the 4th Doctor is. He's the one played by Tom Baker, who had the curly hair and the long scarf. He is the most popular Doctor and the one with the longest tenure in the role (seven years). Overall, I like his era, but he's not my favorite--in fact, he ranks number three on my list of favorite Doctors.

Or if you know the show, it's probably for the rather low budget effects.

To which my response is--yes, they were poor but it's not about the effects, it's about the stories. Doctor Who has some of the best-written stories with some great actors in them throughout the run of the show. In the hey-dey, being on Doctor Who in the UK had the same stigma that being in Star Trek: The Next Generation did in the 90's here. But there was a greater chance of being a guest star on Doctor Who since every four to six weeks, they went to a new planet or time and there were generally only two to three leads--the Doctor and his companions.

It's sad but true but I know more trivial knowledge about Doctor Who than any one person should. I have enjoyed the show since the first time I've watched it and half the fun is that there's a huge catalog of backstories to get through if you discover it and love it now. All of the complete stories are out on VHS (I know as I have them all on videotape, either commerically released or taped off the air) and the DVDs are among the best TV to DVD releases out there. For me, Doctor Who is what I'd call my security blanket of TV shows. When I'm feeling down or out of sorts, it's a nice comforting little universe to escape to for 25 or so minutes and to enjoy the exploits of the good Doctor. I remember several times in 2001, when I was facing the summer from hell that I would pop in a DVD or VHS of the good Doctor's adventures just to not think about the overwhelming sense of tragedy that was pervading my life at the time. It didn't make it better and I always knew that eventually I had to come back from that fantasy world, but for 25 minutes, I could at least take my mind off what was weighing me down.

Of course, I have my favorite stories, my favorite Doctors and my favorite eras of the show and there are some stories that I think are just horrifically bad.

All that said, I love the show. I am not quite as insane about it as I used to be, reading all the novels that came out such as happened in the early 90s with the hey-dey of the publishing line called the New Adventures. But I still get excited when the serials come out on DVD--even if it's a story that I'm not a huge fan of, I will still line up to buy it. A lot of that is the work that is done to remaster and restore the stories for DVD is superb and the stories look and sound better than ever. Also, the extras....wow, they're great.

And I'm sure that whatever format we go to next after DVD, I'll re-purchase the entire series again in that format.

So, today is a special day for me as a Doctor Who fan. Doctor Who is 43 years old and it's still going strong. We've just come out of a successful re-launch of the show in the UK and now we'll get a whole new season next spring. As a Doctor Who fan, these are exciting times...and I've been through some bleak ones where every week we were teased with news that it was coming back, to the point that I got so cynical I didn't really believe the show was back until I saw the first episode of the new series--and even then it was too good to be true.

But for now, I'm going to focus on the positive. It's an anniversary for the show. Not a big mind you like the 40th or upcoming 50th. But hey, I don't really care. It's a day to celebrate all the things I enjoy about my favorite TV show of all-time, Doctor Who.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/23/2005 07:34:00 AM | |
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