February 17, 2013
1969 was such a special year for Doctor Who because it was the end of many eras. It saw the end of Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor, the end of Jamie (who to this day has appeared in more episodes as a companion than any other) as a regular as well as Zoe. (All three are pictured here in a rare colour photo from The War Games). It was the end of Doctor Who in the 1960’s, the end of black and white Doctor Who and the last time Doctor Who would have seasons that were 40-plus episodes long. With a move to 25 episodes and colour starting in 1970, Doctor Who was off the air for six months after the conclusion of the ten-part The War Games, the longest time by far that it had been off the air since its inception. It was somewhat ironic then that a series that was featuring more and more spaceflight within the narrative of its episodes in light of the Apollo 11 moon landing zeitgeist would take its longest-to-date break at around the same time.
Doctor Who had done six seasons, and with the ratings having dwindled in its sixth season and all of its stars moving on, most shows would and should have ended. Not Doctor Who however. It is somewhat amazing that the show pressed on into a new decade and a new era with a 7th season and a new Doctor. It is often noted that the only reason why the series continued is that the BBC couldn’t think of anything else to replace it with (Barry Letts idea for “Snowy Black”, a series which was akin what Crocodile Dundee would later become, was waiting in the wings however if Season 7 had failed) - in terms of providing the same kind of programming and need for the market. But surely that suggests how truly special and irreplaceable Doctor Who is - here was a series that you could do more and more stories with, and with a cast you could always change if needed. The possibilities were (and 43 years later still are) endless. When the BBC tried to cancel Doctor Who in 1985 and eventually succeeded in 1989, it is notable that they didn’t replace Doctor Who with another sci-fi or family series. The type of programming that Doctor Who provided wasn’t wanted by the BBC brass at the time (which is why they tried so hard to get rid of it) and it vanished completely (really, until the show came back again) - but if you do want a science-fiction series that the appeals to the whole family, there’s nothing better that can exist. This is why Doctor Who barely missed a heartbeat between 1969 and 1970 and came back the following year as though it has never been away. But we’ll get to more of that with our next entry…...
Posted by Luca on Sunday, February 17 at 9:05 am
February 10, 2013
It’s 1968 and our favourite series has not-so-suddenly reached it’s first milestone, celebrating its 5th anniversary. Most television series (especially dramas) don’t last to celebrate its fifth anniversary on the air - which puts the fact that Doctor Who is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year into perspective. Reaching year 5 was a major accomplishment, virtually unheard of for science-fiction series at the time - and yet all of this happened 45 years ago!
On screen we can see Doctor Who becoming more and more influenced by the 60’s counter-culture and the huge fascination and interest in space travel caused from the space race to the moon and the USA’s Apollo program. Starting with The Wheel in Space (depicted above), more and more Doctor Who stories (until the end of the decade) began to feature some form of space and/or rocket travel. As always, Doctor Who was reflecting what was happening in the world around it. Another development on screen in 1968 is that the Cybermen had successfully supplanted the Daleks as the main Doctor Who monsters, appearing in a whopping 14 new episodes that year (more accurately there were 14 episodes of Cyber-stories as the Cybermen didn’t appear in every single episode, but enough with the pedantry). The Daleks were hardly forgotten though - another first this year was the first time in the UK that an entire story had been repeated - with the 7-part story The Evil of the Daleks keeping fans entertained during the summer of 1968 to help bridge the gap between Seasons 5 and 6 (and the only repeat which is actually woven into the narrative of the program itself, with the Doctor showing the story to Zoe at the end of The Wheel in Space to let her know what adventures were in store for her). If only it was that easy to repeat The Evil of the Daleks in its entirety today…...
1968 was the last year that featured a broadcast of Doctor Who almost every Saturday of the year in the UK - by 1969 things were to change permanently, but that story will be in our next entry…...
Posted by Luca on Sunday, February 10 at 10:57 am
February 04, 2013
Shooting has begun on “An Adventure in Space and Time” - the upcoming biopic documenting the origins of Doctor Who. Pictures from the production have surfaced on Twitter. These pictures show the lobby of BBC TV Centre transformed into the BBC Club circa 1963.
Last week casting information for the production was announced. Actor David Bradley who recently appeared as Solomon in the episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship will play the role of William Hartnell. Other cast members include Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert, Brian Cox as Sydney Newman and Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein.
Posted by Mike on Monday, February 4 at 6:52 pm
February 02, 2013
1967 is a “dark” year for Doctor Who, at least for a year that featured a new episode of the show nearly every week. That’s because today there is only one complete story from the calendar year of 1967 which currently exists in the archives (The Tomb of the Cybermen), so there is much about the other stories that many fans tend not to be familiar with, unless they’ve listened to all of the soundtracks for the missing episodes. For the classic series era, it remains the calendar year with the fewest number of complete stories in the archives.
At the time of course this wasn’t a “dark” year for the show at all, but one of the brightest. What else to say about a year which featured three incredible stories such as The Faceless Ones, The Evil of the Daleks and The Tomb of the Cybermen back-to-back-to-back? Okay, there was a summer gap between Evil and Tomb but that is still three of the best stories in a row that the series has ever had, in my books. This could be considered the “monster year”, with two Cybermen stories, one Dalek story and the introduction of both the Yeti and the Ice Warriors. Above all, this was probably the year that Doctor Who cemented its reputation as a show that featured monsters (helped by the disappearance of the historicals after the first couple of weeks of the year - they tended to be replaced with more monster stories, even if they were set in the past, as with The Abominable Snowmen).
The end of the year would see the debut of one of the most important and influential long-term individuals behind the scenes in Doctor Who - that of Barry Letts. He would make his Doctor Who debut directing The Enemy of the World (from which the photo accompanying this post is a rare picture from - it is the hovercraft used in episode 1 of the story, broadcast on December 23rd 1967) and would continue to be associated with the programme on and off until the airing of 1982 season which starred 5th Doctor Peter Davison, taking at various times, the role of Director, Script-Writer, Producer (from The Silurians through to Robot) and Executive Producer. He was the man who cast Tom Baker, a move which ultimately helped lead to the show breaking in the US. Although 1967 is the darkest year in terms of existing episodes in the archive, it was the brightest year for the show in so many more ways.
Posted by Luca on Saturday, February 2 at 10:59 pm
January 27, 2013
If there is a year which defines the variety and change that has become synonymous with Doctor Who, it has to be 1966. Although the series popularity in the UK took a dip for the first time this year (the turning point being the ratings nosedive that occurred during The Massacre), 1966 was the year which proved that Doctor Who could be a long-term success, by surviving this ratings dip as well as the removal of its original star and lead actor. If we want to talk about change let’s consider that 1966 began with the regular cast comprising William Hartnell, Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (who had only joined in the last few weeks of 1965). By the end of the year, the show starred Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, and though none of the audience probably knew about it at the time, Frazer Hines (who was guest-starring in The Highlanders as 1966 ended, but would not (surprisingly) jump into the TARDIS until the end of episode 4 of the story, an episode not broadcast until the first week of 1967). Given that this level of change in the cast was unprecedented for Doctor Who (if not television in general), that the series continued on without a hiccup in 1967 is a testament to its quality and durability - it is no wonder we are still here 46 years later.
Speaking of The Highlanders, that would prove to be the final story for Doctor Who’s original format of alternating between “science fiction stories & historical stories” - from now on it would just be science-fiction stories as the “historicals” were phased out. 1966 saw the first “invasion of present day earth” type story with The War Machines (albeit, not an alien invasion, but rather a homegrown computer trying to invent the internet ahead of time). It also saw the series influenced, as always, by changes that were happening in the real world - as the sixties counterculture became widespread this year, you can see it influencing Doctor Who. It didn’t matter if the companions were from the present day or the far future, they started to reflect 1960’s fashion in their choice of clothes. With the introduction of Anneke Wills as Polly, we had a fully-fledged member of the counterculture in the TARDIS - complete with mini-skirt - marking the first time that the producers of Doctor Who deliberately injected a bit of sex appeal into the show (something that is taken for granted nowadays). And in addition to introduction the concept of regeneration (or “renewal” as it was then called) 1966 was the year that Doctor Who introduced the Cybermen. In retrospect, 1966 was truly a momentous year, one from which Doctor Who’s mega-long-term success stemmed from.
Posted by Luca on Sunday, January 27 at 8:15 am
January 19, 2013
Beatlemania may have broke out in 1964, but, in the UK at least,1965 was the year that Dalekmania hit. On television the Daleks featured in yet another two sequels - The Chase, and The Dalek Master Plan. In between those two stories was a one-part story which was really a prequel to the mammoth 12-part Dalek Master Plan (which only had 7 of its episodes in 1965, the other 5 being broadcast early in 1966). That one-part story, Mission to the Unknown, featured the Daleks but not the Doctor or any of his companions. 48 years later it remains the only Doctor Who story - or single episode - to do that (think of it - with all of the double-banking of episodes (ie. filmed at the same time) that have occurred in the new series of Doctor Who they have never tried something quite as radical as an episode without any of the regular cast, even when there was a good production reason for it). They were able to attempt and achieve this (without any harm to the series’ fortunes) with Mission to the Unkown because of how popular the Daleks were in mainstream culture in Britain. 1965 was the year that Doctor Who merchandise also took off, with again the Daleks leading the way. Oh yeah - they also make a Doctor Who movie this year, also featuring the Daleks, a colour, big-screen adaptation of the very first Dalek story.
Because 1965 is often remembered for being the year of “Dalekmania”, many other significant achievements and milestones from this calendar year often get overlooked. We mentioned that 1965 saw Doctor Who hit the big screen for the first time, but what is also notable is that Peter Cushing (and not Patrick Troughton as is often assumed) became the second actor to star as Doctor Who (or “Dr. Who” in this case), making it the first time somebody other than William Hartnell was known for playing the character. Speaking of actors, 1965 also saw the first appearance of the actor who (at the time of writing) had the longest association with Doctor Who on television - Nicholas Courtney, who appears as Bret Vyon in the first four episodes of the aforementioned Dalek Master Plan, an association that would last on television all the way to 2008 (!) when he appeared for the final time as the Brigadier in The Sarah Jane Adventures story “Enemy of the Bane” - 43 years after he first appeared in the Doctor Who universe on television, with many appearances on television with many different Doctors (and a few more on audio) in between. Such an impact that Nicholas Courtney would have as the Brigadier that the passing away of Courtney in February 2011 was effectively acknowledged on television in 2011’s season finale, The Wedding of River Song, and hopefully he will, along with Hartnell, Troughton and Jon Pertwee, get acknowledged again in some way for the 50th Anniversary special later this year.
The two most recently recovered William Hartnell episodes into the BBC archives both come from 1965 - Day of Armageddon (episode 2 of The Dalek Master Plan, and featuring Nicholas Courtney in his earliest surviving Who episode) and Airlock, episode 3 from the Season 3 opening story, Galaxy Four. That episode is going to be released in North America in March (with a special edition of The Aztecs as an extra - or at least that’s how I look at it), giving many Doctor Who fans a new William Hartnell episode to enjoy. 48 years later, the Airlock has been opened.
Posted by Luca on Saturday, January 19 at 5:36 pm
January 13, 2013
1964 was a special year for Doctor Who, in that it was the first full calendar year of Doctor Who’s existence. With the runaway success of the Daleks, Doctor Who itself became a runaway success and more and more families tuned in sit down and watch the adventures (similar to the photo above - kids, parents and grandparents). By 1964 Doctor Who was already being sold to other countries for broadcast around the world, with New Zealand being first to air the series abroad. By the end of the year, Doctor Who featured its first returning villains/monsters (the Daleks, naturally) as well as the departure of one of its regular cast members, thus setting up (fairly early on in retrospect) the notion that Doctor Who could go on without having to retain the same cast (an aspect that would feature in spades in years to come and ultimately ensure that the series would run ad infinitum).
To put things in pespective, let’s cast our minds back to what else was happening during Doctor Who’s first full calendar year. The Dalek Invasion of Earth wasn’t the only invasion to occur - this is the same year that The Beatles “invaded” America, getting their first US number one with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and soon after appearing on the Ed Sullivan show, launching “Beatlemania” in the process. The UK launched just it’s third television channel with BBC2 in April of that year (when Doctor Who started, it just had the one channel, ITV, to compete against). There were just six NHL teams (with the Stanley Cup Winners that year being the Toronto Maple Leafs). The first NFL Super Bowl was still three years away. Canada’s population was less than 20 Million. “BASIC”, the high-level computer programming language was introduced. The average cost of a new car was said to be $3,500, while a loaf of bread would set you back an entire 21 cents. And a whole year of Doctor Who was broadcast for the first time. It’s a whole year that Doctor Who fans can still enjoy, although 7 episodes (the entirety of Marco Polo) are currently only available on audio - the other two episodes not in the BBC archives from this year, episodes 4 and 5 of The Reign of Terror have now been animated and will be released on DVD for home viewing very soon. Speaking of which, another technological development this year was the introduction by Sony of the first VCR for home video recording - too bad they were so expensive that nobody back then (or for the next 12 or so years) actually owned one. Still though, it will be great to sit down and watch The Reign of Terror on television from start to finish, and I believe that one day we’ll hopefully be able to do that with many more missing episodes, one way or another.
Posted by Luca on Sunday, January 13 at 12:14 pm
January 05, 2013
It’s 2013. Doctor Who started in 1963. This is it. This is THE Anniversary year, what should be the biggest Doctor Who Celebration yet. Doctor Who’s 50th Birthday.
At the Doctor Who blog we want to take part in our own small way with the countdown to the 50th Anniversary in November, by doing a year-by-year retrospective. Even for the years there was no new televised Doctor Who, because there was always something new happening.
1963 is when it all started. There were only 6 episodes shown that year (then again, there were only 6 episodes shown on tv this year, although they were all about twice the length of the classic series episodes). The first was even shown twice since (it has been alleged) few people had their minds on a new science-fiction series with US President John F. Kennedy having been assassinated the day before.
The story behind how Doctor Who came to be is actually going to be dramatized for broadcast on BBC2 at some point close to the actual anniversary in November - filming is supposed to start shortly though still no casting has been announced. We look forward to seeing how 1963 is depicted in An Adventure in Time and Space (which is the name of the docudrama in question). No matter how good it is, it will be difficult for the docudrama to encapsulate what an incredible story it is in real life for a programme that began that long ago to still be around today. Nobody could have thought it would be this successful. With the show’s leading character being a fairly unlikeable anti-hero in the six episodes broadcast in 1963, that typically isn’t exactly the blueprint for success and longevity. And yet here we are today.
Let’s put things in perspective. In the first episode Doctor Who predicts the future for the UK by stating that the UK would move to the decimal system. The decision to do so was made in 1966 and it was implemented for British currency in February 1971. Which means that the future which Doctor Who correctly predicted in its first episode back in 1963 has itself already been a reality for a whopping 42 years…...
Posted by Luca on Saturday, January 5 at 10:18 pm
November 22, 2012
Posted by Graeme on Thursday, November 22 at 11:01 pm
October 01, 2012
So I’m sure you’ve all seen that our beloved Doctor Who Blog has been slower in posting new items and TARDIS Files have been completely M.I.A. this fall. Let me try to explain.
When we started this blog in 2005, all of us: Mike, Luca, Rod, Scott, John and myself were keen to explore the bold new horizons of Doctor Who in blogging form.
But gradually, our lives have come to take us away: most of us have in some form grown up: we’ve gotten busy jobs, bought houses, gotten married, had kids or some variant therein. Gradually people have dropped off. We’ve added new people (Deb, Alex) but they were as busy as us.
For the past year or two the Blog has been quarterbacked mostly by myself and Luca. The past year or so I’ve been busy writing books about Doctor Who, both Who is the Doctor and now something I can’t quite announce yet but that’s in the works. Luca has been equally busy. We just haven’t had the time.
So we’re being honest with you. We’re going to take a time out for a little while. We’ll pop by if there are breaking stories and when the TARDIS files are done for this past half-season (this week I hope!) but otherwise we’ll be away. During that time, we’re going to figure out how we can continue this and who is able to keep this little project going.
Hopefully we’ll be back soon with a bigger, better Doctor Who Blog that with even more people with even more to say.
So wait for us, centurions. We won’t be stuck in our pandorica for 2000 years, but we might be gone for a few weeks.
Posted by Graeme on Monday, October 1 at 3:06 pm
The Doctor Who Blog's mission is to provide witty and insightful commentary on the world of Doctor Who in all its various forms. And to make several bad puns and references to jokes Tom Baker once made.
- The Name of the Doctor is…...
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 19 - 1981
- Silver Upgrade
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 18 - 1980
- Queen Crimson
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 17 - 1979
- Come Along If You Dare
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 16 - 1978
- Don’t Hide Your Feelings
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 15 - 1977
- Ice, Ice, Very Nice
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 14 - 1976
- The Ring of Clara
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 13 - 1975
- Wi-Fi Sci-Fi