‘Doctor Who’ TARDIS Day: Celebrate the TV Time Lord’s anniversary

Nov. 23, 2011 | 11:08 a.m.
doctorwho3 Doctor Who’ TARDIS Day: Celebrate the TV Time Lords anniversary

Bernard Cribbins, left, as Wilfred and David Tennant as the Doctor, with TARDIS, in a 2009 episode of "Doctor Who." (BBC)

Happy TARDIS Day!

On Nov. 23, 1963, the BBC aired the very first episode of a brand-new science fiction series about a mysterious man in a time machine called a TARDIS (which looked exactly like a British police box), who could travel to whatever time or whichever planet he chose.

The first episode of “Doctor Who” marked an inauspicious beginning for what would become a landmark of sci fi. The first episode was deemed unusable and had to be completely reshot, with changes in script, performance, costume and effects, delaying the series’ premiere by a week. When it finally aired, it, along with almost everything else, was overshadowed by news of the assassination of President Kennedy. But eventually an audience turned up, (the introduction of the Doctor’s mortal enemies the Daleks helped), and continual fan support has made “Doctor Who” the longest-running science fiction TV show in the world.

Writer Neil Gaiman took a moment to honor the series Wednesday on Twitter, writing, “48 years ago, Doctor Who started. I couldn’t be who I am today without the things the tv series, annuals, etc did to my mind. Thank you BBC.”

That first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” has long inspired awe and respect among the Doctor’s fans. In fact, following in the steps of the original BBC production crew, the first episode has been reworked multiple times by fans. For those who don’t have the patience to watch the entire first serial, there’s a cartoon abridgement available, courtesy of a Norwegian fan. The five-minute clip gives the short version of the first four episodes of the series.

A British fan and Lego enthusiast has combined his two loves into a single short, with a re-creation of the first episode (in black and white, even!) for YouTube. If there’s a complaint here, it’s that the short lacks stop motion animation.

And finally, another British fan dug up the unaired “Doctor Who” pilot and has done a side-by-side comparison with the revised version that actually made it on the air. Fans have noted the slightly harder edge actor William Hartnell gave to his first take on the character.

— Patrick Kevin Day



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7 Responses to ‘Doctor Who’ TARDIS Day: Celebrate the TV Time Lord’s anniversary

  1. Greg says:

    I have watched The Dr. thru most of his incarnations.
    I hope to watch thru many more.
    Happy Anniversary

  2. Abubbs says:

    I would think you'd know its "the Doctor" and not "the Dr."

  3. Ellen B. says:

    Old time Doctor Who fans should check compendiums — since we were kids, a lot of "lost" episodes have turned back up. (Until partway into the Pertwee years, they routinely trashed old episodes, so a lot of Hartnells and Troughtons are just plain gone).

    Let's also solute Nicholas Briggs, aka Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, who passed away 8 months ago (on the 23rd, naturally). He played opposite all the "classic" doctors — hm, may have missed Colin Baker, but I know he guest-starred with Sylvester McCoy — and was on the Sarah Jane Chronicles in '08. An honorary Timelord, I should think, considering how many different incarnations of the Doctor he knew.

    Come to think of it, the Brig's quote at the end of The Five Doctors sums up Doctor Who pretty well:

    "Splendid fellows…all of them."

  4. Ellen B. says:

    Argh, did I just write "Nicholas Briggs"? Brain spasm. Meant "Nicholas Courtney."

    "When I say run, run!"

  5. Neil Cowan says:

    The first TV episodes were directed by Waris Hussein, who has a place in West Hollywood for years.

  6. gnash says:

    Wow, it seems almost modern. Amazing. We're big fans but never went back that far. Good post.

  7. Nena999 says:

    Doctor Who (like the X-Files) is one of those rare programs that was so well thought out that it pretty much came out fully-formed right out of the box. And it is only the wonderful talent and inspiration that it has attracted throughout the years that kept it alive and relevant while being faithful to the original premise.

    Thank you to (the late) Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert for getting this all started and for providing inspiration to everyone.

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