‘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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