There are worlds out there where the sky is burning. Where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.
– Doctor Who, ‘Survival’
If somehow up until this point in your life you were unaware of Doctor Who, consider this your moment of enlightenment. It all started on the 23rd of November in 1963, when the first episode of a BBC children’s science fiction show opened with an eery pan over a black and white junkyard. Inside was the incongruous shape of a police telephone box…Only of course, if you are aware of Doctor Who, you already know that it is not a telephone box at all. It is a TARDIS, the home, transport and only constant in the mad life of a time travelling renegade called the Doctor, who waltzes through the universe saving the day with something called a sonic screwdriver and many cups of hot sweet army tea. He is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He has two hearts. He has been played by eleven actors and he’s still the same person.
From here on in, I’m assuming you’re a fan, or you’re going to be.
I am not the Whovian of the family. My sister is. I was indoctrinated from an early age, though, spending countless afternoons joining in the family viewings of library VHS tapes, drawing during the boring bits and cheering on the Daleks. I don’t recall us experiencing the series in any kind of order – whatever we could get hold of, we would watch, jumping cheerfully from Doctor to Doctor. By the time the Australian ABC began a more or less comprehensive repeat of the surviving episodes in 2003, I’d seen almost all of them at least once, and heard many of the missing ones on audio. Doctor Who has always been a part of my growing up, from the summer ritual of shouting “Exterminate!” into the distorting current of the fan, to nightmares of the green lion men from Inferno climbing in through the bathroom window to beat me to death with a spanner.
The series was taken off air in the 90s, but fandom remained strong and in 2005 it was returned to the BBC under the helm of producer Russell T. Davies, with a new Doctor, a new companion, and even a brand new look for the interior of the TARDIS. This has become known, for perhaps rather obvious reasons, as New Who. And so it is we find ourselves celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the series with our beloved old Doctor squarely on TV, where he belongs. There’s a lot of excited hype building around what the current producer, Stephen Moffat, might do to celebrate the milestone. What favourites might return, old monsters and companions and maybe even a past Doctor or two…? I am steadfastly avoiding spoilers, but whatever happens, odds are it will be big.
Today, I’m beginning my celebration. Every month for the next eleven months I’ll be posting a review of a story from the series, starting with the Hartnell era and counting down through the Doctors to the anniversary itself on the 23rd of November. Come along for the ride as I take a look back in time. I swear I know how to fly this thing…