Lost in Space…..and time
Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary
Look away now if you don’t like science fiction, maybe also look away if you are a Doctor Who fan, I am! But sometimes things just have to be said.
23rd November 2013 sees Doctor Who reach the big 50. 50 years ago, the day after Kennedy’s assassination the BBC aired the first ever Doctor Who episode an Unearthly Child. Freaky sounding theme music heralded in an institution. The Doctor – played by the wonderful William Hartnell was a wanderer who travelled around in time and space in an old battered blue Police box called the Tardis, his ship is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, insane!
Our hero doesn’t use weapons or possess fighting skills to defeat the enemy he uses his intellect.
November 1963 the adventure began, the Doctor his granddaughter Susan and her teachers Ian and Babara. By the next story the Daleks had been introduced and what had been conceived as a children’s programme was now well and truly a show that all the family could watch together as Dalekmania swept the country.
Doctor Who broke the mould of science fiction that had gone before, the subject matter for Doctor Who was limitless any world, any time any story could be told. Companions came and went the show could continue as long as William Hartnell could.
Then in 1966 the show format is turned on its head as the Doctor a man from another world changes his whole appearance, he is the same person but now is Patrick Troughton, gone is the silver haired old gentleman replaced by a Beatle mop top younger man. The show could clearly continue.
Troughton in turn was replaced by the fantastic Jon Pertwee as the swinging sixties gave way to the seventies and colour. Pertwee’s adventures were more Earth based with UNIT and the suave Brigadier. Not only that but as the show reached it’s 10th anniversary we learnt each Doctor on occasions (such as show anniversaries) could meet each other as Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee battled evil, united in the Three Doctors.
Pertwee gave way to Tom Baker and the Tardis gained one of its most iconic Doctors with the hat, the scarf, the jelly babies Sarah Jane Smith and K9. Baker always would be a hard act to follow and seemingly that proved the case as Peter Davidson, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy saw out the original Doctor Who tenure until the BBC pulled the plug on a show struggling for ratings.
A one of episode in 1996 with Paul Mcgann as the Doctor proved disappointing and couldn’t revive the show.
In 2005 the BBC brought the Doctor back as show runner Russell T Davies wisely gave it a well needed makeover, the Doctor didn’t have to speak perfect Queens English he didn’t have to dress in Edwardian gear as Christopher Ecclestone as the Doctor resplendent in a leather jacket with a Northern accent visited an alien world never seen before on Doctor Who a Council estate!
His portrayal and reflection of everyday life rather than Country mansions fired the imagination up and down the country. The Doctor was big business again DVD’s, books, toys a show I could watch with my children sat beside me probably very similar to how it all began in 1963. The beauty about some of these episodes is some of the underlying themes such as when Billie Piper’s Rose went back in time to try and save her dad from been killed in a hit and run, very human and a theme that most could identify with.
David Tennant came and again took the Doctor to new heights, the stories may have been about aliens but it was the underlying human element that you could identify with, a personal favourite when the Doctor and the magnificent Martha played by Freema Agyeman visited a public school in 1913 the year before World War 1, upper class kids oblivious to the very real horrors that would face them the following year. Seeing Martha face the racist bigotry of one of these kids made unnerving but compelling television, seeing the Doctor who had the memory of who he was wiped and believed he was a teacher at this school happily dreaming of the future, the kids, the wife the walks in the woods again made must see telly.
David Tennant left the Tardis along with show runner Russell T Davies, in came Matt SMITH as the Doctor and sometime Doctor Who writer Steven Moffatt took over as the show supremo. Smith portrayal as the Doctor has more than a passing nod to Troughton. The stories now seem to be complicated for complications sake. The Doctor now seems to laugh at danger, if I can’t believe that the Doctor is in fear how can I identify with him or even care.
My children have long since stopped watching Doctor Who saying it doesn’t make sense anymore. At first I would try to argue against that opinion but now I realise that it is very much like the Emperor’s clothes I don’t want to say aloud what I feel for fear of betraying that maybe i’m not intelligent enough to get the direction that Steven Moffatt has taken Doctor Who in. Thing is I rarely understand the programme these days I really am lost in space and time. A couple of years ago we had a very long complicated story arc regarding his companion Amy if she was pregnant if she was the mother of his sometime companion the older River Song there were so many twists and turns by the time the answer was revealed I really didn’t care.
The current companion Clara played by Blackpool’s Jenna Louise Coleman has the making of a great companion but Steven Moffatt can’t play it straight he has to complicate things so the Doctor has met two different characters played by Jenna Louise Coleman in different times each one has died and now he is trying to find out how this impossible girl the same girl can exist….again I would care more if it was just played straight. If you stretch incredulity too much you could end up with a Bobby Ewing shower scene and the show will be damaged beyond repair. I don’t actually mind a complicated story if you get the answer and its an intelligent one.
The 50th anniversary episode is fast approaching and I am getting more and more apprehensive, this episode should be about celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who not about celebrating the show since its return in 2005 or since Steven Moffatt took over. We do know that it at least has two Doctors in it with David Tennant returning to battle evil alongside Matt Smith. But seemingly if press stories are to be believed the former classic Doctors have not received a call to help celebrate a show that they helped make an institution. Maybe there are ways around that with CGI, maybe even some of the acting off spring of the now deceased Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee could have appeared in the role of the Doctor. What we are left with seemingly is these Doctors been ignored and Steven Moffatt creating a new never seen before Doctor with the gifted John Hurt in the role, fine to have John Hurt in the episode but surely this is disrespectful to those that have previously played the main character. The reality is that there is a hugh appetite for the classic Doctors as can be highlighted from the recent news stories of newly disclovered Troughton episodes from the 1960’s believed missing forever only to turn up in Africa.
There have been numerous companions over the last 50 years but the only one returning is Bille Piper’s Rose Tyler, well she first appeared in 2005.
That first episode in 1963 had four main charters in it, two of those actors Carole Ann Ford the Doctors Grand daughter Susan and Willam Russell her teacher Ian Chesterton are still alive there inclusion would surely have been fitting. Instead the only nod to past companions at the moment seems to be the Brigadier who was played by Nicholas Courtney who recently died so instead we have a Steven Moffatt era character Kate Stewart the daughter of the Brigadier who has appeared in one episode from a couple of years ago. In short on the snippets of information we have the anniversary episode seems somewhat jaundiced to the last 8 years.
That said when Steven Moffatt is on fire he is very good as can be highlighted by his episodes when Ecclestone was the Doctor and the David Tennant scary “Blink” with killer statues. I hope that come the dawn of the 51st year of Doctor Who we are able to reflect on a truly magnificent and fitting 50th anniversary episode that celebrated what went before and put the Doctor in a position of strength ready to tackle the next 50 years.