Doctor Who Turns Fifty

It all began on November 23, 1963. The BBC had just finished its coverage of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. And a new science fiction program was begun. It was a modest program that  few thought would last more than a few months, but it became a legend. Doctor Who was a low budget program that sometimes had very bad special effects, but children of all ages soon came to love it. The original cast was William Hartnell (The Doctor). Carol Ann Ford (Susan) Jacqueline Hill (Barbra) William Russell (Ian). The show was created by Sydney Newman the BBC Head of Drama and Donald Wilson. Newman was asked to create a show that would be more interesting to the audience as the programming moved from the Saturday afternoon sports coverage to the Saturday evening programming. Newman wanted to do a program about time travel. But he wanted the program to be an educational one. Therefore, Ian was a science teacher and Barbra was a history teacher. Newman set guidelines that the program not be fanciful. For example, a trip to Mars could only include things that were known about the planet. And above all there were to be no bug eyed monsters. But the team of producer Verity Lambert, associate producer Mervyn Pinfield, and script editor David Whitaker soon violated that directive in a huge way. Whitaker approached a writer named Terry Nation to write a story for Doctor Who. Nation came back with a seven episode story about a planet that had been ravaged by war centuries before. On this planet lived two races, the Thals, a peaceful race tired of war and struggling to survive, and the Daleks. The Daleks had been mutated so that they had to travel in machines that looked very much like R2D2 in Star Wars. The Daleks were an evil race that wished to dominate and exterminate other races. The story nearly didn’t make it on the air, but it had to be produced because there no other script available. The Daleks turned Doctor Who into a sensation. Newman was upset with the Daleks, but the audience loved them, so he had to accept it. It was just the beginning for Doctor Who. Millions of people have watched and enjoyed the show around the world, for generations. This Saturday marks the show’s fiftieth anniversary. It has become a legend. Not bad for a program that was created just to fill a time slot.

 

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