This weekend is very special to me, as a beloved television show from my youth has hit a milestone that very few shows have or will ever reach – Doctor Who has been on for fifty years. I’m by no means a “new fan”, but there was a time when I lost touch with the show. When I found it again, it helped me get through a rough time and also helped me connect with my wife. For this, Doctor Who isn’t just some dumb TV show that I watch – it’s something that has always been there when I need it. Even if it’s just a form of escapist fun, it’s my favorite form of escapist fun.
One of my earliest childhood memories is that of my mother and I staying up late (at least from my viewpoint) and watching Tom Baker episodes on PBS back in the mid-1980’s. I clearly remember the shocks and scares of one episode in particular, The Hand of Fear. For years I had images of an disembodied mummified hand crawling around a space station murdering people permanently etched into the deepest recesses of my mind. Even into my teens, when I assumed I would never watch the show again, I would have nostalgic thoughts about how much I loved that episode.
But then Doctor Who did something that many of my other forgotten childhood gems did not do, it came back into my life.
My wife (then girlfriend) reminded me of the show when we started dating in the early-mid 2000’s. She entered one of the episodes into a “bad movie” marathon that some college friends would do, andI thought”I remember that show!” For some reason, it never occurred to me that they had old episodes on VHS and DVD since at the time only big popular shows would get that treatment. I had just signed up for Netflix to keep my Father’s death off my mind, and found a treasure trove of classic Doctor Who on there.
This was 2004, and I ended up “Googling” the show only to find out that the BBC was producing “new episodes of Doctor Who” in an animated form. I thought “well that’s cool” and watched Richard E. Grant‘s (now) non-canon adventure Scream of the Shalka with excitement. I was hooked. I bought some Target books, BBC books, and other stuff on E-bay, and started ploughing through the DVDs. I signed up for a popular message-board and saw news that blew me away: The BBC was bringing it back….like for real….not a cartoon either….legit.
Flash forward to 2005, and I find myself downloading a “leaked” copy of Rose on Bittorrent. As I recall, I excitedly woke my wife up at some alarming time like 8:00 am on a Saturday (I’m a night owl) and basically forced her to watch it with me. I had secretly found out about it the night before, and wanted to surprise her. It was like Christmas morning for a small child, I simply could not wait any longer to dig into my presents. The leak of Rose, The very first Christopher Eccleston episode of the show, was one of those things that I suspect everyone on that forum did secretly, then pretended they did not online. I have no regrets for doing it as I ended up getting even more excited for the show’s return, and downloaded all the rest of the episodes.
This was back when BBC America was essentially a home and gardening channel and had no interest in the show, The Sci-fi channel blatantly said they “would never air it” and a simulcast was practically hysterical to think about. The American Doctor Who fan of 2005 was an internet pirate by necessity. Little by little, the show got more popular. “word of mouth” spread it like wildfire, and I sometimes felt like a drug dealer with it. Word got out that I had the episodes, and ended up burning terrible VCD and CD ROM copies for people. I turned a handful of my own friends into fans, something that I never expected to do. People that had never even heard of the show were getting into it, eventually The Sci-fi channel did pick it up for one season.
Seven years have passed, and the show is one of the more popular genre shows on TV here in America. There is a new generation of fans latching onto it, and although some may not know much about the classic show, new fans are a great thing. Fifty years is a long time. Granted, there was a hiatus in there, but even then the property still consists of over 33 seasons, TV and theatrical movies, multiple spin-offs, hundreds of audio dramas, hundreds of books, and much more.
My wife and I will be attending a theatrical showing of the anniversary special The Day of The Doctor in wondrous 3D on Monday, meaning that I will try to avoid the fansites and such for a few days. To tide us over, we will be watching multiple other Doctor Who related programming all weekend, most notably An Adventure in Space and Time, the awesome looking docu-drama produced by the BBC starring David Bradley. Expect me to bombard this blog with 50th anniversary posts all week!
- Day of the Doctor (lyonlife.net)
- Doctor Who’s Jewish roots (jewishnews.net.au)
- What to watch this weekend (gameofscreens.wordpress.com)
- Doctor Who: 50 things you didn’t know (telegraph.co.uk)
- 50 facts for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary: Everything you could possibly want to know about Time Lord’s Whoniverse (mirror.co.uk)
- BBC plans birthday bash for ‘Doctor Who’ (arabtimesonline.com)
- BBC plans birthday bash as ‘Doctor Who’ turns 50 (aurorasentinel.com)
- The Day of the Doctor: Five Episodes to Introduce You to the World of Who (thevolatilemolotov.wordpress.com)
- Doctor Who takes fight to the Daleks and Cybermen – and critics of BBC (theguardian.com)
- Doctor Who Reviews: Beyond Cancelation (siskoid.blogspot.com)