Those familiar with Doctor Who will know that over the 50 years of the series’ history, there have been many different actors playing the lead role since the show was first screened in 1963. The first change was needed because of the ill health of William Hartnell the original Doctor.
Other shows have maintained popular characters by changes to cast members, giving no explanation for that character’s change of appearance, expecting the audience to follow along until the new actor becomes the accepted face of that character. But Doctor Who producers came up with a logical reason for the change that could be re-used when necessary in the future.
The Doctor is a member of an alien race that can extend life through “regeneration”. When exposed to life ending conditions, his body can be renewed, taking on a different physical appearance, a different personality and different dress sense.
I first saw Doctor Who in England when it was originally broadcast by the BBC. I was only 5 at the time so my memories of the early episodes are minimal and seem to come from only two stories (The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Web Planet).
I also recall a few of the later episodes featuring the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, but again, being so young, the memories are vague. It was after Jon Pertwee took over the role (3rd Doctor) that my recollection improves, probably because I saw regular repeats of episodes after I moved to Australia as well as new episodes with Tom Baker (4th Doctor) and Peter Davison ( 5th Doctor) in the title role. I must have stopped watching some time during the tenure of the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker, because I remember least about his stories, and I know I saw nothing at all of Sylvester McCoy’s brief time as the 7th Doctor..
During McCoy’s time as the Doctor, the show was axed in 1989.
I gave very little thought to Doctor Who after I stopped watching it on TV sometime in the mid-1980s, and was no longer interested enough to watch a 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann (as the 8th Doctor). Likewise when a new series started in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston I wasn’t tempted to watch it.
Things changed at the end of 2012 when I saw that year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. I’m not sure why that particular episode sparked my interest enough to start buying the newer Doctor Who series on DVD, but it helped that they were being sold with large discounts early in the new year.
Throughout 2013 I built up my collection and watched all episodes of the new series featuring three new Doctors. I was able to catch up in time for the 50th anniversary episode shown in November.
Those with mathematically attuned minds might be wondering how a show that ran for 26 years before being cancelled and then renewed almost two decades later and then running for another 8 years making a total of 34, would be entitled to a 50th anniversary. But there is more to the story than a TV show.
More of that story to follow…