November 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Doctor!

Bet you thought this would be another JFK post, right? Don't worry; that comes tomorrow.

But I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the extraordinary fact that Doctor Who celebrates its fiftieth anniversary tomorrow.  Now, most of you probably know that, and furthermore I wrote at some length about Doctor Who a while back in my Top Ten list.  Still...

When you think about it, 50 years is a long time for a television series to be going.  Meet the Press is there, along with Face the Nation and some other news shows, but I don't really consider that to be part of the same comparison.  The Simpsons has been going for awhile now, but that's animated.  There are the soaps, to be sure - at least a few of them, although they seem to be dying off pretty steadily - I guess Days Of Our Lives and General Hospital would be the winners there.  I always marveled at What's My Line?, which not only ran for over 17 seasons, but spent all but a few months of that time in the same time slot.  There's a pretty good list here, though who knows for sure if the always-reliable Wikipedia is absolutely right on this. Coronation Street dates back to 1960, which makes it one of the longest continuously-running scripted shows of all time, and a contemporary of Doctor Who.

Now, it's true that Doctor Who took a few years off there between 1989 and 2005, so in terms of total seasons we're actually at 33, which is still a hell of a long run for a show.  And one of the things I've really appreciated about the new incarnation is that it is not a re-boot, but a continuation.  In fact, due in great part to Russell T. Davies, the show has done a remarkable job of integrating the past with the present.  It's strange enough that a show can survive 11* (soon to be 12) actors playing the same lead role, but to convince us that Matt Smith, the current Doctor, inhabits the same essence as William Hartnell, the First Doctor - well, that's no mean feat.

*And by the way, isn't that a stunning montage of them up there as the lede picture?  That's courtesy of AP/BBC.

Doctor Who originally premiered on November 23, 1963, the day after JFK's assassination.  There was some controversy as to whether or not it should be aired at all that day, and in fact the inaugural episode was rerun the next Saturday prior to the scheduled second episode*.  The rest, as they say, is history.  And to have reached the staggering point in time where we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show's debut is something, isn't it?  The anniversary's getting worldwide attention - the show's arguably never been more popular than it is now, and it's certainly transitioned in this country from a cult favorite to a mainstream hit - and I probably would have written about it at greater length had I not done that so recently.  There's a lot of attention being paid to the JFK anniversary, but for all that I don't think there was really any danger that the good Doctor would be overlooked.

*Not so much as an encore, but because a lot of people either missed it or were distracted from it by the goings-on in America.

So this is no scholarly treatise, nothing really but a birthday card from a fan, to 50 years of Doctor Who - and may there be 50 more!

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