DOCTOR WHO

British Science-Fiction Programme

Doctor Who, the world's longest continuously running television science fiction series, was made by the BBC between 1963 and 1989 (with repeats being shown in many countries thereafter, and negotiations with Steven Spielberg and others to make new programs continuing into the mid-1990s). Doctor Who's first episode screened in Britain on 23 November 1963, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Consequently this first episode of a low budget series was swamped by "real life" television, and became a BBC institution quietly and by stealth, in the interstices of more epic television events. Similarly, in the first episode, its central character, the Doctor is a mysterious ('Doctor Who?') and stealthy figure in the contemporary world of 1963, not even being seen for the first eleven and a half minutes, and then appearing as an ominous and shadowy person who irresponsibly "kidnaps" his granddaughter's schoolteachers in his time machine (the Tardis). This mystery was the hallmark of the series for its first three years (when William Hartnell played the lead), as was the anti-hero quality of the Doctor (in the first story he has to be restrained from killing a wounded and unarmed primitive).

The Doctor was deliberately constructed as a character against stereotype: a "cranky old man", yet also as vulnerable as a child; an anti-hero playing against the more obvious "physical" hero of the schoolteacher Ian (himself played by the well-known lead actor in commercial television's Ivanhoe series). Its famous, haunting signature tune was composed at the new BBC Radiophonic Workshop, adding a futuristic dimension to a series which could never be high on production values. The program always attracted ambitious young directors, with (the later enormously successful) Verity Lambert as its first. The decision to continue with the series in 1966 when William Hartnell had to leave the part, and to "regenerate" the Doctor on screen, allowed a succession of quirkily different personae to inhabit the quirkily mysterious Doctor. So that, when it was decided in 1966 to reveal where the Doctor did come from (the Time Lord world of Gallifrey), the mysteriousness of the Doctor could be carried on in a different way--via the strangely varied characterisation. Following Hartnell, the Doctor was played by the Chaplinesque "space hobo" Patrick Troughton, the dignified "establishment" figure of Jon Pertwee, the parodic visual mix of Bob Dylan and Oscar Wilde, Tom Baker, the vulnerable but "attractive to young women" Peter Davison, the aggressive and sometimes violent Colin Baker, and the gentle, whimsical Sylvester McCoy.

These shifts of personae were matched by shifts of generic style, as each era's new producers looked for new formulae to attract new audiences. The mid-1970s, for example, under producer Philip Hinchcliffe, which was a high point in audience ratings, was marked by a dramatic Gothic Horror style. As this increasingly led to a "TV violence"dispute with Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association, the subsequent producer, Graham Williams, shifted the series to a more comic signature. This comedy became refined as generic parody in 1979, under script editor Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy). Doctor Who's 17th season, which was both script edited by Adams and contained episodes written by him ("The Pirate Planet", "The City of Death") became notorious with the fans, who hated what they saw as the self-parody of Doctor Who as "Fawlty Towers in space" (John Cleese appeared briefly in a brilliantly funny parody of art critics in "The City of Death").

Throughout Doctor Who's generic and character changes, however, the fans have remained critically loyal to the series. Fiercely aggressive to some producers and to some of the show's generic signatures, the fans' intelligent campaigns helped keep the program on-air in some of the more than 100 countries where it has screened; and in the United States huge conventions of fans brought Doctor Who a new visibility in the 1980s. But the official fans have never amounted to more than a fraction of the audience. Doctor Who achieved the status of an institution as well as a cult.

Doctor Who's status attracted high level, innovative writers; its "education/entertainment" formula encouraged a range of generic inflections from space opera through parody to environmental and cultural comment. Its mix of current technology with relatively low budgets attracted ambitious young producers and led to what one producer called a "cheap but cheerful" British show that fascinated audiences of every age group world wide. But above all, its early, ambiguous construction opened the space for innovative, often bizarre, but always dedicated acting. With so many different characterisations and acting styles, the program, like the Doctor, was continuously "regenerating", and so stayed young.

-John Tulloch


Doctor Who

CAST

The Doctor (first)................................ William Hartnell The Doctor (second)........................ Patrick Troughton The Doctor (third).................................... Jon Pertwee The Doctor (fourth).................................... Tom Baker The Doctor (fifth)................................... Peter Davison The Doctor (sixth).................................... Colin Baker The Doctor (seventh)......................... Sylvester McCoy The Doctor (eighth)................................ Paul McGann Susan Foreman................................. Carole Ann Ford Barbara Wright.................................... Jacqueline Hill Ian Chesterton................................... William Russell Vicki................................................ Maureen O'Brien Steven Taylor......................................... Peter Purves Katarina .................................................Adrienne Hill Sara Kingdom.......................................... Jean Marsh Dodo Chaplet.......................................... Jackie Lane Polly Lopez........................................... Anneke Wills Ben Jackson .......................................Michael Craze Jamie McCrimmon.................................. Frazer Hines Victoria Waterfield............................ Deborah Watling Zoe Heriot......................................... Wendy Padbury Liz Shaw ...............................................Caroline John Jo Grant ...............................................Katy Manning Sarah-Jane Smith............................. Elizabeth Sladen Harry Sullivan............................................. Ian Marter Leela ................................................Louise Jameson Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart............ Nicholas Courtney K9......................................................... John Leeson Romana (first).......................................... Mary Tamm Romana (second)...................................... Lalla Ward Adric......................................... Matthew Waterhouse Nyssa................................................... Sarah Sutton Tegan Jovanka .....................................Janet Fielding Turlough............................................. Mark Strickson Perpugilliam Brown................................ Nicola Bryant Melanie Bush..................................... Bonnie Langford Ace..................................................... Sophie Aldred Master (1971-73).................................. Roger Delgado Master (1981-89)................................. Anthony Ainley

PRODUCERS
Alex Beaton, Peter Bryant, Philip Hinchcliffe, Matthew Jacobs, Verity Lambert, Barry Letts, Innes Lloyd, John Nathan-Turner, Mervyn Pinfield, Derrick Sherwin, Peter Ware, John Wiles, Graham Williams II, Jo Wright

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

BBC

679                                           c. 25-minute Episodes 15                                            c. 50-minute Episodes 1               90-minute 20th Anniversary Special Episode

November 1963-September 1964               42 Episodes October 1964-July 1965                            39 Episodes September 1965-July 1966                        45 Episodes September 1966-July 1967                        43 Episodes September 1967-June 1968                       40 Episodes August 1968-June 1969                            44 Episodes January 1970-June 1970                           25 Episodes January 1971-June 1971                           25 Episodes January 1972-June 1972                           26 Episodes December 1972-June 1973                        26 Episodes December 1973-June 1974                        26 Episodes December 1974-May 1975                        20 Episodes August 1975-March 1976                          26 Episodes September 1976-April 1977                       26 Episodes September 1977-March 1978                     26 Episodes September 1978-February 1979                 26 Episodes September 1979-January 1980                  20 Episodes August 1980-March 1981                          28 Episodes January 1982-March 1982                         26 Episodes January 1983-March 1983                         22 Episodes 25 November 1983 Anniversary Special 90-minute Episode
January 1984-March 1984          22 25-minute Episodes                                                  2 50-minute Episodes January 1985-March 1985          13 50-minute Episodes September 1986-December 1986               14 Episodes September 1987-December 1987               14 Episodes October 1988-January 1989                       14 Episodes September 1989-December 1989               14 Episodes

FURTHER READING

Bentham, Jeremy. Doctor Who: The Early Years. London: Allen, 1986.

Dicks, Terrance, and Malcolme Hulke. The Making of Doctor Who. London: Allen, 1980.

Haining, Peter. Twenty Years of Doctor Who. London: Allen, 1983.

_______________. Doctor Who: 25 Glorious Years. London: Allen, 1988.

Rickard, Graham. A Day With A TV Producer. Hove, U.K.: Wayland, 1980.

Road, Alan. Doctor Who--The Making of a Television Series. London: Andre Deutsch, 1982.

Tulloch, John, and Manuel Alvarado. Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Tulloch, John, and Henry Jenkins. Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek. London: Routledge, 1995.

 

See also Lambert, Verity; Nation, Terry; Newman, Sidney; Pertwee, Jon; Science Fiction Programs; Troughton, Patrick