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Friday, 22 November 2013

Doctor Who

On November 23rd, 2013, the BBC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who - its seminal science fiction TV series about an alien known as the Doctor who travels throughout all of time and space in his spaceship, the TARDIS, which looks remarkably like a 1960s-era British police box.


Once upon a time, Doctor Who was actually missing from TV. The show ran continuously from 1963, but was cancelled in 1989. There was an ill-fated attempt to revive the series in 1996 with a TV movie, but that, too failed. Like the Doctor himself, though, the show proved resilient, finally beginning anew in 2005.

The rebooted series has proved to be a remarkable success – it’s still going strong, and also managed to accomplish what the “classic” Doctor Who series never did – building a huge fanbase in America. It’s currently the number one show on BBC America, and its viewership is growing.

“As I was driving in L.A. once, I saw a huge billboard of the Doctor shown from behind in silhouette, with just a small ‘Doctor Who’ written in the corner. It’s a testatment to how aggressive the marketing for the rebooted show is that they expect audiences to know who the Doctor is.”

Those words were spoken to me by Dr. Piers Britton of the University of Redlands in California. Dr. Britton is a native of the U.K., and in addition to his usual courses in art history, he’s currently teaching a class on Doctor Who this semester in celebration of the 50th anniversary.


 He’s also written a book called TARDISbound, which examines the Doctor as he’s appeared in various media incarnations, including novels, TV, audiobooks, and comics.
And in that study, how does he explain the longevity of the character?

“The character is helped because he can be played by a limitless number of actors. The longevity of the character is assured because it thrives on the basis of character, even as popular culture changes. That idea of change – being able to reinvent itself – is central to Doctor Who.” - Forbes