'Doctor Who' Marks 50th Anniversary With 90-Min. Retrospective
Fifty years ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation introduced a man in a little blue box - bigger on the inside, of course - who has since witnessed the coming and going of five decades of television history on either side of the Atlantic.
With this season marking a half-century since "An Unearthly Child" aired and got us all acquainted with The Doctor and the titular yet-to-be-answered question "Doctor Who," a 90-minute special announced by the BBC to air this fall will look back on how it began, where it's been and probably rejoice that the journeys continue 11 Doctors, 33 seasons and 50 years later.
"An Adventure in Space and Time" will dig deep into the science fiction institution's legacy and the people who brought The Doctor's world into our living rooms. Mark Gatiss is writing the one-off retrospective, to be produced by current showrunner Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner.
"This is the story of how an unlikely set of brilliant people created a true television original," Gatiss said. "And how an actor - [First Doctor] William Hartnell - stereotyped in hard-man roles became a hero to millions of children. I've wanted to tell this story for more years than I can remember! To make it happen for 'Doctor Who's' 50th birthday is quite simply a dream come true."
Added Moffat, "The story of 'Doctor Who' is the story of television - so it's fitting in the anniversary that we make our most important journey back in time to see how the TARDIS was launched."
Ah, the TARDIS - The Doctor's Gallifreyan Time Lords' native conveyance across the universe, an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. For all that has persistently changed, come and gone over the past 50 yeas' course even extending to the very inside of the craft, that blue box has remained iconic of an imagined world of humor, drama, intellect and dramatic conflict so near to what blankets the real world that surrounds it.
All things considered, it's been just about the only thing that's remained 99-percent unchanged since 1963.
The production, death and resurrection of "Doctor Who" might very well have a complete story as sometimes odd as anything its various writers could have imagined. In 1970s, 106 total episodes spanning 27 serials were lost under what has been dubbed the BBC's "junking" policy. It's a succinct way of saying that in the days long before physically efficient storage methods, the BBC would make space in its storage facilities by throwing away, burying and even burning footage. Others suffered under poor storage conditions, and simply deteriorated out of viability.
There's the story of "Shada," the never-properly-completed serial written by "Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" author Douglas Adams that was to wrap up the 1979-1980 season, and was eventually canned by the BBC production strike. In 1992, its completed footage was released on video with Tom Baker, the Fourth (and most celebrated) Doctor, providing a narration from the script on-camera to fill out the unfilmed story.
There was Colin Baker taking up the mantle of Sixth Doctor while BBC Controller Michael Grade was sticking his sonic screwdriver in Baker's ex-wife. There was the failed 1996 FOX movie, meant to be the first attempt to resurrect the series after its 1989 cancelation. There are many individual stories. But in the big picture, it's a story of how a series aired regularly from 1963-1989 was resurrected in 2005 to introduce 43 previous years of canon and three new Doctors to a whole new generation.
Keep in mind, it's a pivotal season coming up. This seventh season of the resurrected "Doctor Who" will be the last for Karen Gillian, who's portrayed Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith's companion since Smith succeeded David Tennant in 2010. Also, Smith himself has hinted obliquely that his own end may be coming. Smith seemed certain this past October that this season could be his last, then seemed much more vague about when he would pass the torch.