Flashback: Doctor Who

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It’s almost November 23rd and that means one thing: it’s time for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special! Celebrating the Time Lord’s half century and entitled ‘The Day of the Doctor’ the special will be aired on BBC One in at least 75 countries and also in selected cinemas worldwide. It will feature Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, David Tennant as the 10th Doctor and Jemma Louise-Coleman and Billie Piper in their respective roles as companions. John Hurt will also make an appearance as an unknown incarnation of the Doctor.

Possibly one of the most iconic British TV shows of all time, Doctor Who had a major influence on the science fiction genre of television. Starting out with a low budget, the imaginative scripts and creative ways to make special effects went on to influence cult shows like Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Originally created as a children’s show, Doctor Who’s gripping plots and concepts were quick win it a following amongst adults as well, prompting a shift towards more adult themes. Though often criticized as being too frightening for children, it is and has long been a staple of family entertainment on a Saturday night.

The Doctor’s ability to regenerate, first introduced after William Hartnell’s departure in 1966 is one of the main reasons for the show’s long running success- giving both creators and actors scope to re-invent the character in concurrence with the changing times. Created as surrogates with which the audience can identify, the role of companion has belonged to more than 35 actors and actresses since 1963. The first Doctor’s companions were his granddaughter and her two teachers, Since the 2005 revival, however, the Doctor generally only has a single companion- for the 9th and 10th  Doctors, these were Rose, Martha and Donna. The eleventh travelled with Amy and Rory before Clara Oswald, the current companion, replaced them.

Fifty fantastic years have seen the Doctor battling a large and diverse number of monsters and villains. The oldest and most iconic of all his adversaries are the Daleks. Created by Terry Nation for the show’s second serial, they have not only appeared on postage stamps but also become a word in the Oxford English dictionary. Other famous villains include the Cybermen, Silurians and Sontarans. Of the new series, perhaps the most frightening of all are the Weeping Angels. Also known as The Lonely Assassins, they appear as winged humanoid statues that appear still only when your eyes are open, but attack as soon as you blink. Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor loses both of his companions to them. The show has generated numerous spin-offs, the most successful ones in recent times being The Sarah Jane Adventures starring Elizabeth Sladen and Torchwood, starring John Barrowman as Jack Harkness.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, many other shows will mark the day. Written by Mark Gatiss, An Adventure in Space and Time will tell the story of the origins of Doctor Who. BBC Three will be having a Monster and Villains Weekend as well as showing an Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who for new viewers. BBC Radio 2 will also be commemorating the occasion by doing a special broadcast.
Over 50 years of frightening villains, gripping plots and fabulous actors later, Doctor Who is still a staple of Saturday night television. The epitome of British science fiction series, it has only flourished over time, with fans now spreading the globe and live broadcasts in over 75 countries.

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