Today the BBC is celebrating 50 years of Dr Who (no one is dwelling on the decade and half (ish) when they did not make the show for TV (aside from the under rated US pilot).

Why has the show endured for so long, especially during that TV show blank period (altho I understand the continuation books flew of the shelves during this era). There are countless audio books available and fan sites, blogs and the British tabloids go properly nuts for any snippet of Dr Who news.

But why is this the case?

Well, certainly domestically, the Doctor is very British. An eccentric, intelligent gentleman (so far – am personally very pro a female Doctor as that would be within the (modern) show’s ethos of refreshing itself). There is a bit of Sherlock Holmes in there and as quoted in the BBC dramatisation of the genesis of the Doctor a bit of HG Wells, CS Lewis and father Christmas. British quirkie-ness, British geekie-ness (before the term geek probably existed).

Outside of the UK, why has the Doctor endured? Well in the US he is so that lone hero character so popular in Westerns and beyond: think Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy, Batman or Superman or the Lone Ranger. Even Buffy – which I remember reading somewhere the 2005 return was particularly influenced by, in terms of the companion element of the narrative. Buffy was that lone hero who had friends, but walked a path they could not ever fully understand. The Doctor walks a path like that too.

And what has contributed most to the longevity of the Doctor on TV? The genius idea of regeneration – or what to do with your TV show when the star wants out. This sci fi way of dealing with the problem is completely genius and works so well within the narrative universe of the Timelords. This also gives the producers a way of refreshing the show every so often and, in theory at least*, allowing it to go on and on. What is not to like: a little blue phone box; new Doctors every now and then; endless new companions; adventures across all of time and space.

 

* There is that lingering plot device about the Master being on his last regeneration (13th, if memory serves) but I am sure some genius already has that covered (spoilers alert) – I expect River Song gave him all of hers when she saved his life that time, or maybe he has all of the Timelords regenerations ever, assuming it was he who wiped them out during the Time War.

 

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Did you ever watch Blake’s Seven – either when it was first broadcast or on video / DVD / download/ whatever.

I  was quite young when it was broadcast in the late 70s / early 80s, but one of my earliest memories is of my older sister loving / talking about / drawing images from the show Blake’s Seven.

I remember watching parts of the last series in the 80s and especially the shock ending of the show.

During the late 90s I watched most of the show on video (my sister owned them) and it was then I really GOT it.

Terry Nation (inventor of the Daleks) created the show and one of the key ideas what that these people were more real than anyone else in TV sci fi ever had been before. These characters had faults, were sometimes morally ambiguous and would not always make the right decision based on doing something which was right, but didn’t benefit them. They were pragmatic.

TV sci fi before then had been very black and white in terms of you were either completely good or completely bad. Star Trek so far was all about that – as was Dr Who (altho interestingly, Dr Who has had a slight edge at certain periods since then – Sylvester McCoy‘s Doctor always had a very dark side).

If you look at TV sci fi since then – Farscape, re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Firefly – or many others, they have that edge. And in my opinion this is down to Blake’s Seven.

If you haven’t seen it before take a look (but please forgive the 1970s BBC special effects).

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