On November 23, 1963, Doctor Who made its first appearance on the BBC. I’ve written previously about the power that that first story, “An Unearthly Child,” still has.
The BBC Archive offers a fascinating look at the origins of the show at The Genesis of Doctor Who. There are photos, like this one of Delia Derbyshire, who performed Ron Grainer’s theme music “by using tape loops and electronic feedback to make a completely alien sound”:
And there are documents, like these background notes for Doctor Who:
The original conception of the Doctor hints at some of what the character would become:
A frail old man lost in space and time. They give him this name because they don’t know who he is. He seems not to remember where he has come from; he is suspicious and capable of sudden malignance; he seems to have some undefined enemy; he is searching for something as well as fleeing from something. He has a “machine” which enables them to travel together through time, through space, and through matter.
Which included a darkness to his spirit that is being expressed, in some ways, in new Who; this is a startling vision for the show and its protagonist:
The Second Secret of Dr. Who: The authorities of his own (or some other future) time are not concerned merely with the theft of an obsolete machine; they are seriously concerned to prevent his monkeying with time, because his secret intention, when he finds his ideal past, is to destroy or nullify the future.
Also interesting to note is that the creators intended to write neither genuine science fiction nor genuine fantasy, because they would be writing for
an audience aged fourteen… the most difficult, critical, even sophisticated, audience there is, for TV. In brief, avoid the limitations of any label and use the best in any style or category, as it suits us, so long as it works in our medium.
Let’s point to that whenever anyone dismisses Doctor Who as merely a “kids’ show.” Clearly, the creators believed that kids would be the hardest to please and the most difficult to write to.
A few notes on just how old Doctor Who is, by comparison with the new show. In 1963:
Steven Moffat was two years old
Russell T. Davies was seven months old
Christopher Eccleston was three months away from being born
David Tennant would not be born for another eight and a half years
Matt Smith would not be born for another 19 years.
Happy Doctor Who Day!
(Thanks to Keith for the BBC link. If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)