Sunday, 24 November 2013

50 Years of Doctor Who

50 years ago today, a children's teatime sci-fi show made its debut on the BBC - and went on to change the world, both in terms of television and the imaginations of viewers for generations. To celebrate I thought I would tell you all a few interesting facts about the show which you probably won't have heard of before!

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction show in the world; the 50th anniversary special will be the show’s 799th episode since it began in 1963.  The nearest rival doesn’t come close – with Superman’s youthful adventures in Smallville achieving 218 episodes across 10 series.

The BBC started colour transmission on November 15th 1969. That meant that the first colour Doctor Who episode was 1970’s Spearhead from Space which introduced the Third Doctor. The record highest viewer figures for an episode of Doctor Who is taken by part four of 1979’s The City of Death – also part of the first Doctor Who serial to be filmed abroad.  16.1 million viewers tuned in, although strike action on the ITV network may take some of the credit. 

Being the mother of Doctor Who is quite a claim, but original producer Verity Lambert was also the first ever female producer at the BBC. Sadly the BBC’s short-sighted decision to junk black and white episodes in the late 60s and early 70s has robbed us of classic episodes of the First and Second Doctors. But fans haven’t given up hope that these episodes survive somewhere in the world.  Those searches have yielded results. The recent discovery of copies of 1968 serials The Enemy of the World and the Web of Fear in Nigeria mean that only 97 episodes of Doctor Who remain missing - that figure stood at 137 in 1981.

The word TARDIS has made the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s the Doctor’s famous time and Space machine, but it’s also a recognised word. Noun. 1. Time machine. 2. A building or container that is larger inside than it appears to be from outside.

Coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy delayed Doctor Who’s first broadcast. Doctor Who’s first episode was broadcast the day after President John F Kennedy was assassinated. Popular opinion has it that news coverage delayed the first screening by 10 minutes, but in fact it was only 80 seconds. The show’s first episode was repeated again the following week to make sure it wasn’t missed.

Doctor Who is one of the BBC’s Top five Brands. Last year’s annual report showed that Doctor Who and the Beeb’s other top brands (Top Gear, Lonely Planet, Dancing with the Stars and BBC Earth) made up 30% of their headline sales. The 50th anniversary special the Day of the Doctor has been described as the biggest event in BBC Drama’s history and it’s easy to see why. Scheduled for 7.50pm this Saturday, the episode will be simulcast across the world to almost 80 countries - just imagine viewers in Melbourne Australia who’ll be watching at 6.50am on Sunday morning!