The BBC has launched an online archive of images and documents that chronicle and celebrate the creation of its flagship sci-fi drama Doctor Who 45 years ago today.
After 45 years of adventures in time and space, new generations of viewers are learning words like ‘Tardis’, ‘Dalek’ and ‘regeneration’. In November 1963, all this was still to come. Head of the Drama department Sydney Newman, producer Verity Lambert, director Waris Hussein and the cast had taken many risks to get the show to the screen. Some cynics thought ‘Doctor Who’ wouldn’t last six weeks. Only its star, William Hartnell, dared to imagine it might ‘run forever’…
The pre-production notes from the BBC archive paint a picture of a very different show from that which eventually made it to the airwaves (including the Doctor’s “hatred of scientist [sic], inventors, improvers.” … “He malignantly tries to stop progress (the future) wherever he finds it, while searching for his ideal (the past)”. And indeed, the Doctor Who of 1963 was very different from the Doctor Who of today: Sure, the TARDIS is still there, still stuck in the form of a blue police call box and still carrying the Doctor and his companions from world to world and time to time. But gone is the Doctor’s family and his whole race, while he started out with a granddaughter named Susan (Carol Ann Ford, pictured, with star William Hartnell.)
After Hartnell’s health forced him to leave the program in 1966, the production team had to either abandon the show or invent a way to go forward — which they did. The character of the Doctor “regenerated” after collapsing from exhaustion, and a new tradition was born. Patrick Troughton took on the role of a rejuvenated Doctor: his appearance and mannerisms changed, but at his core he remained the same person.
Other actors would follow: Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. The program was canceled in 1989; a 1996 Fox TV movie starring Paul McGann tried to resurrect the series — and failed; and Doctor Who finally returned to television in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston — but he left after only one season, to be replaced by David Tennant (pictured) who remains in the role until 2010 when he, too, will move on.