Film & TV

Doctor Who: the Fiftieth Anniversary

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This month Doctor Who turns fifty. Whovians across the world have been eagerly awaiting the date, savouring every little bit of information that the BBC have drip fed into the public consciousness. The fiftieth anniversary celebrations are vast and global, culminating in the premiere of the new episode The Day of the Doctor.

Picture the scene. Itís Saturday November 23rd 1963. The world is still in shock and mourning after the assassination of JFK just a day previous. You sit down for dinner at 5.15 and turn on the television. An old man ‘from another time, another world’ whisks away his granddaughter and her two school teachers in a police box.

Fast forward fifty years and the entire world is in preparation for The Day of the Doctor. The 75-minute episode, shot in 3D, will be simulcast in cinemas throughout the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand not to mention on TV in over seventy-five countries.  The eagerly anticipated episode has been billed as an event. And with sell out cinema showings, it seems that Doctor Who is reclaiming this Saturday night as its own. In a time when catch up TV dominates, it is a testament to the showís history and production team that there is such a buzz surrounding it.

The Day of the Doctor is written by current showrunner Steven Moffatt and features an all-star cast. The tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler are back, as played by David Tennant and Billie Piper, and will be joining Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, the current occupants of the TARDIS. It will pick up where we left off in May, with a cliff hanger that has sparked debate amongst the online forums. Just who is John Hurtís character? We know that he is The Doctor, but from what time? Past? Future? Or is he an amalgamation of all of them?

A lot has changed since The Doctor, played by William Hartnell, set off on that first adventure. The new episode will be shown in 3D, unimaginable for a 1963 audience content with a black and white set and two channels. Secondly, we live in a faster paced world; what was an acceptable 25 minute episode back then would barely pass as a pre-title sequence nowadays. Doctor Who has defied all expectations from its beginnings as a drama the BBC was reluctant to make in 1963 to its flagship brand of the new millennium.

During the build up to the fiftieth anniversary broadcast, there will be a range of Doctor Who focused programming across radio and television. Amongst these, one of the most anticipated is the docu-drama, An Adventure in Space and Time. The 90-minute film explains the story of Doctor Whoís creation and the production of the first few episodes. Viewers may be surprised to find out just how many obstacles were in the way to creating the first episodes. Written by life long fan and Doctor Who regular, Mark Gatiss, the film is his ‘love-letter to Doctor Who.’

Originally running from 1963 to 1989, what is now referred to as ‘The Classic Series,’ Doctor Who enjoyed twenty-six years as a primetime BBC show. When William Hartnell decided to leave the show in 1966, the show’s producers were left with a difficult decision, as documented in Gatiss’ drama. And so the idea of ‘regeneration’ was born, which allowed the show to continue with a brand new leading man. During the Classic era seven men took on the title role; the most notable of which was Tom Baker, who played the fourth Doctor for seven years. Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor is so iconic that his long scarf and love of jelly babies is still associated with the character. A 1996 TV movie saw the brand brought back for a brief time but received a poor reception, meaning that fans would have to wait another nine years before the show returned for good.

Since its return in 2005, Doctor Who has become an unstoppable force. It has become a staple in the Saturday night schedule, not just in the UK but also with 80 million other viewers in over 200 countries. The demand for Doctor Who was demonstrated by the reception of the one-off programme, Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, which was simulcast across the globe and revealed the casting of the twelfth Doctor. Filming for Peter Capaldiís first series in the title role is due to begin in December, when Twitter will typically be on the lookout for any sign of him on Cardiff streets.

One of the fantastic things about having Doctor Who filmed in Cardiff is that the locations used are instantly recognisable. Not only that, but it is also possible to discover filming taking place, as many did for the upcoming episode outside both the National Museum of Wales and Doctor Who Experience in the bay. You may be surprised to watch old episodes back and realise just how many university buildings get used as sets.

Whilst there is yet to be any official events organised in Cardiff for the anniversary, the Doctor Who Experience is once again organising exclusive TARDIS tours as part of the celebrations. Available to purchase up to December 1st, fans have the opportunity to tour the actual TARDIS set, just a short walk from the Experience at Roath Lock Studios.

The Day of the Doctor will see the hero face his biggest challenge yet. Even if youíre not a fan, you wonít want to miss this television event.

#SaveTheDay 23/11/13

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