Doctor Who is 49 today! Are these the plans for the 50th anniversary?

by Lisa McGarry

This article was written by Sue. Check out her work on

49 years ago today, at about 5.15pm, the sci-fi programme Doctor Who was first broadcast on BBC One. Due to this being the day after President Kennedy was assassinated, and because most of the country was experiencing periodical power cuts, the BBC repeated the first episode just before they broadcast the second one a week later.

Despite that rocky start, Doctor Who continued on British television screens until 1989 sometimes obtaining audiences of 16 million.

Over the years Doctor Who has become such a part of the British consciousness that even people who are not fans of the programme are aware that The Doctor travels in a blue police box called the TARDIS (which stands for Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space), uses a sonic screwdriver, travels with a companion and has enemies such as Daleks and the Cybermen.

Due to falling audience numbers, the programme stopped being commissioned in 1989. There was an Anglo / American film released in 1996 but the programme returned to television, revitalised for the twenty first century, in 2005 under the control of writer Russell T Davies and produced by BBC Wales.

Due to the ill-health of actor William Hartnell, who played The Doctor from 1963 until 1966, the producers thought of an ingenuous solution in that they allowed the character to regenerate into another actor to ensure the survival of the series.

Since then eleven actors have played the role of The Doctor, with Tom Baker being the longest in the part with seven years and Paul McGann only appearing in the Doctor Who movie.

When the series returned in 2005 Christopher Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor but only stayed for one series of 13 episodes. He regenerated into David Tennant, who was the Tenth Doctor from 2005 until 1st January 2010. Matt Smith has been the Doctor since then.

If anything Doctor Who is more popular now than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. As well as the programmes themselves, there is a massive market of Doctor Who toys, merchandise, DVDs and books. There have been spin-off series such as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures and the actors who play The Doctor and his companion can nowadays expect massive media interest in their private lives and other projects they film, even after they have left the role.

BBC One cites Doctor Who as the reason that families started watching television again on Saturday evenings so the channel built on these audiences with programmes such as Merlin and the talent-contest shows like How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, Strictly Come Dancing and, on ITV, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

Doctor Who has also become a regular fixture on the Christmas Day television schedule. The 2007 episode Voyage Of The Damned (starring Kylie Minogue) received almost 14 million viewers and was the second highest viewed programme on British television during that year.

However the big speculation among Whovians at the moment is about how the BBC plans to celebrate the big 50th anniversary next year and whether it will involve a multiple-Doctor episode. These stories, where there is more than one Doctor, are always very popular with television audiences and started on the tenth anniversary of the programme when the First and Second Doctors appeared in an episode with the incumbent Doctor played by Jon Pertwee. More recently the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison appeared in a mini episode called Time Crash with David Tennant for Children In Need in 2007.

Unfortunately the first three actors who played the Doctor are no longer living and, of the remaining eight, it seems highly unlikely that Christopher Eccleston could be persuaded to return to the programme.

Actors such as Tom Baker and Colin Baker have changed considerably since they were in the role (although, as this is sci-fi, that could easily be explained) but both Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy attend Doctor Who fan conventions so are likely to be interested. However, most Whovians have set their heart on David Tennant returning to the programme. David frequently wins ‘most popular Doctor’ polls and was a big fan of the programme before he took the role (he cites Doctor Who as the reason why he started acting) so, assuming that his schedule fits, it seems quite possible that David would agree to return.

Only this week, the website BleedingCool posted that they had been told by a ‘solid source’ that David would be returning to the role although both David and the BBC have not commented one way or the other. BleedingCool also said they had heard that there would be two special anniversary episodes.

One point lots of Whovians have not considered is not only whether David Tennant would like to return but whether the current production team would actually like him to return.

When David left in 2010, writer Russell T Davies and Executive Producer Julie Gardner left at the same time so a new production team was formed under chief writer Steven Moffatt. Since then they have been at great pains to draw a line under the previous production team’s era and have even done such things as changing the colour and the outside of the TARDIS.

Therefore it is quite possible that Steven Moffat and the current production team will decide that the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will generate enough attention so that they do not need a multiple Doctor episode and possibly that adventure should be saved for a late date.

A year today we will know!


1 Comment

  1. Desariella of Aresia on November 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Happy 49th. Please check out my DW Fan-Fic Story, “The Aresian Saga”. Just Google the title.

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