When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”
What went right? It’s not just the always-exterminating Daleks, or the complex, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey plots. Those are fun, but there’s something more primal that’s been with it since it’s start in 1963: adventure. A sense of the new. When William Hartnell debuted in November 1963 as the Doctor, showing off his time and space-traveling TARDIS, and asked his co-stars and viewers, “Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension?” And the truth was, they hadn’t. Not like this.
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