Happy Birthday Doctor Who!

Today, Doctor Who turns 50. It’s time to put away our reservations and open up to a new way of living Doctor Who.


But first, let’s look to the past with a wibbly wobbly timey wimey timeline.

1963. The show starts with a bumpy debut as American president Kennedy is assassinated. We get the classic The Daleks, which sported viewing figures of over 10.4 million for episodes 6 and 7.

1964. Doctor Who goes historical, properly, for the first time: the serial Marco Polo is a success. The Daleks return for the first time.

1965. Doctor Who goes comedy. We get serials like The Romans and The Chase to wet our appetites of humour. The concept of a second TARDIS is introduced in The Time Meddler. The show’s first producer, Verity Lambert, leaves Doctor Who.

1966. The show’s longest serial, clocking in at twelve 25-minute episodes plus a “prequel”, The Daleks’ Master Plan, airs. William Hartnell’s health demands that he leaves the show, and Patrick Troughton is drafted in to replace him in a world’s first for show-running: Regeneration.

1967. The new Doctor is a hit. The Daleks are written out of the show in the serial, The Evil of the Daleks, and the Cybermen return for the first time in the serial, The Moonbase.

1968. Doctor Who is firmly set in stone, despite its budgeting issues. 1968 saw the introduction of several enemies that would return later in the show: The ice warriors and the yeti.

1969. The concept of the Time Lord is expanded upon in the epic 10-part serial, The War Games. The Doctor is forced to regenerate a second time when it is decided that Patrick Troughton will leave the show.

1970. New Doctor. New format. New monsters. The first colour episode of Doctor Who to be broadcast was Spearhead from Space, featuring an all-new cast and the introduction of an enemy that would return in The Terror of the Autons. Season 7 is a classic.

1971. The autons return just as the Doctor is settling into his new home on Earth. The Doctor’s archenemy The Master is introduced.

1972. They bring back the Daleks! And to celebrate, they are brought back in bling – painted black and gold.

1973. The previous two Doctors return in the 10th anniversary serial, The Three Doctors. This would be William Hartnell’s last performance on Doctor Who, and his last appearance playing the First Doctor (excluding flashbacks) until 2013’s The Name of the Doctor. Doctor Who gets a plastic makeover.

1974. One of the most loved Doctor Who companions, Sarah Jane Smith, is introduced. The third regeneration takes place from Jon Pertwee’s Doctor to Tom Baker’s. The new Doctor is a hit.

1975. One of the most loved Doctor Who episodes, Genesis of the Daleks, airs. To avoid putting off viewers with the new Doctor, old enemies are brought back: The Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Sontarans.

1976. Elizabeth Sladen leaves Doctor Who as Sarah Jane Smith. The new Doctor is firmly in his shoes.

1977. The first Doctor Who serial in which the Doctor is alone, with no companions, airs.

1978. The first Doctor Who story arc appears in the Key to Time series. This format would later recommence in the Trial of a Timelord series, then again in the 2005 series and in multiple series thereafter.

1979. City of Death features the first location filming on Doctor Who: Paris.

1980. John Nathan-Turner joins Doctor Who as producer. He would remain in that role until the show’s end in 1989.

1981. After eight glorious years, Tom Baker leaves Doctor Who, and is replaced by Peter Davison (or Davidson, as one popular magazine incorrectly published).

1982. With the TARDIS starting to get overcrowded (now sporting 4 characters), it’s time to kill off one – literally. Adric’s death marks the first major companion being killed off.

1983. Despite the killing off of Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric, the TARDIS crew receives a new character: this time, one intending to kill the Doctor. Turlough is the first companion to be a “baddie”. The Five Doctors marks the series’ 20th anniversary. It brought back all previous Doctors (well, sort of) and a menagerie of different supporting characters and monsters.

1984. The Doctor regenerates once more into the least liked Doctor on official Doctor Who: Colin Baker’s. Nathan-Turner decides to feature the regeneration one serial before the end of the season, rather than at the end of the season as seen in previous years. The least popular Doctor Who serial ever, The Twin Dilemma, airs, featuring an erratically-behaving Doctor attempting to strangle his companion.

1985. Colin Baker settles into his role. Patrick Troughton is brought back for a third time, making his fourth appearance as The Second Doctor, in The Two Doctors.

1986. The second story arc is present in the Trial of a Timelord series. The show is put on hiatus after it is ruled that it could no longer bring the BBC significant profit.

1987. The Doctor returns with a new face: Sylvester McCoy greets the screens of the British young with a comedy act in Time and the Rani. Colin Baker’s contract had run out, so Sylvester McCoy played the Sixth Doctor as well as the Seventh, wearing a wig as the former. McCoy becomes the only actor to play two Doctors. Patrick Troughton, the second actor to play The Doctor, dies.

1988. The 25th anniversary of the show is marked by Remembrance of the Daleks, which is set in Totter’s Lane, 1963 – the exact setting of the first episode of Doctor Who.

1989. Sylvester McCoy settles into his role as The Doctor just as the series is cancelled.




1993. The Children In Need special, Dimensions in Time, airs, featuring all surviving actors to play the Doctor.



1996. Doctor Who goes Hollywood. Well, not quite. But Doctor Who: The Movie is released, with a cinematic production and a feature-length runtime, as well as the regeneration from Seventh to Eighth Doctors. The third actor to play The Doctor, Jon Pertwee, dies.



1999. The first Big Finish Doctor Who audio play is released, featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors.




2003. Big Finish releases their convoluted, confusing and cramped with characters audio play to mark the 40th anniversary, Zagreus.


2005. The series is revived! Russell T Davies regenerates Doctor Who, literally and figuratively, into the Ninth Doctor with a series of 13 new episodes in a new format of one to two 45-minute parts. Rose is the first episode of Doctor Who to be leaked onto the internet. The Daleks are brought back. At the end of the series, The Doctor regenerates.

2006. One of the most loved companions, Rose, leaves. The Cybermen are brought back alongside the Daleks, making Army of Ghosts the firs episode to feature both enemies.

2007. The Master returns after 13 years off screen. The new series’ most loved episode, Blink, airs.

2008. Rose returns in an epic 3-parter featuring The Daleks.

2009. A year of specials finishes with the Tenth Doctor regenerating into the Eleventh. The Timelords return for the first time since Trial of a Timelord in 1986.

2010. The first episodes of Doctor Who to be shot in HD air, featuring a new cast and, for the most part, a new crew too. Steven Moffat takes over from Russell T Davies as showrunner. The Silurians are brought back for the first time since 1984.

2011. The series splits into two parts – something unwelcomed by fans, who can now show their dissatisfaction on the internet.

2012. Series 7 Part 1 is more cinematic than previous series, with each episode getting its own cinema-like poster and the elimination of two-parters.

2013. Oh boy. 50 years. In The Snowmen, Doctor Who receives a makeover, with a new TARDIS design, new effects, new music, a new costume for the Doctor, a new companion and a new title sequence. John Hurt is introduced as The Doctor. The series finale, The Name of the Doctor, features all previous Doctors, including the First, Second and Third, the actors of whom are no longer alive. The 50th anniversary special airs. The 75-minute special, The Day of the Doctor, is the first Doctor Who episode to be shot in 3D, the first to be shown in cinemas, and the first to be simulcast across the globe to avoid spoilers leaking onto the internet. Paul McGann returns as the Eighth Doctor in a prequel to the episode called The Night of the Doctor. The 11th Doctor regenerates into the 12th. An Adventure in Space and Time also airs – a tribute biopic about the creators of Doctor Who in the early years, including its conception. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, scientist and professor Brian Cox performs a one-hour lecture on the science of Doctor Who. Big Finish releases a 50th anniversary special titled The Light at the End, featuring all living classic Doctor Who actors to play the Doctor. They also release the “1963” 3-part series of serials to celebrate.

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who has brought a lot of change, and a lot to look forward to. Tune in tonight at 9:00pm (tomorrow at 3:50am in Australia) for the 50th anniversary special.

Happy birthday, Doctor Who.


One thought on “Happy Birthday Doctor Who!

  1. Pingback: Life Lessons from the Doctor | Popular Media Analysis

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