This past week was Who-tastic! The BBC pulled out all the stops when celebrating the 50th Anniversary of everyone’s favorite Time Lord.
First, there was a new prequel short called “The Last Day”:
Then, there was the most badass Doctor Who prequel short EVER, called “The Night of the Doctor” (starring Paul McGann!):
Then, there was an (by all accounts) amazing biopic about the beginnings of Doctor Who called An Adventure in Space and Time (I’ll be watching it soon, and will buy it on iTunes):
Then, there was the wonderful 50th Anniversary special itself, “The Day of the Doctor,” which was simulcast all over the world, and has just gotten into the Guinness Book of World Records for largest simulcast of a TV drama ever, being shown in over 96 countries on 6 continents:
But if THAT weren’t enough, Saturday also saw the release of a hilarious short film called “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot,” written and directed by the Fifth Doctor himself, Peter Davison, and starring him and too many other fabulous people to list (it’s half an hour long – and WELL worth the time, especially to discover John Barrowman’s secret shame).
I could talk about the joy of going to see a screening of the simulcast on Saturday morning, sitting in a room full of Whovians all dressed up and raring to go (I wore my K-9 shirt). I could talk about how fun the entire week was, as all of my friends did nothing but talk about Doctor Who for a good five days.
But what strikes me the most is the fact that Doctor Who has become a worldwide phenomenon in ways that would make Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert proud. Just looking at the sheer number of mediums used for the 50th Anniversary alone, it’s incredible to see how Doctor Who’s storytelling has evolved. It started on television, then there are the radio plays, audio plays, novels, the TV movie, then a new TV show, and stories from that series augmented by additional stories on the web. Oh, and the comics that never stopped. And because of the genius premise of the show – that it takes place anywhere in space and time; that its main character regenerates and is centuries old – it’s a story that can go on and on and on and never get boring. It can expand forever, in any direction and in any medium, because there’s always something new to say, somewhere new to go, and some new angle at which to explore every facet of the universe. I can easily see Doctor Who going on another 50 years, and beyond!
And that fact made me think about the idea of “Classic” Who and “New” Who.
Whenever I’ve been asked to write or talk about Doctor Who, it’s always been from the perspective of my having started the show at the 2005 reboot. I didn’t grow up with the show the way many people did. Rather, I started watching the show on DVD in 2006-2007 and became immediately enraptured. Knowing that the show had a history going back to the 1960s, I sought out the older Doctors, and am still happily involved in watching all the old episodes with several Doctors and many companions yet unseen. However, I have friends who, when they’ve tried to watch the old episodes of the show don’t like them as much, and stick to the current incarnation.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The beauty of a show with this kind of longevity is that there are always going to be new fans jumping onto the most current stories. They should definitely check out older stories if they can, as watching the evolution of the Doctor as played by twelve (soon thirteen!) different actors is a fascinating exercise. There’s also the fact that, if you don’t like the older television stories, there might be something for you in the audio dramas, or the comics! However, sometimes you just want to stick with the stories that are most relevant to you, and that’s OK, too. Because fetishize them though many do, several of the older stories were downright BORING, with many of the six-part stories containing two parts devoted entirely to running (and nothing else). Then again, many of them aren’t, and you should treat the old show the way you treat any current show you enjoy – love the good episodes, bemoan the crappy ones, and keep watching.
Fifty years in, we’re all just Whovians. We each have our preferences in Doctors and companions and storylines, but the idea of being a “classic” Who fan vs a “new” Who fan is irrelevant. After all, many “classic” Who fans grew up with Tom Baker as “their” Doctor…but there are people who grew up with Hartnell and Troughton. There are people who grew up with Colin Baker. And there are people like me who never heard about Doctor Who until a friend lent me her DVDs of the Eccleston series and told me that this show would change my life.
Happy Anniversary, Doctor Who. Here’s to many more!