After 50 years, the day of the Doctor has come

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Jillian Schroeder, Contributing Writer

 

Matt Smith plays the eleventh incarnation of Dr. Who in this series that spans half a century. –Courtesy of Zap2it
Matt Smith plays the
eleventh incarnation
of Dr. Who in this series
that spans half a century.
–Courtesy of Zap2it

You hear the whooshing first – a metallic clanging that grows louder, until it materializes before you. It’s an old-fashioned, blue police call box with a dinky lightbulb on top. A man opens the door and grins when he sees you. “Hello,” he says, “I’m the Doctor.”

Thus begins every true introduction to “Doctor Who” – the classic British science fiction show. It always starts with that call to excitement, to an ageless feeling of wonder.

Just to catch you up on some crucial facts of the show: The Doctor is an alien, called a Time Lord, trying to avoid The Great War between his people and their great enemies. He travels through space and time in his TARDIS – a time machine stuck in the shape of a blue police box.

“Doctor Who” was designed as an educational show for children – a sort of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” for history. What better way to teach children about cavemen and kings than with a properly British adventure?

But the Doctor does not travel alone. He picks people of great love and courage, and sails them through the vast beauties of space and time. He shows them the wonders of the universe, and they keep him a good man.

This relationship was established in “An Unearthly Child,” the show’s first, crackly-footaged episode. The Doctor, with his wonder for the mysteries of the universe, argues with his companion Ian, who insists on helping the people they encounter. In the end, the two must work together in order to succeed.

One of the oldest TV shows still running, “Doctor Who” will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this Nov. 23. The show first aired the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and it is still imprinted with the hope and optimism of Kennedy’s space race.

The show’s longevity is made possible through the Doctor’s ability to “regenerate.” Whenever he is wounded or very old, the Doctor is reborn into a new man. This allows the show to proceed in a believable way with an ever-changing main character.

As a love story to British heritage, “Doctor Who” is the perfect show for anglophiles. The Doctor loves jammie dodgers, and his companion Clara drinks oceans of tea. Even the relative calm with which everyone faces numerous end-of-the-world situations is unabashedly British.

The pure, rollicking fun of the Doctor’s adventures, however, does not preclude deep thought and quality writing in the show. “Doctor Who” makes us think outside the box of our perception, by fictionally removing the filter of space and time.

Part of the show’s quality lies in the sheer prowess of its cast. From John Cleese to Sir Derek Jacobi, “Doctor Who” has become a virtual catalogue of British dramatic talent. Cleverly written and deftly acted, “Doctor Who” is wholly a delight.

The show’s 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” will air simultaneously across the world on Nov. 23, at 1:50 p.m. here in Texas. This Saturday, the day of the Doctor has come.

 

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