Friday, January 7, 2011

Genesis 1963: "I am the Doctor..."

William Hartnell as the First Doctor (1963-65)

On 23rd November 1963 the British Broadcasting Corporation made history: it gave us a science fiction drama unlike any other, the story of a mysterious stranger known only as the Doctor.

Whilst the world gossiped about the tragic death of US President John F. Kennedy (he had been assassinated only a day earlier) some of us sat with our family and friends to watch what would become the greatest show of them all: Doctor Who!

So who is old enough to remember the original broadcast? Not me, but then fans of the show do represent a broad timeline from the 1960s to the present day; there are those who have just discovered Matt Smith's excellent portrayal of a bohemian space and time traveller and have instantly fallen in love with this version of the Doctor, the eleventh actor to portray the role. The Doctor's mannerisms have always intrigued, no matter what the incarnation, his reaction to his sudden environments a breath of fresh air.

A Time Lord who has seen much, experienced more than any one of us could ever imagine, and lost a great deal, his hearts (yes, plural!) broken many times, though he does his best to ignore the pain, sweeping it all to one side and focusing on the here and now. There are, indeed, glimpses of his alien nature; an indifference when lives are at stake. Could this be, however, due to his past experiences, an emptiness that has threatened to swallow him whole?

And yet, there is also something... human about him. There is great humanity in that soul of his. When there is war he yearns to end it, sparing all life or trying desperately to save as many lives as possible. He is not a man who enjoys death but death appears to follow him around wherever he goes. And his relationship with those who meet him, travel with him, lasts such a short time, a Time Lord who will certainly outlive all Humans (his favourite of species) - that may be the crushing thing of all, knowing that saying goodbye to one friend is never enough, there shall always be more to hurt him, more who will ultimately leave his side, not always by choice.

During the years we have watched his travels with awe, experiencing through his wanderings the worlds beyond our own, discovering that we have never been alone in this immense cosmos. They have visited Earth, too, whether friend or foe. Even within the heart of a peaceful community, a village perhaps, there is always something stirring, lurking in the darkness, an evil waiting to be unleashed.

And the Doctor is there, waiting. His presence causes unrest, uncertainty and anger among the creatures that dare plot to invade our small blue world. Earth is protected, whether by coincidence or design!

We are continually discovering more and more about this mysterious wanderer, have learned that he 'borrowed' a now obsolete space and time machine called the TARDIS - which stands for 'Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space' - from his people, the Time Lords, and left his homeworld of Gallifrey. In the early days the TARDIS had been unreliable, taking him to random worlds and eras; its exterior image, too, had taken on the appearance of a 1950s-style British Police Box due to the spacecraft's faulty chameleon circuit, which is meant to help the TARDIS camouflage in with its immediate surroundings.

It is pleasing to see these days that the Doctor and his spaceship are seemingly as one, linked telepathically, a bond that recognises, and celebrates, all that has been shared between the two of them over the years. The TARDIS is far more than a simple machine - like its pilot and best friend:

the TARDIS lives!