Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hurrah for 'Doctor Who'!


If you're reading this in the UK, and you haven't heard that this month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the long-running science fiction serial Doctor Who (above), then you've been living under a rock. The BBC has spun itself like a top in endless promotion of perhaps its most iconic and famous show; fans have been driven into ever more fevered paroxysms of speculation.

But it's worth reflecting on what the ever-regenerating, ever-changing, ever-shifting Time Lord has given us over the years since Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman put the Galifryean on our screens. He's been there for most of all our lives, apart from a long, long hiatus between 1989 and 2005, broken only by a 1996 TV Movie. He's thought about and faced the problems of our age, and shown us our society in a mirror that we didn't always like - but which was always meaningful, always sharp and always important.

Have a think. Have a flick back through the back catalogue, and consider the way in which our problems have involved the Time Lord's adventures. There's been the threat of robots taking us over the brink of war, long before Wargames and Terminator in the 1980s (The War Machines, 1966), militarism and the First World War, the same year as the film adaptation of Oh, What a Lovely War! (The War Games, 1969), worries about cybernetics and humankind's artificial 'enhancement' (Tomb of the Cybermen, 1967), ruminations on genocide and ethnic cleansing (Genesis of the Daleks, 1975), the nastiness and solipsism of the 'leisure society' (The Leisure Hive, from 1980, and Vengeance on Varos, from 1985), and finally the madness of the Cold War (Warriors of the Deep, 1984). There were even some great big green worms, unleashed on the Third Doctor by a sinister corporation called Global that was busy pumping out pollution that would soon threaten the world with a great big wave of slime (The Green Death, 1973). Nasty stuff - and totally in tune with the apocalyptic environmental fears of early 'seventies Britain.

The revived series had carried on where the old one left off, going back to think anew about the Cold War (Cold War, 2013), genocide and ethnic cleansing (Dalek, 2005), the nature of justice and revenge (Family of Blood, 2007), genetic engineering (The Lazarus Experiment, 2007) and even urban planning and city life (Gridlock, 2007).

That's one of the reasons we love it all so much. Not just because it's a great big dinner of adventure, excitement, mystery and space travel, with a side order of nationalistic British flag waving to boot. Yes, that's all great. But what's really important is how the Doctor has made us think - and feel - about ourselves for a long, long time now.

Let's raise a glass: hurrah for Doctor Who!

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