Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

20 years of Drs Who

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1983-11-24 Age.jpg


London Letter

DR WHO is not so much a television series as a world-wide industry. This week, in which the BBC and the fans celebrate 20 years of jolly good fun in an inter-galactic police box, the crash of the cash-register is as loud as the cheers.

In Chicago, in Britain, in a dozen countries, the faithful are gathering at conventions which will see 24-hour screening of Dr Who videos and the sale of many of the more than 400 Dr Who products the BBC has licensed.

The Dr Who production office at the BBC receives more than 1000 letters a week from fans all over the world. Most want photographs or some of the 48 different fact sheets the BBC sends out on everything from the panoply of monsters to instructions on how to !build your own Dalek.

Another 300 letters a week go to the Dr Who Appreciation Society, the super-fans who can tell you everything about every program. Such fanaticism is not just a British affair — Australia has its own Dr Who fan club and there are others in Italy, Canada and numerously in the US.

But domestically the celebrations cloak a less happy picture. Dr Who's audience is falling, not enough to threaten the series' future, but still falling.

The idea for the series was conceived by Sydney Newman. head of drama at the BBC in the early sixties. "We called him doctor who because no one knew who he was, where he came from. what he was running away from or where he has headed," says Newman.

The job of producing the show was given to Verity Lambert. who has risen from production secretary to be the current boss of EMI films. Newman didn't want monsters, Lambert introduced the Daleks, the kids and their parents loved them and the rest is television history.

The first doctor was William Hartnell, who played the character as an irascible know-all. He was followed by Patrick Troughton, with his recorder and little jigs, something of a clown.

Then came Jon Pertwee, quite the dandy in ruffled shirt and cloak, who has also been a great success as the scarecrow with interchangeable heads, Worzel Gummidge. Many Dr Who fans think Pertwee was the finest doctor of all.

Formidable, though. was Tom Baker, who served seven years in the role. He gave the doctor a 20-foot scarf and greath warmth. Then came Peter Davison. blond hair. good looks and trendiness, and the viewership figured have faded.

Davison himself is a fine actor, but the character and direction seemed to have lost edge. to border on the slapstick at times.

Now the BBC has signed up another young actor, Colin Baker. to take over the role. The sixth doctor says he believes the wandering time lord should have "wit with a sharp edge to it. even a touch of anger underneath. I'd also like him to be very physical — shinning up walls and so on, then sinking back into torpor".

Fleet Street was convinced for a time that Brian Blessed, one of Britain's finest comic actors. had agreed to take the role. Colin Baker now has a big job in convincing devotees that he is better than Blessed would have been.

Caption: The five Drs Who (from left): the late William Hartnell (portrayed by Richard Hurndall), Peter Davison, Tom Baker (or at least his alter ego from Madame Tussaud's wax-works). John Pertwee and Patrick Troughton

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  • APA 6th ed.: Smark, Peter (1983-11-24). 20 years of Drs Who. The Age p. 6.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Smark, Peter. "20 years of Drs Who." The Age [add city] 1983-11-24, 6. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Smark, Peter. "20 years of Drs Who." The Age, edition, sec., 1983-11-24
  • Turabian: Smark, Peter. "20 years of Drs Who." The Age, 1983-11-24, section, 6 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=20 years of Drs Who | url= | work=The Age | pages=6 | date=1983-11-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=20 years of Drs Who | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 February 2024}}</ref>