Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who

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  • Publication: Newsday
  • Date: 1986-08-22
  • Author: Martin Kitman
  • Page: 11
  • Language: English

THERE'S A NEW "Doctor Who" special Sunday night on Ch. 21 you Time Lords out there should know about. It's such a high bombardment of positive ions, definitely worth parking your Tardis for.

I'm talking about the "Doctor Who Regeneration Special," 3 1/2 hours of pure television science and history. Five episodes on WLIW, starting at 7 p.m., which link together the changes in appearance and personalities of the five Doctors who have replaced the original "the doctor" in the 21 years of the BBC hit science-fiction series.

Not since "The Five Doctor Whos Special" of 1985, the famous "Doctor Who Quintet," or "The Whooooos" has there been a comparable event in Whovian programing.

Who or what is a Whovian? Whovians is what the fans call themselves. Don't ask me why. Ask George Bernard Shaw fans who are Shavians.

The amazing tour de Who opens at 7 p.m. with "The War Games," Part 10 (Patrick Troughton's last episode). At 7:30, it's "Spearhead from Space," Part 1 (Jon Pertwee's first episode). At 8, "Planet of the Spiders," Part 6 (Pertwee's last episode). At 8:30, "Robot," Part 1 (Tom Baker's first episode). At 9, "Castrovalva," Part 1 (Peter Davidson's first episode). At 9:30, "Caves of Androzani," Part 4 (Davidson's last episode). And at 10, the last but not least, "The Twin Dilemma," Part 1 (Colin Baker, the current doctor's first episode).

Ch. 21 has become sort of a Whoquarters for "Doctor Who" fans, having bought the rights to all six "Doctor Whoa," which means programs starring all the doctors.

There hasn't been such a bench strength in "Doctor Whos" since the New Jersey Network (Ch. 50) began showing the Jon Pertwees in February, 1985. Ch. 49 in Connecticut also has had a galaxy of the doctors. Ch. 31 is the latest to join the "Doctor Who" race.

And all the public TV stations are a lot better than WOR/9's idea of programing — to play the same few episodes over and over (from the Tom Baker period) without a twinge of cosmic angst. I'm still not convinced that the licensing problems RKO/General Tire, which owns Ch. 9, had with the FCC weren't caused by a Time Lord getting even for their rerunning the episodes until they got as bald as a retreaded General tire.

The Whovians' power, of course, comes from knowing the magic words that open public TV's box of treasures — PLEDGE! They have discovered that money runs public TV's universe. Just pledge a lot around your favorite programs, and you regenerate the program. Money does more than talk in public TV. It shouts.

"Doctor Who" fans are not necessarily rich or extravagant. Oh, they may have a Tardis or two in their backyard (a Tardis, for those who are not from the Planet Gallifrey, is a London Metropolitan Police call box, which the time lords use to steer themselves back into the time frame zones.). But Whovians are insanely loyal and dedicated and they know how the system works.

I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, if some day such a high percentage of the members at 21 are Whovians, they will take control of the station, change the call letter to WWHO and program out of a Tardis in the parking lot in Plainview.

"Doctor Who" is a very good show, as I've been writing since discovering the BBC series on Ch. 9. It's an amazing TV program. By that I mean you can't get anything like it in American TV or in movies. It's science-fiction with a kind of lunacy that you have to see. You can't describe it.

I never tire of watching the reruns, hoping to find new hidden meanings in the stories. Is there one that foretells the real life adventures the show had last season, when the BBC forced "Doctor Who" to go "on hiatus" for 18 months, and it was almost lost in the sixth dimension? A polite way of killing the show! "What a bunch of ingrates at the BBC," as Kate Gallagher of Massapequa has observed. "After all, the Doctor has saved Great Britain from Tractators, Cyberman, Daleks, Zygons, Yettis, Androids, the Master and other monsters and disasters."

The villain in the diabolical plot was Michael (Low) Grade, who claimed the doctor needed a rest. It was becoming too violent or something. The "Doctor Who" crowd became violent, worldwide. Grade, the BBC comptroller (or programing chief), has previously studied TV programing on the Planet of Los Angeles with Embassy TV, and is against violence, and for cancellations.

The theme of this season's big "Dr. Who" special Sunday night is regeneration, a technical word meaning when an actor gets tired of a role after three to five years they want a change. The BBC doesn't pay that much. Working for "Doctor Who" is like the dole for successful actors.

Regeneration means something else to "the doctors," these men with two hearts and thirteen lives who can go in and out of focus as much as my old TV set. Basically, regeneration means they go into the shop for recharging the battery. This is an oversimplification. Each doctor is regenerated into the man he was, or is, depending upon one's relative dimension in time or space, of course. Watch the five episodes, for more specific details about how it's done.

Regeneration is relevant for non-Whovians, especially those who watch the prime-time soaps. Regeneration is going on all the time, for instance, on "Dynasty," where Fallon was regenerated. The two Fallons (Pamela Sue Martin and Emma Samms) were preceded by the two Steven Carringtons. And this fall, the two Amandas.

And I won't even mention Miss Ellie who is into her third regeneration on "Dallas." And Boobie Ewing. And now Jock. You don't have to watch public TV to be a scholar of regeneration studies.

The big difference is their attitude to having to change casts midstream. In "Doctor Who" they have a rationale in the story which beautifully explains in a logical way the six different Doctor Whos. In our soaps, they make out like you're dumb. They hope you won't notice the different face.

I don't mind seeing the different Doctor Whos. And are they different. There is one, Ralph Troughton, who looks like Shemp from "The Three Stooges," in his baggy clown costume. One is a wimp (Peter Davidson). One is a James Bond type, and so forth. And they all fit together like facets of a gem. Or as in the case of the sides of Fallon, so far, if you believe in regeneration, a pet rock.

Caption: Tom Baker, one of the more familiar Dr. Whos.

Corrections: Patrick Troughton, Peter Davison

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Kitman, Martin (1986-08-22). Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who. Newsday p. 11.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Kitman, Martin. "Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who." Newsday [add city] 1986-08-22, 11. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Kitman, Martin. "Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who." Newsday, edition, sec., 1986-08-22
  • Turabian: Kitman, Martin. "Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who." Newsday, 1986-08-22, section, 11 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who | url= | work=Newsday | pages=11 | date=1986-08-22 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 February 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Ch. 21 Special: How Dr. Who Begat Dr. Who | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 February 2023}}</ref>