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Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years

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1986-12-23 Courier News.jpg


Which of the following famous doctors has two hearts and a 60-degree body temperature, travels through space and time in a phone booth, has a mechanical dog for a pet and is best-known for wearing a 17-foot-long striped scarf?

A. Doctor Spock.

B. Doctor Ruth.

C. Doctor J.

D. Doctor Pepper.

E. Doctor Who.

If you answered E, you're no doubt one of the 100 million international television viewers who each week watch "Doctor Who" fight his never-ending battle against the intergalactic villains threatening the universe.

First aired in 1963, this British Broadcasting Corp. production — now airing on PBS — is the longest running science fiction program in television history. (Locally, "Doctor Who" can be seen Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Channel 52.) The show has generated tens of thousands of loyal fans whose thirst for all things Whovian is unquenchable.

They form Doctor Who fan clubs, flock to Doctor Who conventions, swap Doctor Who paperbacks and newsletters and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on countless Doctor Who products. Who is Doctor Who?

He was the brainchild of Sydney Newman, a Canadian who worked for the BBC in the early 1960s. He was asked to develop a program that would appeal to children without alienating adults. Peter Davison is one of the six actors who have portrayed Doctor Who.

His solution was Doctor Who.

Newman's Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation Kasterborus. In addition to his two hearts and 60-degree body temperature, Doctor Who possesses the ability to regenerate his body into a new form whenever his old body is facing death. This unusual talent has proven to be very convenient indeed, not only for the Doctor, but for the show's producers as well. When the Doctor changes his form — presto — new actor, new Doctor. In its 23 years on the air, the show has had six Doctor Whos.

The Doctor travels through time and space in his time machine. the TARDIS, which can change form to blend into whatever environment it happens to be in. Unfortunately, the TARDIS' chameleon circuit broke down during a visit to London and is permanently stuck in the form of a British call box. Sometimes, the Doctor is accompanied on his travels by his robot dog, K-9, a cross between a schnauzer and a microwave oven. He frequently battles his archenemies — the Daleks, 4-foot-tall robots that look like giant salt shakers.

The Doctor Is a far cry from the stereotypical silver-suited space traveler. With his long, colorful coats and fancy scarves, he more closely resembles a carnival barker. The one article of clothing to attract attention from the show's fans was the 17-foot-long scarf worn by Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor Who. At any gathering of Who fans, the scarf will be prominently displayed around many throats. It's also one of the most popular items sold by Doctor Who merchandisers.

Equally incongruous are the show's special effects. Actually, "special" probably is the wrong word to describe them. "Star Wars" it's not.

The Daleks roll clumsily around with small people inside them, waving little mechanical arms and spinning their turrets. Aliens frequently are costumed in scuba diving suits, which are enhanced to look like extraterrestrial flesh. The sets are spare and amateurish. Although the technology for television has increased by leaps and bounds since the show started, its producers have kept it firmly anchored in 1969.

Yet, for Its fans, it's precisely this calculated, low-tech approach that makes the show so appealing. And despite its craftlessness. the show still can throw a scare into Its younger fans.

For Jonathan Kirk. 31, of Utica, N.Y., Doctor Who was a part of childhood.

Kirk grew up in England and has vivid memories of the show.

"The Daleks were extremely scary," he says. "The scariest bit was when they'd say, 'We will exterminate, we will exterminate' in their little robot voices and then the film would flash to a negative image with a wonderful low-budget sizzle."

There are Doctor Who fan clubs all over the country with names like Whoniversity of Minnesota and the Arcalians of Albuquerque. Members receive cards, a letter of recognition and a Doctor Who heat-sensitive badge that changes color with the temperature.

They also receive quarterly copies of the Whovian Times, a tabloid-sized publication that keeps fans informed of all the latest goings on. It's also crammed with ads for anything and everything you can put a Doctor Who logo on. There are T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, cups, jackets, beach towels, key rings, duffle bags, calendars and models of the TARDIS, the Daleks and K-9.

Doctor Who is definitely big business. At the Doctor Who Fan Club national headquarters in Denver, spokeswoman Laura Roark said the club grosses about $750,000 a year in sales of merchandise. It also organizes traveling Doctor Who exhibitions.

If you're interested in Doctor Who, write: Doctor Who Fan Club of America, P.O. Box 6024, Denver, Colo., 80204.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Powers, Mike (1986-12-18). Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years. Gannett News Service .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Powers, Mike. "Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years." Gannett News Service [add city] 1986-12-18. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Powers, Mike. "Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years." Gannett News Service, edition, sec., 1986-12-18
  • Turabian: Powers, Mike. "Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years." Gannett News Service, 1986-12-18, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years | url= | work=Gannett News Service | pages= | date=1986-12-18 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who has made millions of house calls in his 23 years | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024}}</ref>

  • Title: Dr. Who show no signs of abandoning fight
  • Publication: Hattiesburg American
  • Date: 1986-12-18

  • Title: 'Who' fans can't get enough of their intergalactic hero
  • Publication: The Salinas Californian
  • Date: 1986-12-27