Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Dr. Who makes a house call

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It's hard to explain the phenomenal popularity of Dr. Who to anyone who isn't a fan.

The special effects are almost non-existent, set design consists of stainless steel interiors and wind-blown-moor exteriors, props were even more obviously jury-rigged than the ones for Star Trek (mostly consisting of found objects), costumes look, for the most part, like something out of the Swinging London of the mid '60s. And the plots are often as convoluted and slow-moving as Bergman, without the intellectual kick.

Yet Dr. Who is a cult phenomenon that makes Star Trek look like a flash in the pan. The show went on the air in England on Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963 - the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and caught on almost immediately. Ten years later, it reached America, where it quickly developed a cult following.

YTV is airing the complete series of Dr. Who, from the early black-and-whites to current color episodes, 564 in all, weekdays at 5.30 p.m.

BBC is still producing Who and there is even talk of making a new series of episodes in Canada in the not-too-distant future. And, now, you can get Dr. Who on cassette and take him home to your book - er, tape - shelf.

In 1988, to celebrate 25 years of the doctor, Playhouse Video released seven Dr. Who videocasettes from the the 1970s and '80s, six at 90 minutes and one hour-long episode, selling for $26.95. (The longer movies are compilations of serial episodes put on one tape in movie form.)

The Dr. Who series was originally conceived as a fantasy for kids, but adults quickly caught on and the shows have been a family affair ever since.

The shows deal with the irresistible subject of time travel. The Doctor (played by seven actors in the course of the show's run, so far) is a benevolent alien who flits through time trying to make the galaxy safe from a variety of evildoers, such as The Master, an evil time traveller, and the Daleks, a robot-like race of aliens bent on bending humanity to its will.

The Doctor (who is always referred to as just that - never Dr. Who), in his various incarnations, has acquired a variety of Earthling sidekicks, ranging from a miniskirted Mary Quant lookalike to a crusty British military man, and travels around in a device known as a TARDIS (for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), which looks like a phone booth on the outside and like NORAD headquarters inside.

Basically, the appeal of Dr. Who is that of the old Saturday afternoon serials, with a touch of class. Dr. Who episodes are anything but slick, but they are a lot of fun. And the storylines are pure, old-fashioned, pulp science fiction. A bit of Amazing Stories and a bit of Flash Gordon, with an unmistakable British TV look about them. Sound is subdued, lighting is erratic and the action isn't always, well, very active - there are a lot more static set-ups and talky sequences than one is used to with American television and fight scenes are of the punch-swish-ouch variety.

But perhaps it's just this rough simplicity that gives the show much of its charm. Whatever it is, Dr. Who has proved durable; for 26 years, he's held a powerful hold on viewers all over the English-speaking world, and he doesn't show any signs of letting go.

The tapes are sold at selected Coles and W. H. Smith stores in and around Metro and are distributed by BFS Video; 350 Newkirk Rd. N., Richmond Hill L4C 3G7. Telephone 884-1433 or 1-800-387-5758.


Caption: Photo: Tom Baker and Louise Jameson in scene from Dr. Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gorman, Brian (1990-01-14). Dr. Who makes a house call. Toronto Star p. C9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gorman, Brian. "Dr. Who makes a house call." Toronto Star [add city] 1990-01-14, C9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gorman, Brian. "Dr. Who makes a house call." Toronto Star, edition, sec., 1990-01-14
  • Turabian: Gorman, Brian. "Dr. Who makes a house call." Toronto Star, 1990-01-14, section, C9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Dr. Who makes a house call | url= | work=Toronto Star | pages=C9 | date=1990-01-14 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Dr. Who makes a house call | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>