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Origin movie part of 'Dr. Who' anniversary

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Added to the recent 50th anniversaries is the Nov. 23, 1963, premiere of "Doctor Who."

Even if you've never seen the show or long since concluded it's not your cup of tea, BBC America has several specials and retrospectives scheduled this week, offering ample opportunities for the casually curious to share in the anniversary mirth. It all leads up to a much-anticipated special episode of the current "Doctor Who" saga globally simulcast on Saturday.

Among these offerings: "An Adventure in Space and Time," an enjoyable dramatic movie about how the show was first made. This is perhaps your best chance to not only get the basic gist of the who but at least some hint of the why.

It starts with a hyperbolic and creative network executive, Sydney Newman (Brian Cox), groping around for a quick fix to an empty half-hour on his programming grid. He cooks up a concept for a kiddie science-fiction series about a "doctor" from another planet who has the power to travel across time. But in the same excitable breath, Newman adamantly forbids the show from having robots or bug-eyed monsters. He wants it to be smart but silly, educational but goofy.

Newman promotes his ambitious assistant Verity Lambert ("Call the Midwife"'s Jessica Raine) to helm the series; it's her first crack at running a show.

But Lambert and her ethnically Indian director, Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), run up against the Beeb's prevailingly chauvinistic and mildly racist culture. Their production budget is deplorably low and their deadlines impossibly tight; their soundstage is cramped and outdated; the scripts are dreadfully wordy; the art department sloppily throws together a mod look for the extra-dimensional interior of the Doctor's police box, which writers christen the TARDIS ("Time and Relative Dimension in Space").

For a while, "An Adventure in Space and Time" somewhat mirrors "The Hour" (also seen on BBC America), in that it captures the chaos and experimental vibe that dominated early TV production. By 1963, metrics were in place to measure a show's success with viewers; "Doctor Who," we learn, was initially just a grab at key adolescent demographics.

The Doctor himself provides a sobering (though not exactly tee-totaling) presence, as an aging stage and TV actor named William Hartnell (David Bradley) is coaxed to star in their weird little show. "He's C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas — that's the Doctor," Hartnell is told.

Bradley (you may know him as Argus Filch from the "Harry Potter" movies or Red Wedding host Lord Walder Frey on HBO's "Game of Thrones") plays Hartnell as a lovably sour and embittered grump who signs on mainly for the paycheck. A rough cut of the pilot episode flops in the front office; Newman orders Lambert and her crew to rewrite it and reshoot it.

Rushed to the airwaves, "Doctor Who" premiered disastrously — steamrolled by news of John F. Kennedy's assassination the day before. Then the Daleks — killer creatures who exist in robotic shells that look like salt shakers on wheels, shrilly shouting "Exterminate! Exterminate!" — debut and it's a big hit.

Big hit. In no time at all British schoolchildren are chasing one another in Dalek outfits and shouting "Ex-ter-min-ate!" The BBC orders a full season and then another; Hartnell brightens and accepts that this part - not Shakespeare - will probably be his permanent legacy. His health fails and he forgets his lines and before we know it the makers of "Doctor Who" come up with one of the show's smartest innovations: The Doctor, being an immortal Time Lord, can regenerate his body when faced with death (or contract renewal). Thus, by 1966, another actor took over the part – as would 10 more Doctors, and counting.

Caption: (AP) Britain Dr Who This image released by the Royal Mail shows a stamp with Matt Smith, the 11th doctor on "Doctor Who" and his TARDIS. He leads the 50th anniversary special on Saturday, and BBC America is showing a variety of special programming this week leading up to that episode.


"Doctor Who" marathons of past seasons, airing Monday through Saturday on BBC America, will feature each of the 11 incarnations of the Doctor. There are also several specials planned, including:

--- Monday: 9 p.m., "Doctor Who: Tales From the TARDIS" features actors and producers reflecting on the series' success, 10 p.m., "The Science of Doctor Who"

---Friday: 8 p.m.: "Doctor Who Explained," 9 p.m., "An Adventure in Space and Time"

--- Saturday: "Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor," global simulcast of the 50th-anniversary special episode begins at 2:50 p.m. EST (encore at 7 p.m.).

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  • APA 6th ed.: Stuever, Hank (2013-11-17). Origin movie part of 'Dr. Who' anniversary. Cape Cod Times .
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Origin movie part of 'Dr. Who' anniversary | url= | work=Cape Cod Times | pages= | date=2013-11-17 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Origin movie part of 'Dr. Who' anniversary | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024}}</ref>