Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater

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1990-05-04 Windsor Star pC1.jpg

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IT'S A WET, BLEAK Saturday afternoon in the Seven Dials district of central London. A freezing wind is racing down St. Giles High Street, and the rain is pelting down mercilessly.

But while most pedestrians scurry for cover, the ribbon of black umbrellas outside the cafe keeps getting longer and longer. The lesson is obvious: not even the beastliest British weather can deter Doctor Who fans from turning out.

Inside, the line moves past a long table littered with photographs, souvenir books and other paraphernalia of the longest-running television adventure series in the English speaking world.

And at the far end, sits a wiry bearded figure in heavy sweater and denims. He's Sylvester McCoy, who three years ago became the seventh person to play the Doctor and who is still trying to adjust.

McCoy is signing his name to everything from photographs to souvenir books to record albums. He's posing for flash photos. And he's maintaining a cheery chit-chat with fans.

The latter come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and they're still pouring in at 5 p.m. McCoy and producer John Nathan-Turner, a cheerful chap who's sporting a Doctor Who T-shirt, have been there since before one.

This sort of thing happens whenever members of the Doctor Who team make themselves available to fans of the BBC program which began life in 1963 and is now sold to 67 countries around the world. It will be well after six before the last autograph is signed.

SO WHAT'S IT like being part of a cult phenomenon?

"Tiring!" chuckles McCoy. "My writing hand's still working, but I think my brain is gone."

Gesturing at the commotion, he adds, "This is amazing. I don't think I'll ever get used to it really. I mean — we were supposed to be done two hours ago."

Not that he minds, however.

"Oh I like the detail of that outfit," he exclaims to one teenager who's arrived in a typical Doctor Who garb complete with battered straw hat and flowing scarf. "The tie's great as well."

"Can I take your photo?" the teenager asks. "Sure, flash away," McCoy grins. The camera flashes, the line starts moving again, and the Doctor faces his next fan.

"I try to find something to say to everyone," he says cheerfully. "After all, you owe it to them when they've queued up for such a long time."

AND HE STRESSES that today's turnout is the mere tip of the iceberg.

"You should see the mail I get. I've had to get a secretary to help me out, which makes me feel a bit guilty. I try to read every letter I receive, but I wish I had more time to sit down and reply to them all, but it's impossible. If I tried to do that, no one would get an answer."

Then, he adds: "And we get a lot of letters from Canada."

Canadian Who fans have long been able to view the series on the various

Public Broadcasting Stations, included Detroit's Channel 56 WTVS-TV, which airs the show Sundays at 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. But lately, the good doctor has received a further boost thanks to Canada's YTV network (cable 28 in Windsor and Leamington/Kingsville) which last autumn started showing all 564 episodes in consecutive order on weekday afternoons at 4 p.m., starting with the original black and white instalments from the early 1960s. In addition, McCoys latest series is being aired Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.

Doctor Who first zoomed on to British TV screens in November 1963, and suffered terrible ratings for its first episode because it coincided with the Kennedy assassination. But a repeat airing a few days later won instant converts and a few episodes later, the introduction of the Doctor's arch enemies, a species of gravel-voiced robots known as the Daleks, made the series a hit.

The character who now enjoys an international audience of 110 million is a mysterious Time Lord who shuttles through time and space, battling monsters and solving galactic crises.

Doctor Who's mode of travel is called TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) and its far removed from the Starship Enterprise. One cannot imagine Star Trek's self-important James Kirk travelling about in the battered old police telephone box that — thanks to jammed circuits back in the 1960s — now houses TARDIS.

BUT ITS A perfect vehicle for the eccentric Doctor in his various incarnations. The late William Hartnell was the first to play him back in 1963, and he was followed by Patrick Troughton (1966-69), Jon Pertwee (1970-74), Tom Baker 0974-81), Peter Davison (198184), Colin Baker (1984-1986) and, since 1987, Sylvester McCoy.

The BBC creators came up with a brilliant device to explain the various doctors. As a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, he's an advanced superbeing with a 60-degree body temperature, two hearts, a bypass respiratory system — and 13 lives. That means the Doctor can regenerate his body. Each time this happens there is a regeneration of body and mind — and a change in the actor playing the part.


Caption: TOM BAKER, who played the lead role from 1974-81, exits from the police telephone box housing TARDIS


See also C2

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  • APA 6th ed.: Portman, Jamie (1990-05-04). There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater. The Windsor Star p. C1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Portman, Jamie. "There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater." The Windsor Star [add city] 1990-05-04, C1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Portman, Jamie. "There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater." The Windsor Star, edition, sec., 1990-05-04
  • Turabian: Portman, Jamie. "There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater." The Windsor Star, 1990-05-04, section, C1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/There_have_been_seven_actors_playing_the_lead_role_in_the_science_fiction_program_but_Doctor_Who%27s_popularity_has_never_been_greater | work=The Windsor Star | pages=C1 | date=1990-05-04 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=20 September 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=There have been seven actors playing the lead role in the science fiction program but Doctor Who's popularity has never been greater | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/There_have_been_seven_actors_playing_the_lead_role_in_the_science_fiction_program_but_Doctor_Who%27s_popularity_has_never_been_greater | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=20 September 2019}}</ref>
  • Title: Fans devoted to the immortal, changeable Doctor Who
  • Publication: The Vancouver Sun
  • Date: 1990-04-21