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Who's 20

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1983-12-12 Sun.jpg


Top TV Guide

KEVIN SADLIER travels into the past to the birth of a legendary time lord

BRITAIN was still reeling from the shock of the assassination of the good-looking young President from across the Atlantic on the night that BBC viewers were invited to watch a program called An Unearthly Child.

It was the day after the death of President Kennedy, 20 years ago, when viewers tuned in to the tale of two school-teachers, curious about one of their pupils, who followed her home and then got trapped in an absurdly impossible space machine by her cantankerous old grandfather.

The old man was, of course. Dr Who — in the first of his many disguises — and that BBC program was an instant success.

Now, 20 years later. the whole world is just wild about Dr Who.

The series has been sold to 54 countries, from Abu Dhabi to Zambia, and the BBC in London averages 1,000 letters a week from Dr Who's legion of international fans.

Incidentally, the title is rarely translated, apart tom in some areas of Latin America where Dr Who is known as Dr Insolito — meaning "strange."

"Dr Who had his beginnings in a BBC quest, not for an international legend but for a simple program to bridge the gap between its Saturday afternoon sports coverage and the teen series, Juke Box Jury.

Canadian-born Sydney Newman, head of drama at the BBC in the early 60s, dreamed up Dr Who with that specific time-slot in mind.

"My original idea was to have an irascible, absent-minded, unpredictable, old man running away from his own planet in a time machine which looked like a police box on the outside but was. in fact, a large space station inside," Newman recalled.

"The old man didn't really know how to operate the machine so he was always ending up in the wrong place and time.

"We called him Dr Who because no one knew who he was, where he came from, what he was running away from or where he was headed."

Newman asked Verity Lambert to produce it.

"Sydney told me it was to be a show that stretched television. using all the newest technology." said Verity who now runs EMI films.

In theory, the series was aimed at a target audience of eight to 14-year-olds but Verity took the view that children are just like adults. only without the cynicism, and set out to reach viewers of all ages!

That first episode made an immediate impact but it was the second Dr Who story, The Dead Planet, that really captured the public's imagination.

Writer Terry Nation had conceived something new in television monsters and BBC designer Ray Cusick had the job of making them look real.

Terry's monsters had brains but their bodies had atrophied and they housed themselves in metal shells.

He called them Daleks and they were destined to become the best known monsters on TV.

But Sydney Newman was appalled at the Daleks and angrily summoned Verity Lambert to his office.

"I had specifically said at the start that I didn't want any bug-eyed monsters in the series," he said.

"So when Verity came up with the Daleks, I bawled her out."

In fact, the Daleks turned Dr Who from a hit show into a national mania. They were the first of many amazing adversaries the Doctor was to meet ... weird and wonderful creatures like the Cybermen and the Ice Warriors.

They are still being invented as the BBC plans the 21st and 22nd seasons of Dr Who.

And here's a sneak preview of what is to come in 1984.

The Daleks, led by the dastardly Davros: the Silurians: and the Master are all due to make re-appearances.

★Colin Baker knew six months ago that he was to be the next Dr Who — but the BBC asked him not to say anything ahead of an official announcement last August. Keeping the news to himself proved to be difficult!

★"We were having dinner with friends one night and this chap said his wife wanted to write to the BBC suggesting I'd be perfect as the next Dr Who. I had to keep a straight face as I said 'Knowing the BBC, they've already made up their minds'."

Caption: Colin is pictured right with Nicola Bryant who will play his assistant Perpugilliam


TO CELEBRATE Dr Who's 20th anniversary, The Sun and the Little Professor video chain are giving away an AWA THORN VHS video recorder.

PLUS 10 video movies — Dr Who and the Daleks. starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor.

PLUS 20 free THORN/EMI video movie rentals from The Little Professor Video Chain.

The AWA THORN video recorder features the new simplified touch system, two-week advance recording facilities, front loading, computer-controlled instant key operation, Dolby noise reduction, slow motion, picture search and a unique four-year guarantee.

You can find Little Professor Videoland stores at Artarmon, Northbridge, Parra-matta, Wynyard and most Grace Bros stores. It's so easy to win. Just fill in the coupon below and send it to The Sun before Friday, December 16.

The winner will be announced on Monday, December 19.





Send entries to:



Box 7030, G.P.O. Sydney, 2001

TC No 83/12471


THE Five Doctors is the name of a special anniversary program made by the BBC, duo to be screened on ABC-TV tomorrow night at 7.30.

In fact, viewers will see six different Time Lords, with actor Richard Hurndall impersonating William Hartnell, who died eight years ago.

Hartnell, the first Dr Who, appears in an historic black and white clip at the beginning of the movie-length episode.

The other four Doctor Whos appear in the program — although the longest-reigning Dr Who, Tom Baker, is also seen only in a film clip.

Baker was unavailable during production of The Five Doctors, so the script sees him locked in a space time warp while the other four are on their home planet of Gallifrey, battling villain.

This time, their major adversary is a Time Lord who rules Gallifrey.

And the Doctors have to escape from such familiar

enemies as the Daleks and the Cybermen before they can prevent yet another attempted takeover of time and space.

Chronologically, the Five Doctors seen in the 20 year history of Dr Who have been:

★William Hartnell 1963-66.

★Patrick Troughton 1966-69.

★Jon Pertwee 1970-74.

★Tom Baker 1974-81.

★Peter Davison 1982-1984.

Next year, Colin Baker (no relation to Tom) is due to become the sixth Dr Who.

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

  • APA 6th ed.: Sadlier, Kevin (1983-12-12). Who's 20. The Sun (Sydney, NSW) p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Sadlier, Kevin. "Who's 20." The Sun (Sydney, NSW) [add city] 1983-12-12, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Sadlier, Kevin. "Who's 20." The Sun (Sydney, NSW), edition, sec., 1983-12-12
  • Turabian: Sadlier, Kevin. "Who's 20." The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 1983-12-12, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who's 20 | url= | work=The Sun (Sydney, NSW) | pages=14 | date=1983-12-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 April 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who's 20 | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 April 2023}}</ref>