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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond - The 11 Doctor Whos

One thing that I find fascinating about the world of pop culture is the fact that whenever a beloved character in a television show gets recast by a different actor, the massive outcry that stems from it all.

You see it all the time in daytime dramas. Whenever a popular soap opera hero or villain gets recast, the outcry that appears on message boards and forums demanding that the original actor/actress return immediately is apparent right away.

Sometimes you see it happen in movies as well. Case in point, the James Bond franchise. There have been several actors to play the iconic role of James Bond over the last fifty years, and everyone has their preferences. I personally prefer Sean Connery in the role myself, though Pierce Brosnan comes a close second. Daniel Craig is okay in the role, and Roger Moore can be hit or miss depending on the movie.

We will NOT discuss Timothy Dalton.

But that's the whole thing about shows and movies that recast characters. We all have our own preferences as to which one we like best. Certainly not all of us are going to agree with each other, and there are some instances in which may have differing opinions. But, that's life. There's some circumstances where nobody could ever replace the original actor, while in others, the replacement ends up the bigger star. But that happens all the time in the world of Hollywood, and in shows that air outside the United States.

Today's blog topic deals with the subject of recasting, and this show probably has done it in a rather ingenious way. Did you know that the main character of the program has been recast TEN times since the show debuted? It's true! And the show is definitely one that is well known within the science-fiction crowd. Especially if you happen to live in the United Kingdom.

That show happens to be the BBC production, Doctor Who. And the show debuted in the UK on November 23, 1963, making the show 48 years young today.

Doctor Who is a show that I probably only caught sporadically in my youth. At the time, the only station that the program aired on was TVOntario, and if I remember correctly, the show only lasted on that network a few years before being pulled (which made sense, if you read further down).

The original run for the television series lasted several years. From 1963-1989, the show ran on BBC for 26 seasons, and was immediately praised by the viewing public for its electronic theme, its well-written storylines, and creative, low-budget sound effects.

The show depicted the adventures of a time-traveling alien, who took on the appearance of a humanoid doctor, exploring the universe in a time-traveling device known as the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). It has the capability to zoom between time and space, and can send the Doctor anywhere in the world at any given time period. The problem was that the TARDIS took on the appearance of a dark blue police box, circa 1963, due to a faulty mechanism in the TARDIS that prevented it from changing appearance.

During the many adventures that Doctor Who encountered, he faced many foes and villains along the way. There's far too many to list here, as this blog entry could have the potential to be more than two hundred pages long. But, the majority of them can be found on Wikipedia right here. I suppose that like anything on Wikipedia, it's subject to little white lies and half-truths, but I figure I'd post it anyway so that the hardcore Doctor Who fans could get a laugh.

The Doctor wasn't entirely alone in his adventures. He would often have companions tagging along with him (usually in the form of a young, attractive woman), and during the series run, it was estimated that over 35 people served as companions to Doctor Who. Over the course of the series, the Doctor would take on new companions while saying goodbye to others, be it through them leaving of their own accord, or them being killed off.

Anyway, the original series ran until 1989. It was put on hiatus that year, putting the brakes on the 1990 season, due to a change in time slot, and declining public interest in the series. The BBC did make the promise that the show could return one day.

In 1996, the show was temporarily brought back as a film, meant to serve as a backdoor pilot to another Doctor Who revival. It wasn't until 2005 though that Doctor Who returned to the airwaves with all new episodes. The revival proved to be a huge hit with audiences, winning a BAFTA award (think the British version of the Emmy Awards) in 2006 for 'Best Drama Series'. As of 2011, the show still continues to air today.

The show is beloved by many who have watched it over the years, and it appears in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the longest running science-fiction television show in the world, and is widely regarded to be one of the highest rated science-fiction programs of all time.

But Doctor Who is one of those shows in which if you asked someone on the street who their favourite version of the Doctor was, it may have the potential to cause arguments and quite possibly if you were the type to see the worst in everything, social anarchy as we know it.

Since the program debuted in 1963, a total of eleven actors have portrayed Doctor Who. On the show, they explained the ever-changing face by stating that when the Doctor is near death, he has the ability to regenerate his body, at the cost of a different physical appearance. 

Hence the reason why the Doctor has looked like eleven different men. Sometimes, the present Doctor Who can even cross paths with his previous and future incarnations.

Here are the eleven actors who have played the role of Doctor Who below.

Beginning at the top, and then going across the rows, the eleven actors to play Doctor Who are...

Here's a little bit of trivia about Doctor Who, as well as some of the actors themselves.

Did you know that Matt Smith was the only Doctor Who to be nominated for a BAFTA award? Unfortunately, he lost to actor Daniel Rigby.

The premiere of Doctor Who aired one day after American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the premiere was understandably overshadowed by the event. The pilot was rebroadcast just before the second episode aired to much higher ratings.

As of 2011, 783 episodes of Doctor Who have been produced.

The show was extremely popular in the United Kingdom, but the suitability of the program for children was questioned throughout the show's original run. Mary Whitehouse, a morality campaigner in the UK during the 1970s, repeatedly campaigned against the BBC for airing Doctor Who, because she claimed it to be excessively gory and frightening for young children. Despite her pleas, more and more children watched the show. It almost became a recurring joke. John Nathan-Turner, who worked as a producer of Doctor Who during the 1980s, stated that he actually looked forward to the comments made by Whitehouse, as it usually meant a spike in ratings during the following episode.

Some of the earlier episodes focused on historical events, which was meant as a way to help teach children about history, while the shows that were set in the future were meant to educate children about science. By 1968, though, the historical episodes were dropped in favour of the science ones, as the production team were vocal about their dislike of them. The show continued to have the Doctor go back in time, but the scenes were mostly used as a backdrop.

The show had many, many writers during its run. While Robert Holmes is widely considered to be the writer most commonly associated with the series, Douglas Adams would end up making a success of himself in the literary world with the book “A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy”.

Many of the episodes of Doctor Who recorded between 1964 and 1973 were destroyed, and about 108 episodes during the first six seasons of the show are considered missing. The BBC is now trying to find a way to restore these lost episodes, and children's show Blue Peter actually offered up a reward of a full-scale Dalek model as a reward to anyone who found one of these missing episodes.

Reportedly, as a Time Lord, the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times in his lifetime, leading to thirteen different looks. Doctor Who is currently in his eleventh. But lest you think that the series is about to come to an end, there is evidence that a Time Lord can circumvent this.

The first Doctor Who crossover occurred in 1973. Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee all appeared on screen together. This would end up being one of Hartnell's last television appearances before his death in 1975.

Doctor Who's real name has, as of 2011, never been revealed.

The first country to screen Doctor Who outside of the UK was New Zealand. They started airing episodes in September 1964. Since then, a total of fifty different countries currently airs episodes of Doctor Who past and present.

Doctor Who is also a series that has participated with various charitable organizations over the years. One charity that the show has been involved with since 1983 is Children In Need. During the Children In Need telethon, various shows would come up with comedy sketches to air in the hopes of raising money. Doctor Who was no exception. Take a look!

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