And Now For Something Completely Different – Happy Birthday Doctor!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uz6MFZxeW_Y#t=267 50 years ago today, two very interesting things happened.
First, the President of the United States was assassinated. My mother held her tummy and cried and wondered into what kind of a world would her child be born. They say that the stress of the mother gets translated to the child. I can tell you that's true. My memories of JFK's assassination are more vivid than my memories of man landing on the moon. I was the one in the womb on November 23rd, 1963.
But another memorable thing happened that day, in some ways a polar opposite and strange complement to the events in Dallas. A new TV show debuted on the BBC. A show about a mysterious traveler in time and space know only as "The Doctor" who was described as "a cross between C. S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, and Father Christmas".
And we're still talking about it 50 years later too.
In the wake of the events in Dallas the debut of Doctor Who was largely missed. So it was repeated, and the show quickly became a cultural force, beloved by children and adults throughout the UK. It was a quirky show for sure, but it had humor and heart. When I found the show on PBS as a young adolescent something about the character of the Doctor (then being played by the irrepressible Tom Baker) spoke to me. And spoke to me in the way of all great mythological characters.
So I faithfully followed the Doctor's adventures. When I was 19 I wrote a pilot script for a TV show that was really about an Americanized version of the Doctor as the lead character. Now, my character was referred to as "The Captain" but I mean, how obvious can you get? I gave him a scarred past and a spaceship but no time travel. I still love that script, pastiche that it is.
I did manage to actually have it read by the then current producer of Doctor Who, John Nathan-Turner who wrote me the sweetest rejection letter I have ever received. He found my script "highly amusing" but "unsuitable" for the BBC. I still remember the thrill that afternoon at the TV station where I worked when I heard: "David, BBC, Line 1" over the intercom. He was calling me personally to talk about it and verify my address. Class act, that man.
Curiously enough, in my script I had a female lead named "Gerri". About a year after my rejection John Nathan-Turner gave the Doctor a new companion (he rarely travels alone), an American companion (a first) and her name was Peri !
The show went off the air for almost 20 years but returned in 2005, as folks my age who grew up with it wanted their crack at it. It has become a worldwide phenomenon. As much a modern day fairy tale as a turn-of-the-(previous)-century "Thrilling Adventure Story", damn good television and an ethos with a big, big heart. Maybe that's because the Doctor has two (hearts that is).
It's a show with an unshakeable faith in humanity (as evinced in the above clip), and as such it remains a lighthouse in our jaded times.
It's a show, as Craig Ferguson said, about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.
And I unabashedly love it!
Happy Birthday, Doctor.