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Happy Birthday, You-Know-Who!

Today is one of those days when something remarkably good and life affirming comes along.

Today is a birthday, but not just of any one person, but of a special tv series.

On this date, November 23rd, 1963, the BBC debuted the first episode of a brand new science fiction television programme called... Doctor Who. Entitled "An Unearthly Child", that first episode (which aired when I was 8 years old, and the memories I have of it still to this day...) starred William Hartnell as the Doctor (referred to always as Dr. Who or Doctor Who) and introduced the world to this mysterious traveller and his incredible time machine known as the TARDIS.

The episode also featured Carole Ann Ford as Susan (Foreman), Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. The story began when two school teachers shared their concerns about one of their pupils - Susan. She's brilliant in some subjects but bizarrely out of kilter in others. To assuage their curiosity, they follow her home, but discover 'home' is a blue police box in an old junk yard. Once they enter the box their lives, and television history, would never be the same.

I still have fond memories of the travels of William Hartnell's Doctor and his companions - the planet Skaro, and those creatures called Daleks, and then having the Daleks show up on Earth!; visiting with Marco Polo; a terrifying trip in time to visit the Aztecs; the planet Marinus, and its denizens, the Voord; the Doctor and his companions being reduced to tiny versions of themselves and having to survive in a world of giants; a visit to the Crusades, and meeting Richard the Lionheart; the planet of the Menoptera and the Animus; and so many more - and grew up with the series in those early years. I remember being shocked and startled at the regeneration of William Hartnell's Doctor into the younger Patrick Troughton, but still loved the Doctor, and revelled in the newness and different feel that Troughton brought to the role. So many good memories of the early Doctor Who series. And of the continuing history of the show with different actors taking on the persona of the Doctor over the years. This show pretty much sparked my interests in both history (some time periods more than others!) and time travel, and gave me a different view of how tv and movie science fiction could be (as did Star Trek later on).

What it comes down to is this: Doctor Who has been a part of my life for 54 years (!!), and that battered blue box is still transporting the Time Lord known as the Doctor (who's been through a few bodies!) and his various companions to worlds of wonder and adventure. And whole new generations of children got to discover the Doctor with the Chris Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi interpretations of the characters. And now, a whole new era for the series begins with the first woman, Jodie Whitaker, about to take on the role of the Doctor. I'm looking forward to it, believe me. But for me, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton will always be *my* Doctors. So...

Happy Birthday, Doctor, and long may you continue your travels through time and space (regardless of what gender you are in any incarnation of the character)!

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jkahane
John Kahane

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