In November a show which is perhaps the longest running television series in the history of Television celebrates 50 years. The show is BBC One's time traveling adventure Doctor Who. "Who" is more of a question than a name. Launched 1963 with William Hartnell as "The Doctor" a Time Lord from Galafrey who travels in time and space in a ship known as The T.A.R.D.I.S; a ship inexplicably larger on the inside than the outside and which looks exactly like a 1960's British police call box.
One of the reasons for the shows longevity came about as a matter of necessity. Actor William Hartnell was in ill health. Faced with discontinuing the program or replacing The Doctor with another actor they elected to do the latter; But how to do it? They came up with the idea of regeneration. When a Time Lord's life is ending he is able to regenerate into a new being. This new being has all the memories of the previous one, however, he looks different and often has a totally different personality. Over the years there have been 11 actors who have officially played The Doctor with number 12 to start at the end of this year. Some may not know that Doctor Who started off with the aim of not only being entertaining but also instructional. When The Doctor went to the past they would use the episode to teach history, when he went to the future they instructed viewers about science topics. As the years went by the show was changed to feature more science fiction. It also developed a quirky sense of humor that varied with each Doctor and each set of producers, writers and directors. The show was also known for somewhat cheap special effects. Somehow this only added to the charm and warmth of the series.
Those of you who have not seen or heard of the series I encourage you to check it out. Those of you who have only seen the last three Doctors I would encourage you to check out the some of the older episodes to find out the history of The Doctor. For those of you who have enjoyed Doctor Who in any of its forms you might check out these programs and movies:
The adventures of slacker David Lister who was placed in stasis for over one million years. Now he is the only human on mining ship Red Dwarf. He shares his space with a hologram of Arnold Rimmer his nerdy ex-roommate and the last remaining member of a race of beings that evolved from his pet cat, a slightly demented ship's computer and a wonky domestic robot.
This series is a decidedly adult spin off from the new Doctor Who featuring John Barrowman as Capt. Jack Harkness, leader of the Torchwood offices in Cardiff. Their charge is to deal with aliens and their technology before everything changes.
Sarah Jane Adventures
Sarah Jane Adventures is another spin-off from Doctor Who. Sarah Jane was a beloved companion of the third and fourth Doctors. Years later she is still dealing with aliens and their attempts to gain a foothold on earth. Unlike Torchwood this series was made to appeal to early teens and younger.
Quantum Leap is a twist on the standard time traveler. Scott Bakula stars as Sam Beckett a man time jumping from one time period to another with little or no control over where he winds up ... or who. The twist in this series is that it is not his body that is traveling through time but his mind and it seems to always displace the mind of a person in desperate need of help.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Movie
With a script written by Douglas Adam this film follows Arthur Dent, one of the only two human survivors remaining after the Earth is destroyed to make way for hyperspace by-pass.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Two teens travel in time in a (get this original idea) traveling phone box in order to put together the best history report ever. Their motto: "Party on, dudes."
Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series with an overall story arc. It won over many of those who followed Star Trek. Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon space stations and served as a meeting place for men and aliens alike. It was almost a nation of its own and housed the ambassadors of many races. Like Star Trek-TOS it wasn't afraid to tackle tough social issues while still retaining the ability to occasionally poke a little fun at themselves in the process. A word of warning: Babylon 5 was one of the first TV shows to use computers to produce special effects. They were great for their time, but do not hold up well on large HD screens. For best results watch on a 36 inch or smaller screen.
The science fiction show that spawned a wealth of sequels and films. At the time one of the best SF shows on TV. By today's standards it has cheap special effects, but the majority of its stories still seem fresh even if the sets are definitely dated.
A young boy finds himself traveling through time with a small group of thieves via holes left in the space time continuum after the creation of the earth by the Great Being and confronting pure Evil in the process. This film written and directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame is an interesting dark comedy.
Sherlock is a British series bringing Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes into the present. Sherlock is a quirky, somewhat sociopathic man of great intelligence. While there is no time travel or science fiction involved in this series its producer is Steve Moffett who is also the driving source of the current incarnation of Doctor Who. You may find that Sherlock has some of the same traits as "The Doctor." If you are a Doctor Who fan you are quite likely to find this show equally as fascinating.