Doctor Who and its impact on a decade of television
More on Doctor Who
Ten years ago today I sat down to watch the first episode of the rebooted Doctor Who. Like many, I knew the show by reputation, I even had childhood memories of the Seventh Doctor and Ace but this Doctor Who for the 21st Century was a chance to come to the show with a fresh perspective. It could have been a straight reboot, starting with the First Doctor and I would have been intrigued enough to watch it. Thankfully it was a continuation and a very good one.
Rose had a massive impact on UK audiences. It was a modern example of family television and helped bring something back to the Saturday night TV schedule - home grown UK drama that wasn't 'kitsch' and wasn't something you would secretly watch each week and deny when anyone asked you about it. The beauty of Doctor Who is that it can be a different show each week; horror, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, drama...the possibilities are endless and over the course of that first magical season we got everything.
Audiences were enthralled and a second series was easily green lit. Despite the badly-timed announcement that Christopher Ecclestone was leaving shortly after that first episode aired, audience interest did not falter. The stories were good, Billie Piper - known to the UK as an irritating pop princess - delivered a mesmerising performance each week and soon we were looking forward to series two and beyond.
2005 also introduced audiences to another staple of British television - the Christmas special. Doctor Who gave audiences an exciting alternatives to grim depressing soaps and films we had already seen. They might not have been the strongest episodes in the series' repertoire and were probably not the best place to feature two Doctor regenerations, but they did become an event in itself; a chance to grab new audiences year after year.
Audience engagement is probably the biggest impact in the last 10 years. Classic Doctor Who certainly had its fans in the US and other countries but it was largely viewed as 'twee' British television. But when David Tennant arrived on the scene, the exposure of the show exploded state side to the point that the US soon got the episode broadcast just hours after us in the UK. Whovians in the US became as fanatical as us Brits - perhaps more so - and by the time Matt Smith took on the role of the Doctor, the show was just as big both sides of the pond. The show even filmed in the US twice as its budget and exposure heightened.
Then came the 50th special. The US seemed more engaged in celebrating the show then us, with Doctor Who specials each month in the build up to the 23rd November. The Day Of The Doctor, an epic uniting of the Tenth, Eleventh and War Doctors, became a cinema event across the world, followed by a world tour to kick start series eight. Having the opportunity to watch that at the cinema with my son was somwething I won't easily forget. In ten short years Doctor Who went from a British sc i-fi institution to a global event and it shows no sign of stopping.
It has made stars too. Billie Piper established herself as a credible actress, David Tennant is now taking on the primary villain role in Marvel /Netflix's Aka Jessica Jones while Matt Smith is playing a pivotal role in Terminator Genisys. Karen Gillian is hitting it big too, with her most high-profile role yet as Nebula in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Doctor Who make stars and has audiences enthralled across the globe. Its success and fanatical fandom shows no sign of stopping. Nor should it. Doctor Who is unique in that it is a show can that reboot all the time, replacing lead stars without anyone battling an eyelid - well not much at least. And as a show that can switch its genre week on week it shouldn't fall into a slump either. Doctor Who is a British institution but one we are happy to share and I for one am looking forward to the next ten years.