I love Doctor Who in all of his incarnations, so I was beyond thrilled when a friend lent me About Time 1: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles. It looks at the first three seasons of Doctor Who (from 1963-1966) in depth, episode by episode, with thematic essays throughout that cover broader aspects of the show.
It isn’t a surprise that the inception of this iconic and unusual show is interesting. I mean, it really is an intriguing concept and so reading about the goals and thought processes behind creating the show and the character in the beginning is fascinating.
I knew that the show was envisioned as a family show and was unsurprised that the original intention was to have sort of an educational series that would entertain the whole family – kids *and* adults. This isn’t something attempted very often nowadays. At this point, most shows seem to aim for a pretty specific audience and if they reach beyond that, great. For example, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was envisioned completely as a kids show, but has found an unexpected adult audience. But Doctor Who was supposed to appeal to the whole family at once from the onset.
I have no idea how I would go about doing that specifically, but clearly they had a plan – from the makeup of the regular cast, to the qualities each character possessed, to the themes of the show itself. Even the time travel aspect was aimed at this idea of appealing to everyone. And it worked, obviously, since it’s still being made almost sixty years later!
It’s also interesting to hear about what plans changed in the process or didn’t work out. For example, evidently the Doctor was not initially considered the hero of the show. And a lot of studio politics and personnel changes led to some unexpected things happening in those first seasons.
The writers of this series are serious Doctor Who experts who have clearly dug deep to learn an incredible amount about the show and the source materials and the politics of the BBC in the 1960s (and presumably beyond, since this series covers the whole run of Doctor Who to date, as far as I know). I would not be as dedicated as they clearly were in digging up details (to the point of discussing which translations and editions of Marco Polo’s Journal might have inspired the episode about the famous explorer). Nevertheless, I appreciate their efforts a lot and am enjoying the deep dive into the history of a show I have loved for most of my life!