Is it not an odd coincidence that a series about an alien who can go back and forth in time premiered on one of the most notorious dates of the 20th century?
Doctor Who launched on November 22, 1963. That same day in Dallas, Texas, U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Starting with Lyndon Johnson, sworn in on Air Force One on that fateful November day, there have been 11 U.S. presidents since Kennedy was shot.
Starting with William Hartnell, who played the first (and oldest) Doctor, there have been 14 Time Lords since the BBC series began. Every few years, new actors in the role are explained in this way: there is a whole concept of regeneration which occurs every time the Time Lord is too badly harmed to heal normally. When the transformation occurs, a new actor steps out of the TARDIS and another adventure begins.
Returning to the series to help celebrate the 60th anniversary is fan favourite David Tennant. The 52-year-old Scottish actor kickstarted the series when he previously played the 10th Doctor from 2005 to 2010. Tennant brought a lightness to a role which has always had a dark side. He was joined then and now by actress-comedienne Catherine Tate as Doctor Who’s platonic playmate, Donna Temple-Noble.
Tennant follows Jodi Whittaker, who played the 13th Doctor from 2017 to 2022. She became the first woman ever to star in the series. Starting in 2024, the next Doctor Who, Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa, will be the first person of colour and the first born outside the UK to assume the role.
You’d also have to go outside the UK — but not the commonwealth — to source the Canadian who kickstarted the who Whoapalooza. That would be Sydney Newman, who, after a stint with the National Film Board of Canada’s award-winning wartime documentary unit, paid his dues helping to establish the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As head of CBC drama in the ‘50s, he was there during a golden era where Canadians such as Norman Jewison, Ted Kotcheff, Christopher Plummer and a future TV sci-fi star named William Shatner were cutting their teeth.
By the early ’60s he had moved on to The BBC in London where he threw himself into developing a futuristic series for kids. A team was assembled, and Newman is generally credited with both coming up with the title as well as the basic time-jumping premise of Doctor Who.
That full story and more can be found by following this link to an article I wrote for Everything Zoomer.
To watch Tennant’s return in the first special, titled The Star Beast, tune in November 25 in Canada on Disney+, in the States on BBC America and in The UK on BBC One. The episode will also introduce Neil Patrick Harris, 50, as the Celestial Toymaker — a villainous character who harkens back to the series early (and largely missing) episodes from 1966.
Ther former How I Met Your Mother star brings plenty of panache to his role. Returning cast members include Jacqueline King, Karl Collins, Bernard Cribbins and Jemma Redgrave.
The second and third specials will air Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 in Canada on Disney+.