Like many other Earthlings, I wait with bated breath to view the 50th Anniversary Celebration Episode of the venerated British sci-fi TV show Doctor Who. (American Earthlings: Tune in to BBC America at 2:50 Eastern time / 1:50 Central this Saturday.) Like Who, I've been around (okay, almost) 50 years. Here's how we came together.
1963 : Doctor Who debuts on British television with William Hartnell in the title role as the original madman in the blue box. The unnamed Doctor, member of the ancient race of the Time Lords, but looking remarkably human, flies about in time and space in a time machine disguised as a police call box, which was a common enough sight in 1963 Britain.
1965 : I'm born. Some people notice. And one cat.
1989 : Doctor Who goes on hiatus. I don't notice because I never watch it.
1991 : I marry a rabid Doctor Who fan. In a haze of newly wedded bliss, I agree to watch reruns of a grainy-looking sci-fi series which features the same quarry, English woods, and underground tunnels to represent an infinite number of planets. The effects are laughable, the acting often bad, the writing frequently flawed, and the stories are interminable. Yet I cannot look away. The iconic-yet-changing doctor is an intriguing character and always delightful, from impish Patrick Troughton (Doctor #2) to the witty Tom Baker (Doctor #4) and kindly, youthful Peter Davison (Doctor #5). I yearn for these characters and stories to be brought to their full potential.
1994 : I'm pregnant with my first (and last) child. After an hour of thumbing through (read: arguing over) names one Saturday, my husband goes to take a shower. I happen upon the name Melanie, which I think is pretty. Under the showerhead, he runs through the names of all the Doctor's female companions, and happens upon Mel, companion to Drs. #6 and #7 (played by Bonnie Langford). Hubs comes out of the shower, I look up from the kitchen table, and together we say, "What about Melanie?" Forever after, he claims that our kid is named after a Doctor Who companion.
2005 : Master writer Russell T. Davies resurrects the Doctor for the BBC, casting Christopher Eccleston as war-damaged Doctor #9. The reboot is fast, funny, dazzling, and best of all, it has a huge heart. I loved it from the start because we the viewers experience everything through the eyes of a working-class British shopgirl who reacts as real people would: Part of her aches to go with her amazing new friend on fantastic adventures, and part of her clings to her family back on Earth.
2006 : I'm devastated to learn that our brand-new Doctor is already leaving the show. But when Doc #10 emerges from his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) in the guise of actor David Tennant, the writing and the show itself get better and better.
2010 : I'm a bit heartbroken--okay, and panicky--when both David Tennant and master writer Russell T. Davies leave the show. Who can replace them? How will the show survive? Enter the madcap Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, and--who better?--Steven Moffatt, author of some of the best episodes ever, to run the joint. Add Karen Gillan as the Girl Who Waited, and we all heave a big sigh of relief.
2013 : Doctor Who is all about change. Matt Smith is moving on, and Peter Capaldi will take his place at Christmastime. But first, Doctors #10 and #11 will team up in the 50th Anniversary Special, "The Day of the Doctor."
And I write a blog post to say thank you to all the marvelous writers, actors, and crew folk who love this series and work to make it the best it can be. You've all taught me a lot about storytelling, about the strangeness of the universe, and yes, about fish fingers and custard.