Doctor Who has just passed an important milestone – it has officially been back on TV screens for longer than it was gone.
BBC’s new Doctor Who series has officially been running longer than the show was originally canceled. When Doctor Who began in 1963, nobody realized it would one day wind up in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running sci-fi show in the world. It was originally pitched as something of a historical, but the Doctor encountered the Daleks in his second adventure, and plans swiftly changed.
And then, in 1989, the BBC quietly canceled Doctor Who. The show’s ratings had been declining for some time, and BBC execs were increasingly uncomfortable with a sci-fi series they felt didn’t fit with the broadcaster’s educational remit. And then, with the exception of a Children In Need special and an ill-fated made-for-TV movie starring Paul McGann, Doctor Who was consigned to novels and comics. Until 2005, that is, when Russell T. Davies persuaded a new generation of BBC decision-makers – people who’d grown up loving Doctor Who – that a relaunch could be a success.
As of today, Doctor Who has officially been back on the small screen for longer than it was ever canceled. It’s a historic benchmark, sure to delight Whovians, and it proves Russell T. Davies was right to believe Doctor Who could be a success again. Davies made a lot of key changes to the formula – he largely dropped the multi-episode arcs, accelerated stories with plot devices such as the psychic paper, and used social media and the Internet to his advantage in order to create a truly immersive experience. Christopher Eccleston made his debut as the Ninth Doctor when he rescued Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler and told her to run; 15 years later, the Doctor is still running.
The last 15 years have been kind to Doctor Who. Fans have had 12 seasons, 3 showrunners, 5 lead Doctors, and 16 companions (counting the ill-fated Adam and the wonderful Craig). Gallifrey was destroyed, saved, and then destroyed again. Classic enemies like the Master and the Daleks have been joined by iconic new foes like the Weeping Angels and Madame Karabraxos. The Doctor has spent a lot more time kissing than the classic series would have ever allowed, he’s been married twice, had a daughter, and regenerated into a woman for the first time in series history.
And that’s just the start. Doctor Who season 12 has rewritten the show’s history, revealing the Doctor is in fact the Timeless Child, a cosmic being who predates the Time Lord race. The Doctor is an unknown quantity once again, a being whose true origin has been lost in the mists of time, and whose story is yet to be told. Current showrunner Chris Chibnall has promised answers to these new mysteries will be offered throughout his run, meaning modern viewers will get to rediscover the Doctor’s identity over the next few years. Doctor Who has passed a milestone. Here’s to the next 15 years.