Doctor Who has now been back on our screens for the exact same amount of time it was away
The 14th of July 2020 marks an important, and impressive, milestone for Doctor Who. Because today it’s 15 years, 3 months, and 20 days since Rose brought the show roaring back onto our screens. That might seem a random length of time to celebrate. But it’s the same length of time as the Doctor’s hiatus between Survival Part Three and Russell T Davies’ revival. In other words – Doctor Who has now been back for as long as the so-called ‘Wilderness Years’ lasted. An accomplishment that few of us in 2005 would have dared hope for out loud.
Another way of looking at it is that the same measure of time between the show’s debut on the 23rd of November 1963 and the 14th of March 1979. As with today, no episode actually aired that particular Wednesday. But Season 16 had concluded with The Armageddon Factor Part Six just a few weeks before. Tom Baker was the Doctor, K9 was a Time Lord’s best friend, and Mary Tamm had just made her final appearance as Romana, with Lalla Ward waiting in the wings to replace her having impressed the production team as Princess Astra in The Armageddon Factor.
William Hartnell was already an almost mythical figure then. After all, the majority of the audience never having seen his era with their own eyes. It’s remarkable to take stock and think that modern Doctor Who is now at a similar point in its own story, with grown men and women talking of their childhood memories of sitting on their mother’s knee, watching Christopher Eccleston groove to Britney Spears.
Fifteen years on, Doctor Who is still standing strong while many of its contemporaries have fallen along the way
2005 was a good year for television. But it’s a measure of the success of the revival, that it’s outpaced so many popular shows that began alongside side. Including popular shows like Bones (ended 2017), The Colbert Report (ended 2014), Criminal Minds (ended 2020), Ghost Whisperer (ended 2010), The Office US (ended 2013), and Weeds (ended 2012). Meanwhile the massive hit show Supernatural is, appropriately enough, effectively undead. It would have had its final episode by now if not for a global pandemic interrupting filming. Of the noteworthy shows that debuted around the same time as the Doctor Who revival, only American Dad! and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have managed to hang in alongside it.
So today’s a good day to take stock. The revival may no longer be young, scrappy and hungry (as a certain 100% rebel Scotsman might say) but both as part of the wide tapestry of Doctor Who history, and as a television phenomenon in its own right, it has accomplished marvels.