Stamps of approval as Doctor Who celebrates 50 years of real-time

by Jeremy Miles

It looks as though 2013 is going to be THE year of Doctor Who. As the much loved BBC sci-fi adventure prepares for its 50th anniversary in November there are likely to be plenty of opportunities to celebrate our national love of the programme.

William Hartnell - the first Doctor Who

William Hartnell – the first Doctor Who

This will include a special issue of 11 new first class stamps each depicting an actor who has played the Doctor since the  Tardis first arrived on our screens in flickering black and white in 1963.

Back then the doctor was played by William Hartnell. Over the next 50 years in real time and countless millennia  in his Time Lordly travels, he has regenerated in the form of Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McCann (in a one-off TV film), Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.

The stamps are due for release in March and will be accompanied by an issue of second class  stamps featuring some of the Doctor’s infamous intergalactic adversaries – The Daleks, the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels and the Ood. A special addition will be a collectors edition of five stamps portraying each of the four foes and the famous time-travelling police box, The Tardis.

Sadly there will be no zooming back in time to pick up these stamps at 1963 prices. They cost just 3d (in old money) back then.Today a first class stamp costs 60p.

Talking of time travelling… By a quirk of fate the very first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on Saturday 23rd November 1963 and with impressive symmetry the 50th anniversary falls on a Saturday too. It’s so nice to get your co-ordinates right once in a while!

I’m not a Doctor Who obsessive myself but I know people who are. Inevitably my work as a journalist has also brought me into contact with several writers and actors who have impeccable  Galafrean connections. I remember talking to actor Julian Bleach when he was cast as the mad and mutilated Davros – the evil half-man, half-Dalek and  would-be destroyer of all that is good in universe. Just another role, he said, ideal to add to his growing CV alongside Frankenstein’s monster, and an evil circus master in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Hadn’t he detected a theme developing?

Anyhow to cut a long story  short I phoned Bleach one day and got his dad, Jim, on the phone. I asked for his thoughts on watching his son battling to exert a vicious tyrannical hold over the universe? Jim simply sighed and replied: “Oh we’re used to it.” He also told me that Julian’s first public performance was at nursery school when he gave an impressive rendition of When Father Painted the Parlour as part of the end of term entertainment.  Somehow after that Davros just didn’t cut-it anymore in the behind the sofa stakes.

Meanwhile comedian and actor Toby Hadoke  actually created a touring show based on his devotion to the programme. It was called  Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf. Part memoir, part tribute and part stand-up, the production offered  observations that were both gently satirical and strangely touching as Hadoke charted the Doctor’s on-screen triumphs and disasters in parallel with his own journey from child to man.

Talking about the show, he reminded me that Doctor Who – famous and popular once more – spent the years betwixt Sylvester McCoy and Christopher Ecclestone in the TV wilderness. Throughout that deeply unfashionable period Hadoke kept the faith.  He told me that in the 1990s burglars broke into his flat and stole a broken guitar, a Bananarama single and half a jar of instant coffee but left his Doctor Who videos (now sought-after collectors items) untouched.

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