On November 23, 1963, An Unearthly Child, the first episode of Doctor Who aired on BBC1 at 17:16:20 GMT. The show was the result of over a year of planning and hard work from a large team of people, including names that are now familiar to Whovians world-wide.
It all started in March of 1962, when Eric Maschwitz, Assistant and Advisor to the Controller of Programmes at BBC Television, asked the Head of the Script Department, Donald Wilson, to have his team’s Study Group look into the feasibility of a new science fiction series. By July, a follow-up report looking into specific ideas for the series had been performed and delivered. This report, presented by Wilson and Script Department staff member John Braybon, recommended a show about time travel.
In December of 1962, Sydney Newman took over as BBC’s Head of Drama. Newman was well-known to be a fan of the science fiction genre from his time at ABC Television and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In March of 1963, he was advised by Controller of Programmes Donald Baverstock that there would be a gap in Saturday evening programming between Grandstand, a sports showcase, and Juke Box Jury, a pop music program. Ideally, the show that would fill this gap would appeal to children, as the previous show in this slot had, along with Grandstand‘s adult audience and Juke Box Jury‘s teen audience. Newman felt that this would be the perfect slot for a new science fiction show, and began to review the studies done by Wilson’s team.
Wilson and BBC staff writer C.E. ‘Bunny’ Webber were the primary contributors to the format of the show and the cast of characters. They also co-wrote the show’s first format document with Newman. Newman came up with the idea of having a time machine bigger on the inside than on the outside. He also came up with the idea for the show’s central character, the “Doctor”, and named the show Doctor Who.
Later in 1963, the show was handed over to Producer Verity Lambert and Story Editor David Whitaker. Due to concerns about Lambert’s inexperience, Wilson named Mervyn Pinfield, an experienced Staff Director, to be Associate Producer. The draft for the first episode was written by Weber, and handed over to Staff Writer Anthony Coburn to pen the final script. Coburn is responsible for the TARDIS resembling a Police Call Box.
The theme music for the show was written by Ron Grainer in a collaboration with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Delia Derbyshire used a series of tape recorders to cut and paste together the individual sounds that she had created using concrete and square- and sine-wave oscillators to create the theme. The title sequence for the show was designed by Bernard Lodge and created by Norman Taylor.
The original cast of the show included William Hartnell (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), and Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright).
Reprinted by permission from the MarkWho42 web site. The article was written by MarkWho42 staff writer Faith Londo.
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