Who? After 50 years it’s time to see the ‘Doctor’

  • Hank Stuever The Washington Post
  • Friday, November 15, 2013 3:51pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

In television’s vast universe, there is perhaps no acquired taste that is more difficult to acquire than the taste for “Doctor Who,” BBC’s long-running sci-fi series about an alien dandy who navigates the time-space continuum in a phone-booth-style British police box.

It’s been on (and off, and then on again) for five decades, but despite its increased popularity, “Doctor Who” remains steadfastly niche.

The show’s remoteness — and the way it has skirted the edge of mainstream success for so long — remains its strongest asset.

From its earliest episodes, “Doctor Who” has rewarded a certain stripe of viewer who can pay close attention while cerebrally forgiving the show for its low-budget, slapdash, resolutely episodic qualities.

It’s melodrama for Mensa. One of the main reasons “Doctor Who” thrived, in fact, was because its fans came to love it as much for its shabbiness as its exuberance and manic intelligence.

The CGI era has caught up to “Doctor Who” and made it infinitely cooler to watch since 2005, yet it’s still appreciably outre.

And so, to a growing list of 50th anniversaries, we must add the Nov. 23, 1963, premiere of “Doctor Who.”

Even if you’ve never seen the show or long since concluded that it’s not your cup of tea, BBC America has several specials and retrospectives scheduled this week.

It all leads up to a much-anticipated special episode of the current “Doctor Who” saga that will be globally simulcast on Saturday.

I’m most inclined to steer you to “An Adventure in Space and Time,” an enjoyable dramatic movie about how the show was first made.

“An Adventure in Space and Time” is set in the BBC’s “Mad Men” era as the network executive cooks up a concept for a kiddie science-fiction series about a “doctor” from another planet who has the power to travel across time, past, present and future.

But in the same excitable breath, Newman adamantly forbids the show from having robots or bug-eyed monsters. He wants it to be smart but silly, educational but goofy.

Marathons will feature each of the 11 incarnations of the Doctor; airing Monday through Saturday. Visit www.bbcamerica.com/doctorwho for complete schedules.

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