This past Saturday, November 23rd, at precisely 5:16pm, marked the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the longest-running science-fiction television series in the world. At 7:50pm, the BBC broadcast the 50th Anniversary Special, ‘The Day of the Doctor’, simultaneously to millions of televisions and over 1,500 movie theatres in 94 countries across the globe, setting a record for the largest simulcast in world history. The broadcast peaked in the UK at 10.6 million viewers, meaning over one-third (37.4%) of people watching TV in the UK that evening were watching Doctor Who. The special was, in my opinion, fantastic, and paid homage to the actors and storylines of the past 50 years while offering tantalizing hints of what the future of the show will bring.
To avoid spoilers, I am resisting the urge to ramble on and on about how much I absolutely loved the special; rather, I will focus on the event itself. Although I did not make my way to London for the Doctor Who extravaganza there to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I did go to the local Odeon (Oxford’s main cinema) to watch the broadcast in 3D. The special was shown on three screens, or half the theatre, and each showing was completely booked. Quite a few audience members arrived in costume or with props, the favorites being fezzes, immensely long scarves, and of course sonic screwdrivers. Passionate arguments raged over which of the eleven Doctors of the show’s history was/is the best, and what the scariest monsters are. The fans ranged in age from small children to senior citizens, and looking around at their faces, it was obvious that they were all equally excited.
Doctor Who clearly appeals to a wide variety of individuals, and it is a testimony to the show’s popularity that so many viewers across the globe tuned in to watch the anniversary special. That a British television show about a time-traveler and his companions who travel the universe fighting monsters could draw in millions of people throughout the entire world boggles the mind. It shows that we really aren’t that different after all. Perhaps we all secretly dream about someone showing up on our doorstep who will take us away on a magical adventure across space and time. Or perhaps we all simply fall in love with the Doctor’s huge and caring heart—well, hearts.