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50 years and 11 Doctors later... (photo courtesy of BBC)

BBC America Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who with the ‘Week of the Doctor’

50 years and 11 Doctors later... (photo courtesy of BBC)
50 years and 11 Doctors later… (photo courtesy of BBC)

Greetings and salutations, fellow Fridge Nukers, Bradfield here, reporting from inside a Dalek, somewhere near the Camden Market in the beautiful, scenic UK! If only everything in the world of Doctor Who was bigger on the inside…

Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary Special - The Day of the Doctor
The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith (left), and Tenth Doctor, David Tennant (right) in “The Day of the Doctor” (photo courtesy of BBC)

Doctor Who‘s popularity in the United States is still relatively new. However, even most new devotees of the current series are aware that the Guinness Certified Most Successful Science Fiction Series in History is, at least in this country, an “overnight sensation,” now fifty years in the making — having premiered in the UK on November 23, 1963. To celebrate the cultural landmark’s Silver Anniversary, BBC Worldwide is marking the occasion with two new Doctor Who feature length films and an array of new DW specials. In the US, BBC America is upping the ante with a week long “best of” marathon of the current series and appearances by the 10th and 11th Doctors (David Tennant and Matt Smith respectively) on the The Graham Norton Show (Saturday. 7pm and 11pm). So here is a breakdown of this week’s festivities:

[NOTE: Though our Nuke the Fridge audience extends to all four corners of the Earth, the below information is relevant to the BBC America programming schedule.]

“The Day of the Doctor” (Original film – November 23. Times vary)

Day of the Doctor Poster
The whole world will be watching to see the Doctor’s next move. Literally.

Perhaps the biggest news from the BBCA camp is that November 23rd is The Day of the Doctor, an appropriate name considering it will be 50 years to the day since the first episode of Doctor Who aired. And while Day… refers to the title of the original film, and the timing is fortuitous, it also refers to another first in Doctor Who history: November 23, 2013 will go down in history as the first global simulcast of the show. That’s right – work out your Skype bugs and contact your friends regardless of where they live. The reason “times vary” is because Who-vians from London to Los Angeles, from Mexico City to Mumbai, and all points between and beyond will be watching TDOTD at the same time. The Day of the Doctor stars current Doctor, Matt Smith and his predecessor, David Tennant, as well as current and former Companions, Jenna Coleman and Billie Piper, and John Hurt as… The Doctor??? Consult your local BBCA listings for official times.

“Doctor Who: An Adventure in Time and Space” (Original film – November 22nd. 6pm and 8pm)

David Bradley as the First Doctor, William Hartnell, in Doctor Who: An Adventure in Time and Space (photo courtesy of BBC)

An Adventure in Time and Space is and isn’t a Doctor Who film. That is to say that it isn’t a time travelling adventure, though that’s what the title might imply. Rather, it is the story of the show’s beginnings in the early 1960’s, starring Brian Cox (perhaps best known to Fridge Nukers as Stryker in X-Men 2) and Game of ThronesDavid Bradley as William Hartnell – a veteran character actor who was largely cast as a tough, military type, and instead of retiring, took on the unlikely role of the first Doctor, reviving not only his career, but his love of life. According to writer and executive producer, Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), it is “principally a human interest story you can enjoy even if you know nothing about Doctor Who. You’ll see the story of some amazing people who come together under extraordinary circumstances to create this wonderful thing that is still with us now.” Among those extraordinary people was the first woman to be a producer in the history of the BBC, and her first assignment was a “children’s drama” that is now a bona fide global phenomenon. An Adventure in Time and Space is directed by Terry McDonough (Breaking Bad, The Street).

“Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited – The Eleventh Doctor” (Documentary – 5pm and 10pm)

The popular docu-series wraps up (for the immediate future) with its 11th installment focusing on the 11th and current Doctor, played by Matt Smith (the youngest actor to take on the role to date). Every Doctor is important in his own way – and Smith will go down in history as the Doctor who popularized the character with US audiences. His first companion, Amy Pond, was played by Karen Gillan, who is about to make a bigger mark in the Hollywood mainstream as Nebula in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In terms of “geek chic,” Smith is largely responsible for the proliferation of bow-ties and fezzes you’re seeing at a lot of cons these days. And, if you’re “Who curious,” the “Doctors Revisited” series, particularly this installment, will serve as a decent “Cliff’s Notes” style catch-up. That’s the thing about Doctor Who: you do need to have a decent entry point — the actor playing the Doctor is almost secondary — and if you’d like an idea how the story has shaped up to the introduction of the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, the entire series is a good way to do it. From there, you can, like the Doctor himself, kind of go backward, forward, sideways, and pretty much any direction in time and space.

“Week of the Doctor” (Marathon of the TV show. Dates and times Vary)

Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt as... THE DOCTOR??? (photo courtesy of BBC)
Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt as… THE DOCTOR??? (photo courtesy of BBC)

Taking into account Graham Norton‘s Who-heavy lineup on his Saturday show, there are only two non-Doctor Who programs airing on BBC America this week: BBC World News, and the premiere of a new scifi/fantasy show, Atlantis. That isn’t a joke, nor is it an exaggeration. While it isn’t a marathon that covers all five decades of Doctor Who, BBCA is running as many episodes of the current series – as time will allow. However, if you have a Netflix account, you don’t necessarily need to watch them in marathon form. Every episode from the 9th Doctor — the first in the contemporary revamp of the show — to the present is available to view as I write this. However, as we draw nearer “D-Day,” and through the weekend, in addition to a “Best of” selection of episodes, there will be more opportunities for neophytes to go deeper, and the uninitiated to get up to speed, in the form of Doctor Who mini-documentaries like more of The Doctors Revisited, The Companions, The Timey-Wimey of Doctor Who (watch the episode titled “Blink,” co-starring Carey Mulligan, and the title will make a little more sense), The Science of Doctor Who, and Doctor Who Explained – to name just a few. At present, the only (legal) way you can see them is on BBC America.

So, until the season premiere and the Christmas episode — the “Dawn of Capaldi” — and despite the fact that, yes, I do have a Netflix account, and much of Doctor Who’s past and present at my fingertips, I’m going to crawl into my own little fox hole for the next few days. Pass the Jiffy Pop.