As the fiftieth anniversary of “Doctor Who” draws ever closer – three days away from when I write this, it’s easy to notice that one type of programme has really sprung up this year to celebrate “Who”and that is the “talking heads”/”clips” style of show which serves the purpose of explaining the history of “Who” to newer Whovians who may not have dipped their toes into the water of the “classic” stories.
For the first time, really, since the first series of “Doctor Who Confidential”, we have been treated, thanks to BBC America and the “Watch” satellite television channel, which is one of the UK TV network, with a strand of programming which celebrates the show in “Doctor Who Explained” and “The Doctors Revisited” – both of which are thematically similar due to their shared production team and, in fact, “Explained” stems from “Revisited”.
“Doctor Who Explained” explains the show in a broad brush strokes including who the Doctor is, the reasons of the companions, what the TARDIS is and a brief explanation as to who his most prominent foes are within a whistle stop 45 minutes.
“The Doctors Revisited” takes the concept of “Explained” and brings it into sharper focus by concentrating on each incarnation of the Doctor in an individual episode. “Revisited” has a clear, consistent format by breaking each episode of these documentaries into three “chapters” – “Who’s Who” that focuses upon the Doctor, “TARDIS Team” which revolves around the companions and “Famous Foes” which, as the title entails, has a brief explanation on some of the Doctor’s most prominent arch-enemies.
Although seeing clips from “Doctor Who”‘s past is surely a treat for those who haven’t seen the earlier eras of the show, what really is the big selling point is the sheer amount of interviewees within this series. You get the majority of the actors who portrayed the Doctor, including the current man to hold the key to the TARDIS, Matt Smith, a whole host of companions ranging from Carole Ann Ford, who portrayed the Doctor’s grand-daughter Susan, and William Russell, who was Ian Chesterton, from the show’s beginnings in 1963 through to current companion Jenna Coleman, guest artists including Matt Sheppard, Nicholas Briggs, Dan Starkey and Frances Barber, and behind the scenes personnel including lead writer Steven Moffat, current series producer Marcus Wilson, former executive producer Julie Gardner, and writers Tom MacRae and Neil Gaiman.
Whilst these programmes offer very little that is new to Whovians who are fully versed in “Doctor Who”‘s history, it’s clear from the outset that “Explained” and “Revisited” are more for newer fans to whet their appetites into trying out older stories, especially as each episode of “The Doctors Revisited” was partnered by a story from each Doctor’s era immediately following the documentary, for example the Patrick Troughton era had the 1967 classic “The Tomb of the Cybermen” to represent it.
That said, “Explained” and “Revisited” are a well put together series of programmes which celebrates the wide ranging heritage of “Doctor Who” and a perfect accompaniment to all the other celebrations taking place for the show’s fiftieth anniversary.