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Tardis Party: Happy Doctor Who Day! The 10 greatest ever moments of the greatest ever sci-fi TV show

November 23, 2013

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Bow-ties are cool? No, not really… but Matt Smith’s dapper Eleventh Doctor looks good for a man who’s been around more than a millennium – that’s exactly half-a-century in Earth-years

Here we are then… it’s finally here. That point in time and space the greatest sci-fi TV show in the history of the universe officially celebrates its golden anniversary. Yes, 50 years ago this very day the first ever episode of the first ever serial of Doctor Who (1963-present) was broadcast at 5.15pm on BBC1 in the United Kingdom. And tonight a half-century-marking 75-minute very special special The Day Of The Doctor will be broadcast at 7.50pm (GMT) across the entire world – and who knows (because who really knows what’s out there?), maybe further afield too.

And, by way of celebrating the day itself, off the back of its dedicated 50-year-recognising season of posts, today George’s Journal presents you, dear readers, with its rundown of the 10 best bits from Who‘s entire quinquaginta. So, yes, adopt that venusian aikido pose, Three; toss the end of that scarf over your shoulder, Four; and make sure that bow-tie’s straight, Eleven… because Doctors, ladies, gentlemen, boys, girls and K-9, here we verily go…

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10. By land, sea and air!

Planet Of The Spiders (Season 11/ 1974)

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The greatest ever chase to grace Who? Certainly the most diverse Earth-bound one – and probably the daftest, to be fair. But it’s also epic and utterly awesome. In his swansong story, vehicle-mad (and highly successful Doctor) Jon Pertwee was indulged by producer Barry Letts and got to pursue a baddie first in his vintage-esque roadster Bessie, then in a ‘Little Nellie’-like autogyro, next in a crazy balloon-like buggie having taken off into the air (WTF?) and, finally, in a hovercraft  before leaping Action Man-like on to the foe’s vessel. Seriously, what’s not to love?

Plus, the following clip is soundtracked by John Barry and George Martin‘s respective scores from the Bond films On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and Live And Let Die (1973), which just makes it even better frankly…

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9. Death by plastic chair

Terror Of The Autons (Season 8/ 1971)

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Doctor Who at its utter campy, perverse, surreal best here. Technically, this poor chap’s funereal furniture-derived doom is down to Nestene Consciousness-produced plastic (the same sort from which the latter creates those nasty mannequin-like Autons) and is slyly manipulated by the magnificently dastardly Master (and the best ever, Roger Delgado‘s, at that), but of course what really happens here is a man is eaten by an inflatable plastic chair. Plain and simple. Enjoy…

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8. Did he just break the fourth wall? (10:57 and 11:42)

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984)

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A real blink and you’ll-miss-it one-two (at the two points in the clip referred to above), which occurred because John Normington, in his role as the quietly menacing and despicably scheming corporate big cheese villain Trau Morgus, misunderstood helmer Graeme Harper’s direction for the scene. Basically, he literally turns to the camera and delivers a Shakespearean aside, as if he’s sharing his innermost thoughts with the audience. Despite clearly being a boo-boo (which wasn’t corrected owing to Who‘s oh-so tight shooting schedules), it somehow totally works and adds extra oomph to the actor’s performance and the scene. A fine example of ‘Classic’ Who‘s unique, cheap and cheerful charm and charisma then – not least in its otherwise rather crappy ’80s era…

Read more about this moment’s episode here

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7. The Daleks make their debut (21:00)

The Daleks (Season 1/ 1963)

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Surely the first truly scary – and still pretty unsettling today – moment in Who, this comes from the show’s second ever story, in which not only the overgrown peril-inducing pepperpots made their bow, but also their appearance arguably saved the show from an early bath – after the lukewarm reception met by the opening serial An Unearthly Child, the last two episodes of The Daleks pulled in over 10 million viewers and hooked an entire generation of kids on Who forever more. Here, of course, we see a Dalek for the first time, as (from its POV) we approach trapped teacher companion Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and she understandably screams in terror. A fine ending-of-an-episode cliffhanger, it as often with quality horror doesn’t actually show the monster, but we’re left in no doubt as to its unquestionable menace – of course, it’s just a camera moving forwards with a plunger attached but, blimey, is it effective and iconic…

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6. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…

Blink (New Season 3/ 2007) 

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Yes, it’s the soon-to-go-intergalactic Carey Mulligan and, er, a fellow actor holding a conflab with the Doc across 30 years of recorded videotape during which the latter tries to explain just how it’s, well, happening. Those Weeping Angels have so much to answer for…

Read more about this moment and its episode here

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5. The Doctor murders The President? (00:42)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976)

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The greatest ever cliffhanger in all Who-dom. Tom Baker‘s irrepressible Fourth Doctor returns to his home planet Gallifrey (giving us our first ever glimpse of the place), having had a vision that somebody will bump off its Lord President – not just anyone though, him. And, just as the moment seems to be approaching, he investigates a dodgy figure he spies; could this be the real potential assailant? Investigating, though, he finds a laser rifle, confirms its sights are aimed directly on the President and… wait, he fires…?

Read more about this moment and its episode here

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4. Exquisite… absolutely exquisite…

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979)

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Quite possibly the funniest ever moment in Doctor Who – from the funniest and (a contender for) the most breathtakingly clever story ever. Cameoers John Cleese and Eleanor Bron discuss the ‘artistic merits’ of the blue police box-like TARDIS just as… well, why don’t you watch the clip and find out for yourself. It’s exquisite… yes, absolutely exquisite…

Read more about this moment and its episode here

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3. John Hurt is The Doctor!

The Name Of The Doctor (New Season 7/ 2013)

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Actually, scrap what I said above, this is the greatest ever cliffhanger in all Who-dom. Yes, it may only be a few months old, but it’s as (if not more) mind-blowing a moment as any from all the previous 50 years of the show. The man whom the latest owner of the sonic screwdriver claims is his secret claims he did ‘what had to be done’, but our man contends ‘not in the name of the Doctor’. Wait, does that mean this new chap is… another Doctor? Then he turns round. It’s only bloody John Hurt! And he is another bloody Doctor! But how? From when? And just how many Doctors does that mean there’s actually been? This changes everything! Or does it? Bring on The Day Of The Doctor, indeed – in, like, just a few hours now…

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2. Goodbye, Sarah Jane

The Hand Of Fear (Season 14/ 1975)

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Simple as a Dalek’s raison d’être this one – it’s Doctor Who‘s greatest ever companion (her ’70s gonk under her arm) bidding farewell to the show’s greatest ever Doctor. I defy your heart not to be broken by the following clip…

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1. The TARDIS takes its very first journey

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963)

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Whurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmm…! Whurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmm…! Whurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmm…!

Really could this list’s Number 1 be anything else? The answer to that question is no. The answer to whether today is one of TV’s greatest ever days is most definitely yes. Happy Doctor Who Day, my fellow TARDIS disciples…!

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