Doctor Who – A Global Phenomenon: Part 1 Australia
Guest contributor Connor Johnston ‘still calls Australia home’ in Part 1 of the series.
Introduction to the Series by Connor Johnston
Doctor Who is magnificent. In every corner of the globe, in every side street and village, in every kindergarten and nursing home – where a daft old man reconnects with his childhood, or a little girl lives on her own, wherever there’s a sofa to hide behind, a show to download, a DVD collection sitting on a bookshelf… Wherever there’s a poster to pin up, a theme song to hum, a bow tie to trigger that quote… There is a Whovian, a person like you or me – that is touched by this greatness. A greatness that is so much more than a 45-minute television show at the end of the week, but a greatness that, in its 50 year run, has become hope to the boy in Norway who had lost his imagination, an indulgence to the teenager in America that escapes reality, and a memory of happiness to the Old Lady down the narrow road, who will dust off her toy Dalek from 1965 this November and still flinch, then chuckle to herself at the horror it used to cause her so many years ago. It has never been more obvious that Doctor Who is most definitely a global phenomenon, and in the build-up to the 50th Anniversary we’ve pulled together four Whovians from different corners of the globe to show how Doctor Who is received in their own home country. Part One is Doctor Who… in Australia.
TARDIS-DU!!! Time And Relative Dimensions in Space… Down Under!
Doctor Who in Australia is phenomenal! Down Under we Whovians are growing in numbers rapidly, and it’s exciting for the whole world to watch another country of Whovians materialise into the fandom. Since Doctor Who was first broadcast in Australia in 1965, there’s always been a fan presence for the show, to bring Doctor Who to new heights in popularity and recognition. Today, I invite you all for a good old fashioned Aussie BBQ as we explore what Doctor Who means to Australia, by investigating the Australian roots present in the history of Doctor Who, the celebrations planned for the 50th Anniversary and finally how Australians share an amazing passion with Whovians all over the world.
An Unearthly Aussie
In many understated ways Australians have had many links to the series from its origins. One extremely major link into the heart of the TARDIS lies directly behind the scenes of the first episode. The golden legacy of Doctor Who started on the 23rd of November 1963 when An Unearthly Child aired on the British television channel BBC1. This, the first ever Doctor Who story, was written by Australian-born writer Anthony Coburn. Aside from writing the first episode, it is also believed to have been Coburn’s idea for the TARDIS to externally resemble a police box, the thought apparently having come to him after taking a walk near his office and spotting such a box on the street. It was also his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be his granddaughter, as he was disturbed by the possible sexual connotations of an old man travelling with an unrelated teenager. WOW indeed! What an Unearthly Aussie!
Aside from Anthony, many other Australians have had major roles in the upbringing of Doctor Who. It wasn’t only An Unearthly Child that debuted on the 23rd of November, but also the famous music that would accompany every Doctor Who episode for the next 50 years – and beyond – the Doctor Who theme song, which in its most original version was written by Australian musician Ron Grainer. His music has gone on to inspire the likes of Who legends Courtney Pine and Murray Gold. Australia also is home to classic series companion Tegan Jovanka, played by Aussie actress Janet Fielding.
So, so far, what can we attribute to an Aussie??
- The script of the first televised episode
- The relationship between the Doctor and his very first companion
- The Police Box exterior of the TARDIS
- And the historic Doctor Who theme song!
Outside the production itself, the Australian Broadcasting Company (or the ABC for short), which is still the current primary channel for Doctor Who airing in Australia, was one of the first and longest term purchasers of the series from the BBC from its beginning, initially planning to screen the series in May 1964, within months of the UK premiere. The ABC later put up production money for an anniversary special The Five Doctors.
Although a Doctor Who story has never been filmed in Australia, there have been many references to the great land down under! From the Fourth Doctor meeting Aussie opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, to the Second Doctor briefly visiting before being captured on the shores of an Australian beach in The Enemy of the World, to even Amy Pond suggesting the Australian Outback as a possible place for the Silurians to live in Cold Blood – Australia is no stranger to being mentioned in Doctor Who scripts! Who knows… maybe an Australian adventure may be on the cards for Series 8!!! (See what I did there… “Who knows”) – Classic Australian humour.
Although we are no Great Britain when it comes to Doctor Who, Australia still knows how to celebrate the 50th Anniversary in style! How exactly are we bringing Who into the spotlight? Well….
Cinema Screenings: Australia has become the guinea pig testing farm for Doctor Who episode screenings on the big screen. On two separate occasions, they’ve had special events that have sold out in cinemas all over Australia with the first event showing The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon in one epic evening, and more recently Asylum of the Daleks and The Angels Take Manhattan being screened a few weeks later. On both these occasions Village Cinemas (the organisation that hold the events) have invited fans to dress up in Doctor Who inspired décor with prize hampers donated by the ABC for the winners.
Conventions: Australia in the last few months has played host to the biggest names in Doctor Who. Stars such as Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Alex Kingston, Eve Myles, Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey and many many more greeted our shores this year.
Shopping: The ABC have pulled out all the strings this year merchandise-wise, with massive product launch parties for midnight releases of DVDs, Pop-Up Doctor Who shops in major cities and holding many in-store competitions for the most eager of fans.
50th Anniversary events: BBC Worldwide are also teaming up with the ABC to hold 3 major headline events for the 50th Anniversary. A few months ago, many of Doctor Who TV’s regulars will have seen a video of the amazing ‘Vivid Light Display’ that echoed through the Sydney streets when it made it to the highly popular ‘Weird and Wonderful’ article. Currently, Australia has opened our own smaller version of England’s Doctor Who Experience with a 50th Anniversary museum featuring props and costumes lovingly loaned by the BBC – open to the public until early next year. Also returning to Australia in the early months of 2014 is the ‘Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular’ with both the Melbourne and Brisbane Orchestras teaming up with Murray Gold to present something truly special.
Doctor Who, although not the most popular show in Australia, is still well-known and becoming increasingly so. There’s Doctor Who everywhere you look; sometimes you may have to look hard, but ultimately it’s there. Through the various different gimmicks and publicity parades hitting the Australian public in the face this year (in a good way), theres no doubt that it is becoming more popular by the second. It’s a brilliant fact that Australia is finally being recognised as a Whovian country! Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor was broadcast here live – with us being one of only three countries in the world for this to happen, this is clearly shown. Australia loves Doctor Who with a passion, a passion that’s unique to us, and a passion that we share and connect through with the world. Yes, there are a few individuals formally credited, a few Aussie names here and there – but ultimately the show’s success can’t be limited or credited to any one country as much as it could to one person. The fans keep it strong. The global fanbase and its constant support keeps it alive. It’s a brilliant British TV show, and it’s also a worldwide phenomenon. I hope you continue to join us as we venture on, into the global legacy that is- Doctor Who.
Prominence rating: 8
Reputation rating: 8