Best of the Day: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

Today marks Doctor Who's fifth decade. Celebrate with a two-hour special, a huge movie event and the fellowship of Whovians.

click to enlarge WHOVIAN TRUE LOVE:  This was my wife, Caitlin, and my wedding cake in 2010. So excited for tomorrow! You never forget your first doctor. —Timothy Heberlein - Timothy Heberlein
Timothy Heberlein
WHOVIAN TRUE LOVE: This was my wife, Caitlin, and my wedding cake in 2010. So excited for tomorrow! You never forget your first doctor. —Timothy Heberlein

click to enlarge KNITTED MEMORIES: "My favorite Doctor has always been # 4! Tom Baker was who I started with and I will always have a special place in my heart for him. I even have my very own scarf!!! Happy 50th Doctor!!" — Local actor and performer Matthew McGee' - Matthew McGee
Matthew McGee
KNITTED MEMORIES: "My favorite Doctor has always been # 4! Tom Baker was who I started with and I will always have a special place in my heart for him. I even have my very own scarf!!! Happy 50th Doctor!!" — Local actor and performer Matthew McGee'
  • Matthew McGee
  • KNITTED MEMORIES: "My favorite Doctor has always been # 4! Tom Baker was who I started with and I will always have a special place in my heart for him. I even have my very own scarf!!! Happy 50th Doctor!!" — Local actor and performer Matthew McGee

On the heels of JFK’s anniversary, a new legacy was born: The first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child. Though overshadowed at first by tragedy, the show became the world’s longest-running sci-fi series in history.

That first episode, like all shows thereafter, began with that eerie, supercool synthesizer intro we all know and love — a harbinger of a new style of space-age electro-pop that inspired a slew of other tunes — like The Time Lords’ “Doctorin’ the Tardis by the Time Lords, aka Time Boy and Lord Rock, aliases of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The KLF. (The 1988 song is pretty much a mash-up of the Doctor Who theme music with Gary Glitter's "]" plus "Blockbuster!" by Sweet and "Let's Get Together Tonite" by Steve Walsh. )

“An Unearthly Child” begins in a London junkyard and introduces the first year’s four principal characters — the Doctor (played by William Hartnell), schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright and precocious teenager Susan Foreman. In the show, the teachers encounter a police box, the Tardis, from within which they hear Susan's voice.

Since that show, Doctor Who has amassed an estimated 77 million fans in just the UK, USA and Australia alone. It has sold more than 500,000 tickets to Doctor Who events since 2010, including The Doctor Who Experience interactive walk-through and exhibition, a Doctor Who Live arena tour and The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Eight million action figures have been sold since the show returned in 2005, plus more than 1 million sonic screwdrivers and 10 million DVDs. (source: BBC Worldwide)

Fans are celebrating all over the world, and BBC America is indulging Whovians stateside in their Tardis voyage with the international simulcast — history’s biggest simulcast ever — of the two-hour special episode, “Day of the Doctor,” starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as different incarnations of the Doctor. The episode premieres this afternoon preceded by a 50th Anniversary Pre-show at 2:30 p.m.

Click here for more about BBC America’s Doctor Who schedule.

The two-hour special episode stars Jenna Coleman as companion Clara, and Billie Piper returns as Rose. Of course, the Daleks make an appearance, and it also brings back the shape-shifting aliens the Zygons, who first appeared in 1975. The plot involves a mystery at London's National Gallery in the present day and a murder in Elizabethan England in 1562 Jemma Redgrave guest stars as Kate Stewart and Joanna Page plays Elizabeth I.

If you miss it today, BBC America and NCM Fathom Events are teaming to bring a 3D film presentation of Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor on Monday, Nov. 25, at 7:30 p.m. In Tampa Bay it will be shown at AMC Regency 20 with IMAX,2496 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; Regal Park Place Stadium 16 with RPX, 7200 U.S. 19 N., Pinellas Park; Regal Hollywood Stadium 20-Sarasota, 1993 Main St., Sarasota; AMC Veterans 24 with IMAX, 9302 Anderson Road, Tampa, and Regal Citrus Stadium Park Mall 20, 7999 Citrus Park Town Center Mall, Tampa. Tickets are available now at participating theater box offices and online at Click here for more info.

In Tampa, there'll be a pre-movie cosplay gathering at Green Iguana Bar & Grill next to the theater. Click here for the Facebook event page.

Monday’s event will no doubt have fans dressed up in costume and other hoopla around the screening. If you go, take photos and send them to [email protected]

Tampa Bay Whovians have offer up their salutes via Facebook. Here’s what they had to say:

click to enlarge WHOVIAN TRUE LOVE: "This was my wife, Caitlin, and my wedding cake in 2010. So excited for tomorrow! You never forget your first doctor." —Timothy Heberlein - Timothy Heberlein
Timothy Heberlein
WHOVIAN TRUE LOVE: "This was my wife, Caitlin, and my wedding cake in 2010. So excited for tomorrow! You never forget your first doctor." —Timothy Heberlein
  • Timothy Heberlein
  • WHOVIAN TRUE LOVE: "This was my wife, Caitlin, and my wedding cake in 2010. So excited for tomorrow! You never forget your first doctor." —Timothy Heberlein

Santiago Echeverry: I remember being really surprised at the fact the Doctor had two hearts! The translation in Spanish was great and funny, he had a Mexican accent.

Michelle Gilmore Day Just finished knitting my husband's Doctor scarf last night.

Andrea DiChiara: I still remember watching Peter Davidson as the 5th Dr. On PBS on Saturday night when I was in middle school! Was quite thrilled to be able to pass my excitement of the show on to my son Aaron Benton who now watches with me!

Donna Stanley Dieter: I married a Whovian and got myself hooked on the classic series, especially after we met Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred at USF in 1996. Eventually, we had several cats with Whovian names: Ace, Davison, Pertwee (my favorite Doctor) and Colleen (formerly Colin). Thanks, BBC, for bringing this series back better than it ever was.

Michael K. Stallings: sci fiction meets Reality: E8 fractiles, the arrow of time flows both ways. BACK TO THE TARDIS

Marianne Epach: Donovan Been a Whovian for years. Tom Baker was my first Doctor, and am completely in love with Ten! My boyfriend in high school's license plate on his Olds 88 was "TARDIS". Seriously love Doctor Who.

Kevin Hopp: I'd love to talk about the sonic screwdriver I have, but I cant think of a way to type it without it sounding perverted. But I still can't wait for Saturday.

Kim Marie Westerfield: We have a dalek in our house!!

Brittany Schoen: Happy Birthday to the show I fell in love with in England and bought home with me to America!

Kristin Fox-Barlick: Today is our wedding anniversary and we are quite happy to share it with the doctor!

Kieran Walsh: I remember the first episode I watched as a kid, " The Brain of Morbiuis" Tom Baker really is a great Dr. but the new generation of Whovians are missing out if they haven't see the campy original series. Each Doctor offers something different and unique.

Ann-Eliza Musoke: I discovered Dr. Who when I was home sick watching PBS as a kid. I thought I was having a fever dream. The show sparked a lifelong love of sci-fi and I am forever grateful.

To catch up for the big episode today, check out Daily Beast’s cool primer.

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