Doctor Who Blog

50 Glorious Years: Episode 4 - 1966

If there is a year which defines the variety and change that has become synonymous with Doctor Who, it has to be 1966. Although the series popularity in the UK took a dip for the first time this year (the turning point being the ratings nosedive that occurred during The Massacre), 1966 was the year which proved that Doctor Who could be a long-term success, by surviving this ratings dip as well as the removal of its original star and lead actor. If we want to talk about change let’s consider that 1966 began with the regular cast comprising William Hartnell, Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (who had only joined in the last few weeks of 1965). By the end of the year, the show starred Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, and though none of the audience probably knew about it at the time, Frazer Hines (who was guest-starring in The Highlanders as 1966 ended, but would not (surprisingly) jump into the TARDIS until the end of episode 4 of the story, an episode not broadcast until the first week of 1967). Given that this level of change in the cast was unprecedented for Doctor Who (if not television in general), that the series continued on without a hiccup in 1967 is a testament to its quality and durability - it is no wonder we are still here 46 years later.

Speaking of The Highlanders, that would prove to be the final story for Doctor Who’s original format of alternating between “science fiction stories & historical stories” - from now on it would just be science-fiction stories as the “historicals” were phased out. 1966 saw the first “invasion of present day earth” type story with The War Machines (albeit, not an alien invasion, but rather a homegrown computer trying to invent the internet ahead of time). It also saw the series influenced, as always, by changes that were happening in the real world - as the sixties counterculture became widespread this year, you can see it influencing Doctor Who. It didn’t matter if the companions were from the present day or the far future, they started to reflect 1960’s fashion in their choice of clothes. With the introduction of Anneke Wills as Polly, we had a fully-fledged member of the counterculture in the TARDIS - complete with mini-skirt - marking the first time that the producers of Doctor Who deliberately injected a bit of sex appeal into the show (something that is taken for granted nowadays). And in addition to introduction the concept of regeneration (or “renewal” as it was then called) 1966 was the year that Doctor Who introduced the Cybermen. In retrospect, 1966 was truly a momentous year, one from which Doctor Who’s mega-long-term success stemmed from.

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