On 23rd November 1963, a television series broadcast its first episode – the story of two teachers, who, worried about one of their students, follow her home and, rather than losing their jobs due to stalking a sixteen year old girl, end up being whisked away through time and space by a grumpy old man.
Compare that first episode (it’s getting a repeat this Thursday if you’ve never seen it) with the most recent iteration of the show and so much has changed. But you would never doubt that it’s the same show – not just the fact that that old blue Police Box is still there, but the Doctor, despite wearing eleven different faces and sporting eleven different personalities, is still the same basic not-quite-human central character. And he’s as mesmeric as ever.
Um, hang on, why am I banging on about Doctor Who on a mystery review blog? Let me explain…
One of the reasons for the fact that the show is still going strong – let’s gloss over the hiatus from 1987 to 2005, excluding 1996 – is that the format is so fluid, it can embrace any sort of story, including the odd mystery as well. I’m not talking about which person who looks like Antony Ainley in make-up is the Master pretending to be, or why the Daleks have to shout Exterminate! ten times before they shoot anyone (maybe their guns have a sonically-charged power source?) but proper whodunit-style mysteries.
So I’m going to take the opportunity to spend this week on the blog as a thank you to my favourite television show. It is no small exaggeration that those Target novelisations of the old television stories – a time before video recorders, let’s remember – was my doorway into reading. So it seems entirely appropriate that this is where my own small 50th anniversary tribute will live.
So, brace yourself for some reviews, both televisual, audio and even a book or two (if the book I’m thinking of is as much a mystery as I recall), with Robots, both shiny and hairy, Unicorns, the first of the Time Lords and Jeremy Clarkson’s soulmate. And if anyone can suggest other attempts at a mystery (and I’ll freely admit one of those, often considered a mystery, is a utterly rubbish one), do let me know.