Tuesday, March 25, 2014

UK Tour Preview: The Birthplace of Doctor Who

This is the BBC Television Centre. It first opened on Wood Lane in London all the way back in 1960. It was one of the very first buildings in the world built specifically to make television. And while the BBC stopped using it last year, it's been designated as a protected heritage site by the British government. The architecture is iconic, with a circular "doughnut" and a round courtyard — they say the frustrated architect went to a pub, drew a question mark on an envelope, and then realized the question mark was the perfect shape. What happened inside, however, is even more remarkable than the building itself. Many of the greatest shows in the history of television were shot right here: Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Top of the Pops, Monty Python's Flying Circus...

But for Torontonians, this building is particularly remarkable because it's where our own Sydney Newman first came up with the idea for Doctor Who. He spent most of the 1960s working right here as the Head of Drama for the BBC — famous for the radical new Canadian ideas he brought with him from his time at the NFB and the CBC. When the network was looking for a new show to fill a troublesome timeslot on Saturday afternoon, Newman suggested a science-fiction show about a time-travelling old man. Then, he put together a groundbreaking young team — including the BBC's first female producer and first Indian-born director — to make the show a reality. Within weeks of the airing of the first episode, the show was a hit. Fifty years later, it's still quite literally the most-loved drama on British television.

I told the full story of Newman's career and the birth of Doctor Who in a recent post; he'll soon be getting his own dream as part of the Toronto Dreams Project. I'm planning on leaving it at the BBC Television Centre as well as other Doctor Who-related sites in London and Wales (including the former location of Lime Grove, the studio where the first episode was shot). You can help me get there by contributing to the Indiegogo campaign in support of the Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour (or by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter).


Photo via the BBC.

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