Today, 23rd November 2023, marks 60 years since the first episode of Doctor Who was transmitted.
That first episode, An Unearthly Child, was broadcast at 5.16 pm on BBC Television where it was watched by 4.4 million viewers.
Radio Times - 23rd November 1963
DR. WHO? That is just the point. Nobody knows precisely who he is, this mysterious exile from another world and a distant future whose adventures begin today. But this much is known: he has a ship in which he can travel through space and time although, owing to a defect in its instruments he can never be sure where and when his ' landings ' may take place. And he has a granddaughter Susan, a strange amalgam of teenage normality and uncanny intelligence.
Playing the Doctor is the well-known film actor, William Hartnell, who has not appeared before on BBC-TV. Each adventure in the series will cover several weekly episodes, and the first is by the Australian author Anthony Coburn. It begins by telling how the Doctor finds himself visiting the Britain of today: Susan (played by Carole Ann Ford) has become a pupil at an ordinary British school, where her incredible breadth of knowledge has whetted the curiosity of two of her teachers. These are the history teacher Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and the science master Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and their curiosity leads them to become inextricably involved in the Doctor.'s strange travels.
Because of the imperfections in the ship's navigation aids, the four travellers are liable in subsequent stories to find themselves absolutely anywhere in time-past, present, or future. They may visit a distant galaxy where civilisation has been devastated by the blast of a neutron bomb or they may find themselves journeying to far Cathay in the caravan of Marco
Since that first episode was screened the series has become a global success, holding a number of Guinness World Records and becoming one of the BBC's best-known brands.
Overall 871 episodes of the series have been broadcast, not including spin-offs and special celebrity episodes. To watch every single episode back to back would take 17 days, 23 hours, and 54 minutes. Unfortunately, 97 episodes are currently missing from the BBC archive although the audio exists from all episodes.
13 people have taken on the lead role in the series, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker.
Today we pay tribute to the thousands of people who have worked on Doctor Who and made it the success it has become, as well as the millions of fans around the world who follow and support the adventures of the excentric Time Lord.
And we look forward to the future, with three special episodes and a brand-new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, taking us into Doctor Who's 7th decade.