This autumn fans of Dr Who can breathe a sigh of relief. The Doctor is back. Once they know that, they can start hyperventilating as they know each episode will be a rip roaring adventure leading up, so we are told, to someone's departure from the show. Trailed by Steven Moffat, everyone assumes this means that one of the characters will die.
We know from past series that even if someone does die they can feature again if The Doctor goes back in time or through some bizarre science turn out not to be dead at all.
The Time Lord first graced our screens in 1963 with William Hartnell in the title role. The productions values were nothing like what we have now. In fact, as the sixties rolled on and Star Trek became a sci-fi hit, the British public could compare the special effects to that American show. While the latter now looks old hat, at the time they were state of the art. The BBC just didn't have the budget to deliver that sort of technical pizazz.
What Dr Who did have was an eccentric hero, sharp dialogue and something for the whole family. Having The Doctor regenerate was a clever idea. This meant when an actor decided to leave the show a new one could take over. Despite that, the show hung up its spurs in 1989. There were rumours of a Spielberg movie with Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr Spock from the Star Trek series, playing the title role. Filming the show wasn't new. There had been two films made in the 1960s with Peter Cushing.
In 1996, there was a TV movie with Paul McGann set in America. It moved the myth on a little bit. The doctor did something he had never done before: he appeared to fall in love.
Russell T. Davies brought the franchise back to life. Each episode is now self-contained instead of the previous cliffhanger endings that would leave me on the edge of the sofa as a child, waiting for the following Saturday to find out what was going to happen. Instead the cliffhangers are more subtle. Each series has an overriding story that usually concludes as the series does. It is clear that Davies modelled the new show on American programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In many ways this was a smart move. These shows are successful. The problem is that if you watch with a critical eye you see the things that have been lifted and adapted for a British audience. The rather obvious self-regard of the storytelling can grate and the shows attempts to be 'of the moment' can misfire.
Steven Moffat, one of the writers, became the producer in 2009 and has taken the show back to its roots.
The latest carnation of The Doctor is Matt Smith. He manages to pull off something not all actors can. He has fun with the role while giving the character truth. The one irritation is a left over from the new scripts: he is a touch too enthusiastic about everything that happens to him.
There is no doubt that the show is entertaining. It is distinctly British while existing in the shadows of American television. That too, is rather British. If you like that sort of thing, it isn't a bad way to spend your Saturday night.
Just in case you haven't seen it, here is the trailer for the new series.