On November 23, 1963, the BBC aired the first episode of its new science fiction series about a mysterious man and his time machine. (Why did it look like a British police box? Because its chameleon circuit jammed after it landed in 1960s England, of course.)
No one could have predicted that Doctor Who would go on to be the longest-running science fiction television show in history. The original pilot was deemed unwatchable, scrapped and reshot, delaying the premiere by a week.
By the time the retooled episode, An Unearthly Child, made it to air on November 23, 1963, it was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy, which had occurred the day before.
But Doctor Who eventually found an audience, especially after the introduction of the Daleks. More than half a century later, it is still popular with millions of loyal viewers. William Hartnell was the First Doctor to hop aboard the TARDIS, which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Peter Capaldi is the Twelfth Doctor.
From the start, it was established that a Gallifreyan Time Lord can only regenerate twelve times. Does this mean Capaldi must be the last? Some fans insist the rule was nullified during Matt Smith’s tenure. Others maintain that John Hurt’s character was the forgotten regeneration between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston, which means Capaldi is already the Thirteenth Doctor.
We celebrate TARDIS Day because Doctor Who continues to entertain us with its steadily expanding universe, at once strange and strangely familiar. It’s also created a legion of Whovians, fans who seek each other out, bond over their love of the show and debate about who is the best Doctor, the worst villain, or even how many Doctors Who there have been.
Find some great ways to celebrate TARDIS Day here. Find the Doctor Who episode that fell on your birthday on Tardis.com. Catch up on Doctor Who on Netflix. (Then learn about efforts to recover lost episodes discarded by the BBC.)
Happy TARDIS Day!