At 5.16pm on the 23rd November 1963 the BBC premiered “An Unearthly Child” and UK television viewers were introduced to the incredible world of Doctor Who for the first time.
William Hartnell was the Doctor, a strange old man who could travel through time and space in his police box. Little did anyone know that this was just the first incarnation of a character who would go on to be so iconic for well over half a century, 59 years and counting.
Doctor Who first appeared on the BBC Television Service at 17:16:20 GMT on Saturday, 23 November 1963; this was eighty seconds later than the scheduled program time, because of announcements concerning the previous day’s assassination of John F. Kennedy.It was to be a regular weekly programme, each episode 25 minutes of transmission length. Discussions and plans for the programme had been in progress for a year. The head of drama Sydney Newman was mainly responsible for developing the programme, with the first format document for the series being written by Newman along with the head of the script department (later head of serials) Donald Wilson and staff writer C. E. Webber; in a 1971 interview Wilson claimed to have named the series, and when this claim was put to Newman he did not dispute it. Writer Anthony Coburn, story editor David Whitaker and initial producer Verity Lambert also heavily contributed to the development of the series.
The show was originally designed to be an educational adventure of sorts for families, learning about history and science depending on where they travelled.