Doctor Who, the nation’s favourite TV science fiction series, enjoys a powerful connection with the North West.
Four actors from the region have played the Doctor since the programme’s launch in 1963 – and three more have appeared as his time-travelling companions.
Colin Baker, who grew up in Rochdale, was the Doctor from 1984 to 1986 and Salford’s Christopher Eccleston played the role for the programme’s 2005 relaunch.
Oldham’s own Bernard Cribbins appeared in both the TV and film versions of Doctor Who while Preston’s Peter Purves was 1960s companion Steven Taylor.
Liverpool actors Tom Baker and Paul McGann have both played the Doctor. Companion Sarah Sladen also came from Liverpool and Jenna Coleman was born in Blackpool.
The region can even claim the Doctor’s deadliest foe. John Simm, who grew up in various places in the North West including Manchester, recently appeared on TV as the Master.
The first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast in black and white on Saturday 23 November 1963 at 5.16pm. It was 80 seconds late as the news over-ran after the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous day.
Ron Grainer’s iconic music introduced William Hartnell as the first Doctor, a rogue time lord on the run in his spaceship the Tardis.
The Tardis could travel through space and time, so the Doctor could enjoy historical adventures as well as conquering foes from the present and future.
He always journeyed with friends and companions. These even included a mechanical dog, K-9, who earned his own spin-off series on children’s TV.
The Doctor could also regenerate – a handy way of introducing new lead actors in a series that has run for more than half a century!
So far there have been 12 doctors in the TV series. The 13th – and first female Doctor – will be Jodie Whittaker when the programme returns in autumn.
Actor Bernard Cribbins, born in Derker, Oldham, faced one of the Doctor’s most dangerous adversaries when he appeared as policeman Tom Campbell in the 1966 feature film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Cribbins unwittingly entered the Tardis, which was always disguised as a police ‘phone box, and was catapulted into an adventure with Peter Cushing as the Doctor.
The Oldham actor made a return to Doctor Who four decades later in 2008 as Wilfred Mott, a companion to TV’s tenth Doctor played by David Tennant.
Cribbin’s role as Mott gives him the unique distinction of being the only actor to have played two companions. He is also the only actor to have featured alongside the Daleks in both the TV and cinema versions of Doctor Who.
Colin Baker, whose family moved to Rochdale when he was three, was already well known on TV screens when he became the sixth Doctor in 1984.
Ten years earlier, he’d played the ruthless banker Paul Merroney in the popular Sunday evening BBC TV series The Brothers.
Baker’s time as the Doctor was interrupted by an 18-month gap from February 1985 after BBC1 controller Michael Grade described the series as being too violent.
The programme was back in September 1986 for the 14-episode adventure The Trial of a Time Lord, after which Baker left the series.
Accompanying Baker on his travels were Nicola Bryant as Perpugilliam ‘Peri’ Brown and singer and dancer Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush.
Doctor Who had been off TV screens for more nine years when Christopher Eccleston revived the role in March 2005. He was the first actor to play the part to be born after the series began – albeit by three months.
The revival was an enormous success with Eccleston being voted Most Popular Actor at the 2005 National Television Awards for his portrayal of the ninth Doctor. He left after one series to be replaced by David Tennant.
Peter Purves, best known for co-presenting the BBC TV children’s TV show Blue Peter from 1967 to 1978, played companion Steven Taylor at the time of the first Doctor.
Taylor was a space pilot from earth’s future. He first appeared in the serial The Chase where the Daleks pursued the Doctor to the planet Mechanus and clashed with the spherical native robots known as the Mechonoids.
He then stowed away on the Tardis to follow the Doctor through the dangerous adventure called The Daleks’ Master Plan.
*Many more unmissable pictures and memories of the past can be found in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Manchester in the 1970s – on sale at a reduced price for M.E.N. readers.
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