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It’s Doctor Who’s birthday, a cause for anniversary celebration. But what’s so special about the 23rd day of the 11th month? And what else has happened on Doctor Who’s big day?
How the Radio Times tried to persuade viewers to tune in to Doctor Who’s very first episode on 23 November 1963.

In his flat in London, 20-year-old law student Colin Baker leaned over the bannister to catch a glimpse of the programme just starting on television. Before he knew it, he and his flatmates were riveted by the first episode of a new science-fiction adventure series on the BBC. The date was Saturday 23 November 1963. The programme was Doctor Who.

Colin and his friends were among the 4.4 million people who saw that broadcast of Doctor Who’s opening instalment, An Unearthly Child, making it the 114th mostwatched programme of that week. Those numbers were in fact a little disappointing to the BBC – but there were mitigating circumstances. Many potential viewers, it was supposed, had been distracted by the global news event of the previous day – the assassination of US President John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Some, of course, simply chose to watch rival channel ITV instead, which was screening another children’s sci-fi series: Emerald Soup, which had begun a fortnight earlier. And some regions of the UK had suffered a power cut, meaning they had no TV at all.

Even if you weren’t one of those original 4.4 million watching live as the debut episode aired, the 23rd of November still holds a special significance. In 1963, it fell on a Saturday (as it did 14 other times in the 20th century), which has remained the day of the week when new Doctor Who episodes have most often aired. An Unearthly Child was scheduled to begin at 5.15pm, but began about a minute late, due to continuing coverage of the Kennedy killing. It was nestled in the BBC schedule between sports showcase Grandstand (1958-2007) and puppet show The Telegoons (1963-64). Although Doctor Who had been created as a lead-in to Juke Box Jury (originally 1959-67), the pop music review programme didn’t follow it directly until after Christmas.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine 519 has an exclusive interview David Bradley, who will play the First Doctor in this year's Christmas Special, 'Twice Upon a Time'. The contents of DWM 519 also include: • An interview with Sir Derek Jacobi who is returning as the Master for a new series of audio adventures • Interviews with Jared Garfield and Lily Travers who will play the First Doctor's companions Ben and Polly in the 2017 Christmas Special • A previously unpublished interview from 1997 with Michael Craze who played the original Ben • Costume designer Hayley Nebauer tells us how she created the First Doctor's 2017 look • A tribute to Trevor Martin who played the Doctor in the 1974 Doctor Who stage play 'Seven Keys to Doomsday' • Trevor Martin's final interview • Peter Purves and Matthew Waterhouse talk about recreating stories from the Doctor Who annuals • We celebrate Doctor Who's 54th birthday by looking at what else has happen on 23rd November over the years • Part One of a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill, 'he Phantom Piper', by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty • The Time Team share their thoughts on 2011's 'The Almost People' • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2007 story 'The Lazarus Experiment' • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, 'The Blogs of Doom', prize-winning competitions and much, much more!