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Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK


Doctor Who returns

The BBC is celebrating the history of Dr Who

Cult TV timelord Dr Who is returning for the first time in more than three years with an entire evening of programmes being screened in his honour.

[ image: David Walliams and Mark Gatiss bring comedy to the night]
David Walliams and Mark Gatiss bring comedy to the night
On Saturday 13 November, BBC Two will devote more than two hours of its peak-time schedule to the Doctor, his adversaries, assistants, and much more.

The celebration will be presented by the fourth, and oldest living Doctor, Tom Baker.

Highlights of the evening include a Dr Who documentary, a look at the some of the best-loved monsters and a scientific examination of the reality behind the intergalactic fiction.

There will also be a special set of three, theme night comedy sketches, written by and starring Mark Gatiss, creator of the hit comedy series The League of Gentlemen.

Theme night producer Mike Wadding says he hopes Dr Who fans will find the evening a real treat.

[ image: EastEnders regular Louise Jameson played Leela]
EastEnders regular Louise Jameson played Leela
"Dr Who has such a huge following in the UK and throughout the rest of the world. One theme night simply isn't enough to cram in everything about the Doctor and his adventures - but we've lined up some real treats."

When the image of the police box set among the rubble of a junkyard first appeared on British TV in 1963, few people could have imagined the impact it would have on generations of children and adults.

Seven TV doctors later, the entire saga has spawned an army of fanatics worldwide.

The phenomenon of this enduring appeal is examined in the theme night's documentary programme The Doctors.

Many of the actors and actresses who played the timelord and his assistants have been specially interviewed, along with the series' writers, to give a rare insight into the world of Dr Who. There will also be plenty of archive footage for fans to revel in.

[ image: The Daleks: The original, and perhaps the best, monsters]
The Daleks: The original, and perhaps the best, monsters
Tom Baker, who also plays a key role in the documentary, says his time as the Doctor, from 1974 to 1981, will remain the highpoint of his career.

"To be a hero simultaneously in 68 countries was an extraordinary happy accident. The fan mail keeps roaring in and people on scaffolding put their thumbs up and say 'Hello there Doctor' - it's still very nice," he says.

It's long been argued that one of the Doctor's first encounters with an alien race, in the shape of the Daleks, helped secure the public's interest.

The theme night's second programme looks at the start of the Daleks, how they were operated and have been mimicked ever since.

[ image: The Cybermen: Another favourite adversary]
The Cybermen: Another favourite adversary
The antics of the Sea Devils, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Sontarans, and others, will also be relived.

And while the methods used by the Doctor to set his enemies packing will be applauded Tom Baker says he was always a reluctant warrior.

"I always tried to play it so that finally the aliens defeated themselves. I never took any great pleasure in defeating anyone. There was a kind of thoughtful dimension to it," he muses.

"The glorious inevitability of my victory made children feel safe. They liked the thrill of being afraid while knowing that they were at no risk."

Great Who conundrums are given a light-hearted review in programme three, Who are you Kidding?

[ image: Mary Tamm played Romana from 1978-79]
Mary Tamm played Romana from 1978-79
It looks at complex issues such as the feasibilty of time travel, why the Tardis was bigger inside than out and the concept of artificial intelligence, or robots.

And carrying the humour through to the end of the night, Mark Gatiss and friends will present their own merciless take on Dr Who and his die-hard fans in a series of comedy shorts.

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