Today is Friday and this is normally where we do the insanity we call Broken News. And we will get to that.
As we come to the end of this day, I want to pause for a moment of remembrance as joy and sadness find themselves coupled together as they often do. Amidst all the excitement to the run up of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, it is important to remember the world that waited when those flickering images in black and white were sent forth over the air a half century ago. It was a world less than 20 years beyond the shadow of a world war, now in the grip of a cold war and the world itself seemed a colder place for it.
The world grew colder still when on November 22, 1963, a man who served to so many as an icon of a better and brighter future was slain. Whatever President John F Kennedy was at the time or what history has made of him since, he stood as a symbol of the ideals of a better America, indeed a better world. To have him taken from us so young and so brutally, the shattering of our confidence in the future and the better nature of humankind seemed so utterly complete on November 22, 1963.
This was not just an American tragedy but a tragedy writ large across the world. In the aftermath of World War II, America was the undisputed leader in democratic government and economic opportunity, of prosperity and freedom. The assassination of John F Kennedy struck hard at the core of the American dream that was the dream of many other people and nations. Was this the fate of hope, bleeding out and dying in a dark and dangerous world?
It was in this time of sadness and anger and uncertainty and fear that Doctor Who entered the world.
I may be a Doctor Who fan of the utmost enthusiasm but I make no claim that Doctor Who saved the world on November 23. I make no claim that Doctor Who even saved it’s corner of the United Kingdom where it’s citizens were just as rocked as America at the news of Kennedy’s death. But everyone at that time found some way, be it big or small, to find some relief from the tragedy and some glimmer of hope for tomorrow. Mark Evanier at the blog News From ME has written of this love of the epic comedy classic It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and how he saw that movie for the first time in a theater right after Kennedy died. Everyone reached for that which could sustain them in an dark uncertain time. To a certain extent, that first entry into the unknown world of Doctor Who reflected society’s collective anxiety over the unknown future that seemed darker and more frightful than before.
This was the ideal that Kennedy embodied. Although the man died 50 years ago, the dream cannot die, not as long as we hold on to it and sustain it with our work and our spirit.