Wednesday, April 19, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who PBS (and Pluto)

"Support for this PBS station comes from Viewers like you."

- The Unofficial Start of Every Doctor Who episode in my youth.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man. Doctor Who fans today have it easy. We have DVDs, Blu-Rays, BBC America, BritBox, Pluto (more on that) and untold ways to watch our favorite episodes of Doctor Who.

In the 80s this was not the case. Back in the 1980s we had ONE choice to watch Doctor Who and that was our local PBS station. If your station didn't carry it, well you had to hope you had a friend who did have access and access to a VCR to record them. 

For me that was KETC PBS Channel 9 out of St. Louis, MO. 

I grew up on Channel 9. As a little kid I watched Sesame Street and the Electric Company. As I got older I watched Cosmos with Carl Sagan and 3-2-1 Contact.  I tried to watch Upstairs, Downstairs and Masterpiece Theater. I knew they were good, but I never caught them often enough to know what was going on. But I, Claudius, was amazing.  I was primed to accept that anything on this channel was quality.

KETC Channel 9 PBS

So when I was introduced to Doctor Who in the early 80s (1983) I was ready to accept it as the best thing ever on TV. It was A.) British and B.) on PBS. So of course it was great. Sadly it was not on till 10:30 pm on a Sunday night and I had school and a morning paper route to do on Monday morning. I got into a lot of trouble trying to watch it.

Doctor Who ad

Another issue for me? I only had an old Black & White TV, so my first experiences with Doctor (namely the Key to Time series) were all in Black & White!  I didn't get my first color TV until I, and this is no kidding, traded my 18 ft long Doctor Who scarf for one.

I think there is a sort of rite of passage with older Doctor Who fans. We all can readily identify which PBS stations we watched them on.  KETC always took the individual parts and showed them as one complete story.  Other stations showed 1 or 2 parts a night. This was the case for WTTW in Chicago. I did not get that station then, but now it is my local station.

The whole "Viewers Like you" thing hit me hard too. I felt like I was watching Doctor Who but not a real fan since I didn't help PBS out. So one year I finally asked my parents to send in support. I paid them back and got this sweet TARDIS key chain that I still have to this day.

TARDIS key chain

TARDIS key chain

Still pretty pleased to have that.

The TARDIS Data Core wiki has a great history on PBS and its association with Doctor Who.

Doctor Who on Pluto

Nowadays you can get Doctor Who nearly anywhere, but the closest experience to the old PBS stations is watching Doctor Who on PlutoTV.

Pluto TV
There are "Doctor Who" channels that play the Classic Doctor episodes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Doctor Who on Pluto

I have been catching them as I can and it has been fantastic.  If you are new Who fan it is worth checking out. Plus Pluto is 100% free! You can even watch it on any device.

Additionally, on Tubi, you can catch the old Doctor Who Dalek movies.

Something I never expected to happen back in the 1980s, sometime after 10:30 pm on a Sunday night when I was supposed to be asleep. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.


PT Dilloway said...

I didn't watch the local PBS much after I got too old Sesame Street and stuff but I'm sure they probably showed Dr. Who at some point. A Fun Fact is in college in the late 90s my school's server was called TARDIS though it was a while before I understood why.

Dick McGee said...

If it weren't for PBS it's entirely possible I'd never have even seen classic Doctor Who while it was still airing, and certainly not any Tom Baker (who is, of course, my Doctor). My area didn't get cable until the tail end of Sylvester McCoy's tenure.

doccarnby said...

10:30p on Sunday, oof. I was lucky apparently, I think for me it was 9:30p on Friday. I think Last of the Summer Wine was just before it for a good while.

Nancy Hill said...

I was introduced to Doctor. Who in college (mid - late 1970s) by a friend who loved science fiction. I cannot remember the Call Letters of the PBS station in West Lafayette at Purdue. Seems like it was on a weekend evening in a fell swoop. I adored Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee. When the first series ended I was broken-hearted, but the series had gone off the rails. I was so delighted when it returned and I could watch it with my daughter, who came to love it... Along with Queen and David Bowie.