|Fun Fact #1 – Burt Ward, while playing Robin, frequently|
had to be given emasculating injections to keep
his tights from being overly revealing.
Occasionally cultural history throws up a juxtaposition that is so brain-breakingly weird that it perfectly encapsulates an entire moment of history. For instance, nothing has ever clarified the nature and tone of Japanese narrative structures for me quite like knowing that My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies were originally released as a double feature. (Though I have yet to find a definitive statement on which film came first, which seems to me to be just about the most crucial fact in human history.)
I mention this because if you want to understand 1966 in Great Britain, it is possible that no fact is more immediately relevant than the fact that on Saturdays in 1966, at around 5:15 PM, the latter episodes of Season 3 of Doctor Who were airing opposite imports of Batman, the 1966 television series starring Adam West. If this fact does not sufficiently unsettle you, I highly recommend firing up, say, The Celestial Toymaker Part 4 or a random bit of The Ark and watching it back to back with a Season 1 episode of Batman.
What is most unsettling about this is the fact that with only three channels in existence at the time, that meant that ITV viewed Batman as the natural competitor to Doctor Who in that media environment. Because other than being adventure stories (and thus, it is worth remarking, “for boys” in a way that it never was before the dual roles of Barbara and the young female companion were collapsed into one female companion role, thus changing the show from being about a bunch of people in terrifying circumstances to being about a bunch of boys and their girl sidekick in terrifying adventures) there’s not a lot of obvious similarities.
Up to this point, one of the major characteristics of Doctor Who has been the essential joke of the TARDIS crew being completely the wrong people for this sort of story. In its original form, this is clearest – two schoolteachers, a teenager, and an old Victorian inventor walk into an alien planet. Even when the companions were Vicki and Steven – two capable future types who have something resembling a valid reason to be traipsing about Galaxy Four – there was still the Doctor, who was by and large the antithesis of a correct action hero. The whole concept still hinged on the incongruity of the old Victorian inventor and these harshly modern (and increasingly postmodern) settings.
So where we’ve left the TARDIS crew off, that’s still basically where we are. There’s nothing too unusual about Ben and Polly as action heroes – unlike Ian (essentially a middle aged ex-soldier) and Barbara (the charmingly mumsy type), attractive young people are never out of place having exciting adventures.…