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Film: Who's Who - From the Daleks to Michael Grade: a brief history of the classic series and its most fearsome enemies

On Saturday 23 November 1963, the night after the Kennedy assassination, Doctor Who materialised on BBC1, in the imperious form of William Hartnell, writes Matthew Sweet. The introduction of the Daleks - shrill, totalitarian creatures from the planet Skaro - assured the programme's long-term future. By Christmas 1965, the shops were as full of Dalek toys as they are today of Star Wars paraphernalia.

When illness forced Hartnell to leave the show in 1966, the canny concept of regeneration allowed the character to transmogrify into Patrick Troughton. The Cybermen (below) were promoted to the position of enemy-in-chief while Dalek creator Terry Nation attempted to launch a spin-off series in America. 1970 saw the series broadcast in colour, and marooned Jon Pertwee's flamboyant Doctor on Earth as a scientific adviser to the UN.

The show's popularity peaked during Tom Baker's tenure, when the series flirted with Gothic horror and incurred the wrath of Mary Whitehouse. The nastiness was toned down, K9 introduced, and the show became more overtly comic. After Baker's departure in 1981, Peter Davison played the Time Lord as a breezy, vulnerable figure.

Colin Baker made the role more boorish, and his stories saw the horror element return - a scene of rat-eating came in for particular criticism. BBC1 Controller Michael Grade took Doctor Who off the air for 18 months in 1985 and on its return, the 14-episode epic The Trial of a Time Lord reflected the programme's uncertain future.

Three more series, starring Sylvester McCoy, were produced, but audiences continued to shrink and the programme was eventually exterminated in December 1989.