2014 minus 40: Hold it, it’s the fiftieth anniversary of WHAT?

Posted: 22 November 2013 in fiction, media
Tags: , ,

I don’t know when I first became aware of the coincidence of my existence and both the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the start of Doctor Who.

It was probably about the same time that I, like so many children born in the 20th Century, worked out what age I’d be at the turn of the next Century. I was wrong on that one, of course, because in that case, I’d calculated very carefully how old I’d be on 1st January 2000. Now that was very interesting but it told me no more than how old I’d be on any particular date. I should have picked 1st January 2001, which was, as everyone knows, the actual start of the twenty-first Century.

I mean, that didn’t stop me celebrating the end of 1999 and the start of 2000 with everyone else, fireworks and cheers and the rest. In my case, that was with Laura and Philip (the latter then four years old) crammed in with 50,000 others at DisneyWorld in California. Later, years later, I discovered that someone who’d become a friend in the years to come was also there, surrounded by people, shoving, pushing, trying to get a better viewpoint, and eventually hoping it would all be over and we could return to our hotels.

But yes, my later-friend was there. At the same point and time as me, the only time before we actually met as friends in London. What are the odds? Coincidences and the unexpected links between people never cease to fascinate me.

But yes, the twenty-first Century. Of course it started on 1st January 2001; how could anyone argue against that? Well, turns out a lot of people do. I mean, sure, you can make an arguable case for it, but it’s an argument you’d lose. Badly. A date is a date, a calculation is a calculation.

Take my date of birth. 17th August 1964. Walk back nine months and you get 17th November 1963. Close, eh? Not really, no. Not that close but when you learn that my actual expected date of delivery was the best part of a week later… on 22nd August 1964… then you can see that the date of conception was reckoned to be around 22nd or 23rd November 1963, just about fifty years ago today.

Now anyone reading this blog is likely to be aware of two events that happened exactly fifty years ago, the two events I mentioned in the opening sentence to this piece. At some time, in my early boyhood, I realised that my conception coincided with one event that even then people knew would be commemorated half a century hence. And one event that even those involved in its creation wouldn’t have believed for a single moment would be the subject of celebrations in 2013.

And yet Doctor Who survived, somehow. And Kennedy’s assassination still lays like a scar on the skin of American politics. I have the luxury of not having been subjected to the never-ending obligation to have an opinion on his murder. In fact, thinking about it, about the only thing that everyone agrees about in the matter is that he was murdered. Who did it? Who planned it? Who executed it, and him? Who knew?

Heh, well with apologies to David Bishop, and his very enjoyable Who Killed Kennedy (note the lack of question mark in the title), I don’t actually think anyone from Gallifrey was involved.

But Who knows?

So, the two events have always been linked in my mind, as presumably it was in David Bishop’s and Who knows how many others?

But yeah, fifty years, well over 18,000 days since both took place.

Just over seven thousand of those days ago, I was writing for a Radio 4 programme named Weekending. (I see that it now tends to be styled “Week Ending…” and it’s true, the show tended to be referred to as taking the piss out of the “Week Ending 22nd November 2013”, say, but I never knew anyone at the time who separated the words when typing them.)

So we get to the week ending 26th November 1993, and I (together with a co-writer named Kim Morrisey) wrote a sketch. Well, I guess I wrote several sketches for that week’s news. After all, there was a lot happening that week.

Among other things, there was… erm… and then there was… well, look it was twenty years ago, ok? Can you reember what you were doing twenty years ago this week? Exactly – whatever else was going on, whatever else I wrote sketches about, it wasn’t as memorable as writing this sketch.

Who Killed…?


Thirty years ago this week an event happened that changed the world. Tonight, we on WEEKENDING pay tribute to a man. A very special man. A man with millions of admirers around the world. A model for a whole generation. There are few who moved so many so strongly so long. We asked a few people how that event thirty years ago affected them:

3. MAN 1:
Well, I couldn’t watch. I mean, it was just too terrifying.

4. WOMAN 1:
I couldn’t watch. I hid behind the sofa.

5. MAN 2:
We all watched. It was unreal.

This man, whose career was so cruelly cut short by powers beyond his control. Some say assassination … some say conspiracy … All agree he was a man out of his time. Thirty years on, the question on everybody’s lips is still, and will always be: “Where were you?” “Where were you thirty years ago … in November 1963 … when you first … heard … this ….


As Mitch Benn pointed out to me, when I showed him this the other night, you couldn’t get away with the sketch now – too many people have associated the two dates in history. I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case, but I suspect he’s more right than I am.

Anyway, it’s less than twenty-four hours until the 50th Anniversary of my conception the start of Doctor Who, so I’ll leave you with one piece of advice, one more linking rule for life:

Ask not what your Doctor can do for you; ask what you can do for your Doctor.

  1. :-D

    There was a reason why that Photoshopped image of Nine watching that parade in Dallas showed up in that first episode of the revived series. It may well have been RTD’s reaction to the coincidence, and that alone.

    Does Davies’ memoir of that period speak to the question?

    • I don’t recall it doing so, but no, I think it was just coincidence – Titanic and JFK’s assassination being two major events of the past century, at which it was easy to insert 9 into photographs.

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