Today marks the 50th anniversary of two things that changed the world.
On this date a half century ago events on two continents made the world seem both larger and smaller at the same time.
I am referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the premiere of the British television show Doctor Who.
Now, to be fair I was not alive 50 years ago on the day that changed everything; having arrived on the scene a little bit after that.
But, as a student of history and an avid Whovian I feel fairly confident in assessing the impact that both events had on the world in general.
And one does not need to have been alive on that fateful November day to feel the impacts of those two events.
So let us start with President Kennedy whose assassination on a Dallas street around four hours from where I am writing this changed the face of politics and gave breath to a whole industry of conspiracy theories as to what happened.
While I suppose one can argue for both the lone gunmen theory of a single shooter versus multiple shooters that does not really change the fact that a President of the United States was slain and with it a part of the innocence of the nation was slain with it.
President Kennedy was not the first president to be assassinated. In fact William McKinley, the 25th U.S. President, was killed in 1901. So it stands to reason that there were people alive in 1963 who were alive the last time a president was killed.
But for many younger Americans they had never witnessed the death of a president, let alone one as popular as JFK.
Individuals tried to assassinate both Presidents Ford and Reagan and I would like to believe that lessons learned from the Kennedy assassination helped protect both of those men from being killed.
While I was not alive to have the “where were you when you heard that JFK was dead? moment I do know where I was when Ronald Reagan was shot so I can relate to having a memory forever linked in time.
The shock of John F. Kennedy’s assassination as well as the events to follow helped shape the world I was born into one completely different from the world my parents were born into.
In the same way people born after the 2001 terrorist attacks entered a world that is a far different place than the way the world was when I first experienced it.
Every generation there are events that shape the world view for the generations to follow.
Shaping the world view throughout the course of time of course brings us to the second event that we are remembering today.
Doctor Who started as a humble television program and turned into a phenomenon that changed the face of science fiction television. One could argue that without Doctor Who there would not be Star Trek, or Star Wars.
Of course one could also argue that the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars would have existed even without the birth of Doctor Who which shows that much like people failing to agree on the details of the Kennedy assassination there can be multiple schools of thought on the impact of the good Doctor.
But what one cannot ignore is that Doctor Who helped shape countless programs that came after it.
Time travel is a central element of Doctor Who that helps people yearn for a way to go back and fix things that went wrong or prevent future missteps.
With his trusty “it’s bigger on the inside” TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) and companions Doctor Who goes from one end of time and space to the other stopping various events in human and alien history from occurring.
Whenever time travel is placed in the equation there are always those who come up with the what if we could have gone back and stopped so and so scenarios.
What if we could have stopped Hitler?
What if we could have stopped the Titanic from sinking?
The list goes on and one regarding events in history that many would change if they could.
Of course not all events regarding time travel are global in nature. There are the more personal goals as well such as going back in time and telling your earlier self to take a different job or not get a certain haircut, etc.
There are about as many theories about the ability to time travel as there are about who killed President Kennedy.
A few years back Steven King wrote a book about someone going back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. There was even an episode of the television show Quantum Leap that dealt with the topic. And yes even Doctor Who addressed the assassination.
With mankind fascinated by the ability to right what once went wrong Doctor Who comes with a built in following. Of course the strong writing and acting help keep the Whovians coming back year after year going on 50 years.
Through the tragedy of the death of an American President and the hope of a British television show that sought to show that all of time and space could be explored people were led to think, explore and find ways to make the world a better place.
Who’s to say what will happen in the next 50 years, or even if the world will still be around. But if there is still a world in 50 years I would make a pretty strong wager that it will be a world full of time travel even if that time travel is only done through the magic of the Doctor and his companion.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for a Doctor Who Marathon.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson