CHICAGO WAS MY HOME for the last few months of 1963. My father was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago during that period. While we were in Chicago, President John F Kennedy was assassinated. However, that was not the only momentous event that I recall from that time,
My best friend in London, whom I had known for about seven years, Nicholas Gilks who is no longer alive, sent me an airletter in which he wrote that he could not wait for me to come back to London, not because he was just missing me, but because he wanted me to watch the new, exciting television programme that had begun whilst I was away. The programme, which still runs today in 2022, was “Dr Who”. It was first broadcast on the 23rd of November, the day after Kennedy was shot.
Well, “Dr Who” was certainly a fine programme. I used to watch it at the Gilks’s home because we did not have television at our family home, and never ever did. To reach my friend’s home, I walked. On the way, I used an unlit pathway that runs between Hampstead Way and Temple Fortune Lane, where Nicholas lived. Frankly, the ominous Daleks that starred in the programmes every week terrified me so much so that I was afraid of walking home along that pathway in the dark. So, Dr Gilks, my friend’s father, used to accompany me to that dark passageway and waited till I reached the far end of it. For this, I was very grateful.
Today, a sunny Sunday morning, the 20th of November 2022 (almost 59 years after Kennedy’s death), we walked along the Hammersmith riverside and reached the Riverside Studios, where we stopped for a coffee in its superb new café. Standing next to the doorway and pointing its weapons at the tables in the café stands a real-life Dalek. Why is it there you might ask. The answer is that between 1964 and 1968, “Dr Who” was filmed in the Riverside Studios, which was then a BBC studio complex. Furthermore, and worryingly, it was from the water beneath the nearby Hammersmith Bridge that the Daleks commenced their attempt to invade the Earth.
Luckily, the sun was shining brightly and there were plenty of people out and about. So, there was little chance that my childhood fears about the robotic Daleks would be awakened.