Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Doctor Who and the Dominical Letter

Today is the seventh and last date of the year on which six episodes of the first run of Doctor Who were broadcast in different years. The reason for this pile-up of dates is that Whoniversaries are not evenly distributed through the year or through the week. In an earlier post I noted that they are concentrated in the months of December to March (for Old Who) and April to June (for New Who) with the Sarah Jane Adventures and the first series of Torchwood giving a boost to October and November. That all should be clear enough.

The distribution of Who stories through the seven days of the week is a bit more technical, so bear with me. Every day of the year has a Dominical Letter, starting with 1 January as A and continuing through the weekly cycle (so 8 January is also A, etc). All the Saturdays of 2011 have the Dominical letter A. Next year, Saturdays in January and February will have the Dominical letter G, and from March on they will have the Dominical letter F because of the leap year. (In other words, the Dominical letter of the nth day of the year is the (n modulo 7)th letter of the alphabet, except after 1 March in a leap year when it is the ((n-1) modulo 7)th letter of the alphabet.)

The Dominical letters of the days on which regular episodes of Doctor Who have been broadcast are as follows (Saturdays except where otherwise noted):

late 1963: E
1964 (Jan-Feb): D
1964 (Mar-Dec): C
1965: B
1966: A
1967: G
1968 (Jan-Feb): F
1968 (Mar-Dec): E
1969: D
1970: C
1971: B
1972 (Jan-Feb): A
1972 (Mar-Dec): G
1973: F
1974: E
1975: D
1976 (Jan-Feb): C
1976 (Mar-Dec): B
1977: A
1978: G
1979: F
1980 (Jan): E
1980 (Aug-Dec): D
1981: C
1982: D and E (Mondays and Tuesdays)
1983: D and E (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
1984 (Jan-Feb): E and F (Thursdays and Fridays) except Resurrection of the Daleks (D, Wednesday)
1984 (March): D and E (Thursdays and Fridays)
1985: E
1986: D
1987: E (Mondays)
1988: F (Wednesdays)
1989: E (Wednesdays)

To which we can now add New Who (though not the specials, which make things more complex):
2005: A
2006: G
2007: F
2008: D
2010: B

(You can add the SJA and Torchwood if you like.)

So you can see that the rather even distribution of Dominical letters around the first eighteen years of Who then gets completely knocked out of kilter by the weekday scheduling of the 1980s.To group by letter, we have:

A: 1966, 1972 (Jan-Feb), 1977, 2005
B: 1965, 1971, 1976 (Mar-Dec), 2010
C: 1964 (Mar-Dec), 1970, 1976 (Jan-Feb), 1981
D: 1964 (Jan-Feb), 1969, 1975, 1980 (Aug-Dec), 1982, 1983, 1984 (RotD and March), 1986, 2008
E: 1963 (Nov-Dec), 1968 (Mar-Dec), 1974, 1980 (Jan), 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989
F: 1968 (Jan-Feb), 1973, 1979, 1984 (Jan-Feb), 1988, 2007
G: 1967, 1972 (Mar-Dec), 1978, 2006

As I noted in my previous post, today - 16 March - is one of seven dates in the year on which six Old Who episodes were broadcast. Along with 9 and 2 March, today's Dominical letter is E, or D after March in a leap year, which means we could expect to have Whoniversaries for 1963 (too early - didn't start till November), 1968 (yep), 1974 (yep), 1980 (no, in the gap between seasons), 1982 (yep), 1983 (yep), 1984 (yep), 1985 (yep), 1987 (no, season started in the autumn) and 1989 (likewise).

The other four dates with six Old Who anniversaries are in January and February. 5 and 12 January have the Dominical letter E (1974, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985), and 8 and 15 February have the Dominical letter D (1964, 1969, 1975, 1982, 1983, RotD in 1984).

This year's Doctor Who episodes, starting on 23 April, will be shown on the same dates as the episodes in two of the greatest seasons of Who ever - the fantastic original third season of 1966, and the first season of New Who in 2005. A lot to live up to.
Tags: doctor who, doctor who: reference

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