Doctor Who

Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor who 2011 title.png
Series 6 Doctor Who main title card
Genre Science fiction drama
Created by
Starring (Currently)
Matt Smith
Theme music composer
Opening theme Doctor Who theme music
Composer(s) Various composers
(currently Murray Gold)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of seasons 26 (1963–89) plus one TV film (1996)
No. of series 6 (2005–present)
No. of episodes 783 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Various
(currently Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis)
Camera setup Single/Multi-Camera hybrid
Running time
  • 25 minutes (1963–84, 1986–89)
  • 45 minutes (1985, 2005–present)
  • Various other lengths
Original channel
  • BBC One (1963–present)
  • BBC One HD (2010–present)
  • BBC HD (2009–2010)
Picture format
  • 405-line black & white (1963–67)
  • 576i black & white (1968–69)
  • 576i colour (1970–96)
  • 576i 16:9 (2005–08)
  • 1080i (2009–present)
Audio format Monaural (1963–87)
Stereo (1983; 1988–89; 2005–2008)
5.1 Surround Sound (2009–present)
Original run Classic series:
23 November 1963 (1963-11-23)
6 December 1989
Television film:
12 May 1996
Revived series:
26 March 2005–present
Related shows
External links
Doctor Who at the BBC

Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior appears as a blue police box. Along with a succession of companions, he faces a variety of foes while working to save civilisations, help people, and right wrongs.

The programme is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world,[1] and as the "most successful" science fiction series of all time, in terms of its overall broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, iTunes traffic, and "illegal downloads".[2] It has been recognised for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects during its original run, and pioneering use of electronic music (originally produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). The show is a significant part of British popular culture[3][4] in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere it has become a cult television favourite. The show has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. It has received recognition from critics and the public as one of the finest British television programmes, including the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006, and five consecutive wins at the National Television Awards from 2005 to 2010, in the Drama category while under Russell T Davies' reign as executive producer.[5][6] In 2011 Matt Smith became the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for portraying the Doctor, but lost to Daniel Rigby.

The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. After an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production with a backdoor pilot in the form of a 1996 television film, the programme was relaunched in 2005, produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff. The first series was produced by the BBC; series two and three had some development money contributed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which was credited as a co-producer.[7] Doctor Who also spawned spin-offs in multiple media, including Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9, and a single pilot episode of K-9 and Company in 1981.

The Doctor has been principally played by eleven actors. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show as regeneration, whereby the character of the Doctor takes on a new body and, to some extent, new personality. Although each portrayal is different, and on occasion the various incarnations have even met one another, they are all meant to be aspects of the same character. The Doctor is currently portrayed by Matt Smith, who took up the role after David Tennant's final appearance in an episode broadcast on 1 January 2010.[8]

A fifth series of the relaunched programme began on 3 April 2010,[9][10][11] in which the Eleventh Doctor was accompanied by Amy Pond, portrayed by Karen Gillan,[12] who was joined later in the series by fiancé (later husband) Rory Williams, played by Arthur Darvill. A sixth series began on 23 April 2011, with Darvill now appearing as a regular companion. The series was the first since the revival to incorporate a mid-series break, with the final six episodes airing from 27 August.



Doctor Who first appeared on BBC television at 17:16:20 GMT on 23 November 1963,[13][14] following discussions and plans that had been in progress for a year. The Head of Drama, Canadian Sydney Newman, was mainly responsible for developing the programme, with the first format document for the series being written by Newman along with the Head of the Script Department (later Head of Serials) Donald Wilson and staff writer C. E. Webber. Writer Anthony Coburn, story editor David Whitaker and initial producer Verity Lambert also heavily contributed to the development of the series.[15] The series' title theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.[16] The programme was originally intended to appeal to a family audience.[17] The BBC drama department's Serials division produced the programme for 26 seasons, broadcast on BBC One. Falling viewing numbers, a decline in the public perception of the show and a less prominent transmission slot saw production suspended in 1989 by Jonathan Powell, Controller of BBC One.[18] Although (as series co-star Sophie Aldred reported in the documentary Doctor Who: More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS) it was effectively, if not formally, cancelled with the decision not to commission a planned 27th series of the show for transmission in 1990, the BBC repeatedly affirmed that the series would return.[19]

While in-house production had ceased, the BBC hoped to find an independent production company to relaunch the show. Philip Segal, a British expatriate who worked for Columbia Pictures' television arm in the United States, had approached the BBC about such a venture as early as July 1989, while the 26th series was still in production.[19] Segal's negotiations eventually led to a Doctor Who television film, broadcast on the Fox Network in 1996 as a co-production between Fox, Universal Pictures, the BBC and BBC Worldwide. Although the film was successful in the UK (with 9.1 million viewers), it was less so in the United States and did not lead to a series.

Licensed media such as novels and audio plays provided new stories, but as a television programme Doctor Who remained dormant until 2003. In September of that year,[citation needed] BBC Television announced the in-house production of a new series after several years of attempts by BBC Worldwide to find backing for a feature film version. The executive producers of the new incarnation of the series were writer Russell T Davies and BBC Cymru Wales Head of Drama Julie Gardner. It has been sold to many other countries worldwide (see Viewership).

Doctor Who finally returned with the episode "Rose" on BBC One on 26 March 2005. There have since been four further series in 2006–8 and 2010, and Christmas Day specials every year since 2005. No full series was filmed in 2009 although four additional specials starring David Tennant were made. A fifth full-length series began in spring 2010,[20] with Steven Moffat, replacing Davies as head writer and executive producer.[21]

The 2005 version of Doctor Who is a direct continuation of the 1963–1989 series,[22] as is the 1996 telefilm. This differs from other series relaunches that have either been reimaginings or reboots (for example, Battlestar Galactica and Bionic Woman) or series taking place in the same universe as the original but in a different time period and with different characters (for example, Star Trek: The Next Generation and spin-offs).[23]

Public consciousness

The first episode was overshadowed by the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy the previous day. Therefore, the BBC re-aired it prior to the second episode the following Saturday.

The programme soon became a national institution in the United Kingdom, with a large following among the general viewing audience.[24][25] Many renowned actors asked for or were offered and accepted guest starring roles in various stories.

With popularity came controversy over the show's suitability for children. Morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse repeatedly complained to the BBC in the 1970s over what she saw as the show's frightening or gory content;[26] however, the programme became even more popular—especially with children. John Nathan-Turner, who produced the series during the 1980s, was heard to say that he looked forward to Whitehouse's comments, as the show's ratings would increase soon after she had made them.[27]

During Jon Pertwee's second season as the Doctor, in the serial Terror of the Autons (1971), images of murderous plastic dolls, daffodils killing unsuspecting victims and blank-featured policemen marked the apex of the show's ability to frighten children. Other notable moments in that decade included the Doctor apparently being drowned by Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin (1976) and the allegedly[citation needed] negative portrayal of Chinese people in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977).

The Mark II[citation needed] fibreglass TARDIS used between 1980 and 1989.

A BBC audience research survey conducted in 1972 found that by their own definition of "any act(s) which may cause physical and/or psychological injury, hurt or death to persons, animals or property, whether intentional or accidental," Doctor Who was the most violent of all the drama programmes the corporation then produced.[28] The same report found that 3% of the surveyed audience regarded the show as "very unsuitable" for family viewing.[29] However, responding to the findings of the survey in The Times newspaper, journalist Philip Howard maintained that: "to compare the violence of Dr Who, sired by a horse-laugh out of a nightmare, with the more realistic violence of other television series, where actors who look like human beings bleed paint that looks like blood, is like comparing Monopoly with the property market in London: both are fantasies, but one is meant to be taken seriously."[28]

The image of the TARDIS has become firmly linked to the show in the public's consciousness. In 1996, the BBC applied for a trademark to use the TARDIS' blue police box design in merchandising associated with Doctor Who.[30] In 1998, the Metropolitan Police Authority filed an objection to the trademark claim; but in 2002, the Patent Office ruled in favour of the BBC.[31]

The programme's broad appeal attracts audiences of children and families as well as science fiction fans.[32]

The 21st century revival of the programme has become the centrepiece of BBC One's Saturday schedule, and has "defined the channel."[33] Since its return, Doctor Who has consistently received high ratings, both in number of viewers and as measured by the Appreciation Index.[34] In 2007, Caitlin Moran, television reviewer for The Times, wrote that Doctor Who is "quintessential to being British."[4] Director Steven Spielberg has commented that "the world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who."[35]


Doctor Who originally ran for 26 series on BBC One, from 23 November 1963 until 6 December 1989. During the original run, each weekly episode formed part of a story (or "serial") — usually of four to six parts in earlier years and three to four in later years. Notable exceptions were the epic The Daleks' Master Plan, which aired in 12 episodes (plus an earlier one-episode teaser, "Mission to the Unknown", featuring none of the regular cast),[36] almost an entire series of 7-episode serials (series 7), the 10-episode serial The War Games,[37] and The Trial of a Time Lord, which ran for 14 episodes (albeit divided into three production codes and four narrative segments) during Series 23.[38] Occasionally serials were loosely connected by a storyline, such as Series 8 being devoted to the Doctor battling a rogue Time Lord called The Master, Series 16's quest for The Key to Time, Series 18's journey through E-Space and the theme of entropy, and Series 20's Black Guardian Trilogy.

The programme was intended to be educational and for family viewing on the early Saturday evening schedule.[citation needed] Initially, it alternated stories set in the past, which taught younger audience members about history, with stories set either in the future or in outer space to teach them about science.[citation needed] This was also reflected in the Doctor's original companions, one of whom was a science teacher and another a history teacher.

However, science fiction stories came to dominate the programme and the "historicals", which were not popular with the production team,[citation needed] were dropped after The Highlanders (1967). While the show continued to use historical settings, they were generally used as a backdrop for science fiction tales, with one exception: Black Orchid set in 1920s England.[39]

The early stories were serial-like in nature, with the narrative of one story flowing into the next, and each episode having its own title, although produced as distinct stories with their own production codes. Following The Gunfighters (1966), however, each serial was given its own title, with the individual parts simply being assigned episode numbers. What to name these earlier stories is often a subject of fan debate.

Of the programme's many writers, Robert Holmes was the most prolific, while Douglas Adams became probably the most well-known outside Doctor Who itself, due to the popularity of his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The serial format changed for the 2005 revival, with each series usually consisting of 13 45-minute, self-contained episodes (60 minutes with adverts, on overseas commercial channels), and an extended episode broadcast on Christmas Day. Each series includes several standalone and multi-part stories, linked with a loose story arc that resolves in the series finale. As in the early "classic" era, each episode, whether standalone or part of a larger story, has its own title. Occasionally, regular-season episodes will exceed the 45-minute run time; examples have included the episodes "Journey's End" from 2008 and "The Eleventh Hour" from 2010, both of which exceeded an hour in length.

778 Doctor Who instalments have been televised since 1963, ranging between 25-minute episodes (the most common format), 45-minute episodes (for Resurrection of the Daleks in the 1984 series, a single season in 1985, and the revival), two feature-length productions (1983's "The Five Doctors" and the 1996 television film), five 60-minute Christmas specials, and four specials ranging from 60 to 75 minutes in 2007 and 2009. Two mini-episodes, running about eight minutes each, were also produced for the 2005 and 2007 Children in Need charity appeals, while another mini episode was produced in 2008 for a Doctor Who-themed edition of The Proms. A two-part mini-episode was also produced for the 2011 edition of Comic Relief.

The revived series was filmed in PAL 576i DigiBeta wide-screen format and then filmised to give a 25p image in post-production using a Snell & Wilcox Alchemist Platinum.[citation needed] Starting from the 2009 special "Planet of the Dead", the series is filmed in 1080i for HDTV,[40] and broadcast simultaneously on BBC One and BBC HD.

Missing episodes

Between about 1964 and 1973, large amounts of older material stored in the BBC's various video tape and film libraries were either destroyed,[41] wiped or suffered from poor storage which led to severe deterioration from broadcast quality. This included many old episodes of Doctor Who, mostly stories featuring the first two Doctors: William Hartnell & Patrick Troughton. Following consolidations and recoveries the archives are complete from the programme's move to colour television (starting from Jon Pertwee's time as the Doctor), although a few Pertwee episodes have required substantial restoration; a handful have been recovered only as black-and-white films, and several survive in colour only as NTSC copies recovered from North America (a few of which are domestic, off-air Betamax tape recordings, not of transmission quality).[citation needed] In all, 108 of 253 episodes produced during the first six years (most notably series 3, 4, & 5, from which 90 episodes are missing) of the programme are not held in the BBC's archives. It has been reported that in 1972 almost all episodes then made were known to exist at the BBC,[42] whilst by 1978 the practice of wiping tapes and destroying 'spare' film copies had ended.[43]

No 1960s episodes exist on their original videotapes (all surviving copies being film copies), though some were transferred to film for editing before transmission, and these hence exist as originally transmitted.[citation needed]

Some episodes have been returned to the BBC from the archives of other countries who bought copies for broadcast, or by private individuals who acquired them by various means. Early colour videotape recordings made off-air by fans have also been retrieved, as well as excerpts filmed from the television screen onto 8 mm cine film and clips that were shown on other programmes. Audio versions of all of the lost episodes exist from home viewers who made tape recordings of the show.

In addition to these, there are off-screen photographs made by photographer John Cura, who was hired by various production personnel to document many of their programmes during the 1950s and 1960s, including Doctor Who. These have been used in fan reconstructions of the serials. These amateur reconstructions have been tolerated by the BBC, provided they are not sold for profit and are distributed as low quality VHS copies.[citation needed]

One of the most sought-after lost episodes is Part Four of the last William Hartnell serial, The Tenth Planet (1966), which ends with the First Doctor transforming into the Second. The only portion of this in existence, barring a few poor quality silent 8 mm clips, is the few seconds of the regeneration scene, as it was shown on the children's magazine show Blue Peter.[citation needed] With the approval of the BBC, efforts are now under way to restore as many of the episodes as possible from the extant material. Starting in the early 1990s,[citation needed] the BBC began to release audio recordings of missing serials on cassette and compact disc, with linking narration provided by former series actors.

"Official" reconstructions have also been released by the BBC on VHS, on MP3 CD-ROM and as a special feature on a DVD. The BBC, in conjunction with animation studio Cosgrove Hall has reconstructed the missing Episodes 1 and 4 of The Invasion (1968), using remastered audio tracks and the comprehensive stage notes for the original filming, for the serial's DVD release in November 2006. Although no similar reconstructions have been announced as of 2010, Cosgrove Hall has expressed an interest in animating more lost episodes in the future.[44] Announced in June 2011, the missing episodes of The Reign of Terror will be animated by animation company Theta-Sigma in collaboration with Big Finish.[45]

In April 2006, Blue Peter launched a challenge to find these missing episodes with the promise of a full scale Dalek model as a reward.[46]


The Doctor

The Doctor has changed appearance ten distinct times. These are the eleven faces of the Doctor.

(Top) L-R: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker
(Middle) L-R: Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann
(Bottom) L-R: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

The character of the Doctor was initially shrouded in mystery. All that was known about him in the programme's early days was that he was an eccentric alien traveller of great intelligence who battled injustice while exploring time and space in an unreliable time machine, the "TARDIS", (an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space), which appears much larger on the inside than on the outside.[47]

However, the initially irascible and slightly sinister Doctor quickly mellowed into a more compassionate figure. It was eventually revealed that he had been on the run from his own people, the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey.

Changes of appearance

As a Time Lord, the Doctor has the ability to regenerate his body when near death. Introduced into the storyline as a way of continuing the series when the writers were faced with the departure of lead actor William Hartnell in 1966, it has continued to be a major element of the series, allowing for the recasting of the lead actor when the need arises. The serials The Deadly Assassin and Mawdryn Undead and the 1996 TV film suggest that a Time Lord can regenerate 12 times, for a total of 13 incarnations. However at least one Time Lord — the Master — managed to circumvent this (in The Keeper of Traken).[48]

The Doctor has fully gone through this process and its resulting after-effects on ten occasions, with each of his incarnations having their own quirks and abilities but otherwise sharing the consciousness, memories, experience and basic personality of the previous incarnations.

The Doctor Portrayed by Tenure
First Doctor William Hartnell 1963–66[49]
Second Doctor Patrick Troughton 1966–69[49]
Third Doctor Jon Pertwee 1970–74[49]
Fourth Doctor Tom Baker 1974–81[49]
Fifth Doctor Peter Davison 1981–84[49]
Sixth Doctor Colin Baker 1984–86
Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy 1987–89, 1996[50][51][52]
Eighth Doctor Paul McGann 1996
Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston 2005
Tenth Doctor David Tennant 2005–2010[8]
Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith 2010–present[53]

In other media, the Doctor has been played by various other actors which are not considered to be canonical incarnations of the Doctor. In October 2010, the Sunday Telegraph revealed that the series' co-creator, Sydney Newman, had urged the BBC to recast the role of the Doctor as a female "Time Lady" during the ratings crisis of the late 1980s.[54]

On rare occasions other actors have stood in for the lead. In The Five Doctors, Richard Hurndall played a reappearance of the First Doctor due to William Hartnell's death. In Time and the Rani, Sylvester McCoy briefly played the Sixth Doctor during the regeneration sequence, carrying on as the Seventh. For more information, see the list of actors who have played the Doctor.

Meetings of past and present incarnations

There have been instances of actors returning at later dates to reprise the role of their specific doctor, despite this action often going against the Time Lords' rules about how to travel in time and space — for a Time Lord to meet his other selves, in particular, would ordinarily contravene the "First Law Of Time," which prohibits distortions of history.[citation needed] In 1973's The Three Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton returned alongside Jon Pertwee. For 1983's The Five Doctors, Troughton and Pertwee returned to star with Peter Davison, and Tom Baker appeared in previously unseen footage from the uncompleted Shada episode. For this episode, Richard Hurndall replaced William Hartnell. Patrick Troughton again returned in 1985's The Two Doctors with Colin Baker. Finally, Peter Davison returned in 2007's Children in Need short "Time Crash" alongside David Tennant. In addition, the Doctor has occasionally encountered himself in the form of his own incarnation, from the near future or past. The First Doctor encounters himself in the story The Space Museum (albeit frozen and as an exhibit), the Third Doctor encounters and interacts with himself in the story Day of the Daleks, the Ninth Doctor observes a former version of his current incarnation in Father's Day, and the Eleventh Doctor briefly comes face to face with himself in The Big Bang.

Additionally, multiple Doctors have returned in new adventures together in audio dramas based on the series. Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy appeared together in the 1999 audio adventure The Sirens of Time. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, an audio drama titled Zagreus featuring Paul McGann, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison was released with additional archive recordings of Jon Pertwee.[55] Again in 2003, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy appeared together in the audio adventure Project: Lazarus.[56] In 2010, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann came together again to star in the audio drama The Four Doctors.

Revelations about the Doctor

Throughout the programme's long history, there have been revelations about the Doctor that have raised additional questions. In The Brain of Morbius (1976), it was hinted that the First Doctor may not have been the first incarnation (although the other faces depicted may have been incarnations of the Time Lord Morbius). In subsequent stories the First Doctor was depicted as the earliest incarnation of the Doctor. In Mawdryn Undead (1983), the Fifth Doctor explicitly confirmed that he was currently in his fifth incarnation.

During the Seventh Doctor's era it was hinted that the Doctor was more than just an ordinary Time Lord. In the 1996 television movie, he describes himself as being "half human".[57] The BBC's FAQ for the programme notes that "purists tend to disregard this",[58] instead focusing on his Gallifreyan heritage.

The very first episode, An Unearthly Child, shows that the Doctor has a granddaughter, Susan Foreman. The 2005 series reveals that the Ninth Doctor thought he was the last surviving Time Lord, and that his home planet had been destroyed; in "The Empty Child" (2005), Constantine makes a statement that "before this war began, I was a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither;" the Doctor remarks in response, "Yeah, I know the feeling." In both "Fear Her" (2006) and "The Doctor's Daughter" (2008), he states that he had, in the past, been a father. Also in the latter, his cells are used to produce a daughter (played by Georgia Moffett, the real-life daughter of Fifth Doctor actor Peter Davison), whom Donna names "Jenny" as a result of his describing her as "a generated anomaly."

It was revealed in the final episode of series 6, The Wedding of River Song that the Doctor's true name is a secret that must never be revealed. The legend that "Silence will fall when the question is asked." refers to the idea that the question "Doctor Who?" must never be answered.


The Doctor almost always shares his adventures with up to three companions, and since 1963 more than 35 actors have been featured in these roles. The First Doctor's original companions were his granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) and school teachers Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell). The only story from the original series in which the Doctor travels alone is The Deadly Assassin.

Dramatically, the companions' characters provide a surrogate with whom the audience can identify, and serve to further the story by requesting exposition from the Doctor and manufacturing peril for the Doctor to resolve. The Doctor regularly gains new companions and loses old ones; sometimes they return home or find new causes — or loves — on worlds they have visited. Some have even died during the course of the series.

Although the majority of the Doctor's companions have been young, attractive women, the production team for the 1963–89 series maintained a long-standing taboo[citation needed] against any overt romantic involvement in the TARDIS. The taboo was controversially[citation needed] broken in the 1996 television film when the Eighth Doctor was shown kissing companion Grace Holloway.

Previous companions have reappeared in the series. One former companion, Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen), together with the robotic dog K-9, appeared in an episode of the 2006 series nearly 13 years after their last appearances in the 30th-anniversary story Dimensions in Time (1993). Sladen also starred as the character in an independent film spin-off, Downtime, in 1995. Afterward, the character was featured in the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Sladen once again appeared as Sarah Jane in the final two episodes of the fourth series of the new Doctor Who, and again appearing briefly in the 2009 Christmas special The End of Time.

The companions of the 10th Doctor included a large ensemble, many of whom reappeared in "Journey's End" and/or the 2009 Christmas special The End of Time.

Karen Gillan now plays the 11th Doctor's companion,[59] Amy Pond,[60] along with Arthur Darvill, who plays Amy's husband, Rory Williams.

Though not always considered a companion, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was a recurring character in the original series, making his first appearance alongside the Second Doctor and his final alongside the Seventh.[61] The actor Nicholas Courtney, who portrayed the Brigadier, had previously also starred in the 12-part The Daleks' Master Plan. He appeared on television with every Doctor of the classic series except Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, but appears with him in the charity crossover special Dimensions in Time and in audio adventures from Big Finish Productions. Lethbridge-Stewart, still played by Courtney, appeared in Enemy of the Bane, a two-part episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures spin-off in 2008, more than 40 years after the character was first introduced, making him the longest-serving ongoing character in the franchise beside the Doctor himself. He and UNIT appeared regularly during the Third Doctor's tenure, and UNIT has continued to appear or to be referred to in the revival of the show and its spin-offs. In the revived series episode "The Wedding of River Song", the Brigadier is said to have died peacefully in his sleep.

Similarly, River Song (Alex Kingston) has become a recurring character since the series' revival. She is an ambiguous character with knowledge of the Doctor's future. In "A Good Man Goes to War" it is revealed she is the daughter of Amy and Rory, the Doctor's then-current companions. She first appeared in "Silence in the Library" alongside the Tenth Doctor, and her role has increased since The Time of Angels. In The Wedding of River Song River and the Doctor marry.


When Sydney Newman commissioned the series, he specifically did not want to perpetuate the cliché of the "bug-eyed monster" of science fiction.[62] However, monsters were popular with audiences and so became a staple of Doctor Who almost from the beginning.

With the show's 2005 revival, executive producer Russell T Davies stated[citation needed] his intention to reintroduce classic icons of Doctor Who one step at a time: the Autons and Daleks in series 1, Cybermen in series 2, the Macra and the Master in series 3, the Sontarans and Davros in series 4, and the Time Lords (Rassilon) in the 2009-10 Specials. Davies' successor, Steven Moffat, has continued the trend by reviving the Silurians in series 5 and Cybermats in series 6.[63] Since its 2005 return, the series has also introduced new recurring aliens, the Slitheen, Ood, Judoon, Weeping Angels, Madame Kovarian, and Silence.

Besides infrequent appearances by the Ice Warriors, Ogrons, the Rani, and Black Guardian, several adversaries have become particularly iconic:


The Dalek race, which first appeared in the show's second serial in 1963,[64] are Doctor Who's oldest antagonists. The Daleks were Kaleds from the planet Skaro, mutated by the scientist Davros and housed in tank-like mechanical armour shells for mobility. Their chief role in the plot of the series, as they frequently remark in their instantly recognisable metallic voices, is to "exterminate" all beings inferior to themselves, even attacking the Time Lords in the often-referred-to-but-never-shown Time War. The Daleks' most recent appearance was in the 2011 episode The Wedding of River Song. They continue to be a recurring 'monster' within the Doctor Who franchise. Davros himself has also been a recurring figure since his debut in Genesis of the Daleks, although played by several different actors.

The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation (who intended them to be an allegory of the Nazis)[65] and BBC designer Raymond Cusick. The Daleks' début in the programme's second serial, The Daleks (1963–64), made both the Daleks and Doctor Who very popular. A Dalek appeared on a postage stamp celebrating British popular culture in 1999, photographed by Lord Snowdon.


Cybermen were originally a wholly organic species of humanoids originating on Earth's twin planet Mondas that began to implant more and more artificial parts into their bodies. This led to the race becoming coldly logical and calculating, with emotions usually only shown when naked aggression was called for. They continue to be a recurring 'monster' within the Doctor Who franchise.

The 2006 series introduced a totally new variation of Cybermen. These Cybus Cybermen were created in a parallel universe by the mad inventor 'John Lumic'; he was attempting to preserve the life of a human by transplanting their brains into powerful metal bodies, sending them orders using a mobile phone network and inhibiting their emotions with an electronic chip.

The Master

The Master is a renegade Time Lord, and the Doctor's archenemy. Conceived as "Professor Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes",[66] the character first appeared in 1971. As with the Doctor, the role has been portrayed by several actors, since the Master is a Time Lord as well and able to regenerate; the first of these actors was Roger Delgado, who continued in the role until his death in 1973. The Master was briefly played by Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beevers until Anthony Ainley took over and continued to play the character until Doctor Who's hiatus in 1989. The Master returned in the 1996 television movie of Doctor Who, and was played by American actor Eric Roberts.

The Master has also appeared in the revived series, portrayed for one episode by Derek Jacobi and otherwise John Simm.[67]


Theme music

The original 1963 radiophonic arrangement of the Doctor Who theme is widely regarded as a significant and innovative piece of electronic music, and Doctor Who was the first television series in the world to have a theme entirely realised through electronic means.[citation needed]

The original theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with assistance from Dick Mills. The various parts were built up by creating tape loops of an individually struck piano string and individual test oscillators and filters. The Derbyshire arrangement served, with minor edits, as the theme tune up to the end of Season 17 (1979–80).

A different arrangement was recorded by Peter Howell for Season 18 (1980), which was in turn replaced by Dominic Glynn's arrangement for the episode The Trial of a Time Lord in Season 23 (1986). Keff McCulloch provided the new arrangement for the Seventh Doctor's era which lasted from Season 24 (1987) until the series' suspension in 1989. For the return of the series in 2005, Murray Gold provided a new arrangement which featured samples from the 1963 original with further elements added; in the 2005 Christmas episode "The Christmas Invasion", Gold introduced a modified closing credits arrangement that was used up until the conclusion of the 2007 series.

A new arrangement of the theme, once again by Gold, was introduced in the 2007 Christmas special episode, "Voyage of the Damned"; Gold returned as composer for the 2010 season.[68] He was responsible for a new version of the theme which was reported to have had a hostile reception from some viewers.[69] In 2011, the theme tune charted at number 228 of radio station Classic FM's Hall Of Fame, a survey of classical music tastes.

Versions of the "Doctor Who Theme" have also been released as pop music over the years. In the early 1970s, Jon Pertwee, who had played the Third Doctor, recorded a version of the Doctor Who theme with spoken lyrics, titled, "Who Is the Doctor".[70] In 1978 a disco version of the theme was released in the UK, Denmark and Australia by the group Mankind, which reached number 24 in the UK charts. In 1988 the band The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (later known as The KLF) released the single "Doctorin' the Tardis" under the name The Timelords, which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in Australia; this version incorporated several other songs, including "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter (who recorded vocals for some of the CD-single remix versions of "Doctorin' the Tardis").[71] Others who have covered or reinterpreted the theme include Orbital,[71] Pink Floyd,[71] the Australian string ensemble Fourplay, New Zealand punk band Blam Blam Blam, The Pogues, Thin Lizzy, Dub Syndicate, and the comedians Bill Bailey and Mitch Benn, and it and obsessive fans were satirised on The Chaser's War on Everything. The theme tune has also appeared on many compilation CDs and has made its way into mobile phone ring tones. Fans have also produced and distributed their own remixes of the theme. In January 2011 the Mankind version was released as a digital download on the album Gallifrey And Beyond.

Incidental music

Most of the innovative incidental music for Doctor Who has been specially commissioned from freelance composers, although in the early years some episodes also used stock music, as well as occasional excerpts from original recordings or cover versions of songs by popular music acts such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Since its 2005 return, the series has featured occasional use of excerpts of pop music from the 1970s to the 2000s.

The incidental music for the first Doctor Who adventure, An Unearthly Child, was written by Norman Kay. Many of the stories of the William Hartnell period were scored by electronic music pioneer Tristram Cary, whose Doctor Who credits include The Daleks, Marco Polo, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Gunfighters and The Mutants. Other composers in this early period included Richard Rodney Bennett, Carey Blyton and Geoffrey Burgon.

The most frequent musical contributor during the first 15 years was Dudley Simpson, who is also well known for his theme and incidental music for Blake's 7, and for his haunting theme music and score for the original 1970s version of The Tomorrow People. Simpson's first Doctor Who score was Planet of Giants (1964) and he went on to write music for many adventures of the 1960s and 1970s, including most of the stories of the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker periods, ending with The Horns of Nimon (1979). He also made a cameo appearance in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (as a Music hall conductor).

Beginning with The Leisure Hive (1980),[citation needed] the task of creating incidental music was assigned to the Radiophonic Workshop. Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell contributed many scores in this period and other contributors included Roger Limb, Malcolm Clarke and Jonathan Gibbs.

The Radiophonic Workshop was dropped after 1986's The Trial of a Time Lord series, and Keff McCulloch took over as the series' main composer until the end of its run, with Dominic Glynn and Mark Ayres also contributing scores.

All the incidental music for the 2005 revived series has been composed by Murray Gold and Ben Foster and has been performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from the 2005 Christmas episode "The Christmas Invasion" onwards. A concert featuring the orchestra performing music from the first two series took place on 19 November 2006 to raise money for Children in Need. David Tennant hosted the event, introducing the different sections of the concert. Murray Gold and Russell T Davies answered questions during the interval and Daleks and Cybermen appeared whilst music from their stories was played. The concert aired on BBCi on Christmas Day 2006. A Doctor Who Prom was celebrated on 27 July 2008 in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the annual BBC Proms. The BBC Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic Choir performed Murray Gold's compositions for the series, conducted by Ben Foster, as well as a selection of classics based on the theme of space and time. The event was presented by Freema Agyeman and guest-presented by various other stars of the show with numerous monsters participating in the proceedings. It also featured the specially filmed mini-episode "Music of the Spheres", written by Russell T Davies and starring David Tennant.[72]

Five soundtrack releases have been released since 2005. The first featured tracks from the first two series,[73] the second and third featured music from the third and fourth series respectively. The fourth was released on 4 October 2010 as a two disc special edition and contained music from the 2008-2010 specials (The Next Doctor to End of Time Part 2). The soundtrack for Series 5 was released on 8 November 2010. See List of Doctor Who music releases for other soundtrack releases. In February 2011, a soundtrack was released for the 2010 Christmas Special: "A Christmas Carol" by Silva Screen Records.

Special sound

Doctor Who's science-fiction themes and settings meant that many sound effects had to be specially created for the series,[citation needed] although some common sound effects (such as crowds, horses and jungle noises) were sourced from stock recordings. Because Doctor Who began several years before the advent of the first mass-produced synthesisers, much of the equipment used to create electronic sound effects in the early days was custom-built by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and until the early 1970s audio effects were produced using a combination of electronic and radiophonic techniques.

Almost all of the original sound effects and audio backgrounds during the 1960s were overseen by the Radiophonic Workshop's Brian Hodgson,[citation needed] who worked on Doctor Who from its inception until the middle of Jon Pertwee's tenure in the early 1970s, when he was succeeded by Dick Mills. Hodgson created hundreds of pieces of "special sound" ranging from ray-gun blasts to dinosaurs, but without doubt his best known sound effects are the sound of the TARDIS as it de-materialises and re-appears, and the voices of the Daleks.

The basic audio source Hodgson used for the TARDIS effect was the sound of his house keys being scraped up and down along the strings of an old gutted piano, and played backwards.[citation needed] The famous Dalek voice effect was obtained by passing the actors' voices through a ring modulator, and it was further enhanced by exploiting the distortion inherent in the microphones and amplifiers then in use. However, the precise sonic character of the Daleks' voices varied somewhat over time because the original frequency settings used on the ring modulator were never noted down.


United Kingdom

The image of the TARDIS is iconic in British popular culture.

Premiering the day after the assassination of President of the United States John F. Kennedy, the first episode of Doctor Who was repeated with the second episode the following week. Doctor Who has always appeared initially on the BBC's mainstream BBC One channel, where it is regarded as a family show, drawing audiences of many millions of viewers; episodes are now repeated on BBC Three. The programme's popularity has waxed and waned over the decades, with three notable periods of high ratings.[74] The first of these was the "Dalekmania" period (circa 1964–1965), when the popularity of the Daleks regularly brought Doctor Who ratings of between 9 and 14 million, even for stories which did not feature them.[74][75] The second was the late 1970s, when Tom Baker occasionally drew audiences of over 12 million.[74] During the ITV network strike of 1979, viewership peaked at 16 million.[citation needed] Figures remained respectable into the 1980s, but fell noticeably after the programme's 23rd series was postponed in 1985 and the show was off the air for 18 months. Its late 1980s performance of three to five million viewers was seen as poor at the time and was, according to the BBC Board of Control, a leading cause of the programme's 1989 suspension. Some fans considered this disingenuous, since the programme was scheduled against the soap opera Coronation Street, the most popular show at the time. After the series' revival in 2005 (the third notable period of high ratings), it has consistently had high viewership levels for the evening on which the episode is broadcast.[74] The BBC One broadcast of "Rose", the first episode of the 2005 revival, drew an average audience of 10.81 million, third highest for BBC One that week and seventh across all channels.[74][76] The current revival also garners the highest audience Appreciation Index of any drama on television.[77]


New Zealand was the first country outside the UK to screen Doctor Who, beginning in September 1964, and continued to screen the series for many years, including the new series from 2005. In Canada, the series debuted in January 1965, but the CBC only aired the first 26 episodes. TVOntario picked up the show in 1976 beginning with The Three Doctors and aired each series (several years late) through to series 24 in 1991. From 1979 to 1981, TVO airings were bookended by science-fiction writer Judith Merril who would introduce the episode and then, after the episode concluded, try to place it in an educational context in keeping with TVO's status as an educational channel. Its airing of The Talons of Weng-Chiang resulted in controversy as a result of accusations that the story was racist; consequently the story was not rebroadcast. CBC began showing the series again in 2005. The series moved to the Canadian cable channel Space in 2009.

In Latin America, the original series - known as Doctor Misterio - was shown in Venezuela from 1967; Mexico (Televisa) from 1968, then later syndicated from 1979; and Chile from 1969.

In Australia, it has been exclusively first run since February 1965 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's ABC1, and periodically repeated—including screening all available episodes for the show's 40th anniversary in 2003. Repeats have also been shown on the subscription television channel UK.TV.[citation needed] The station also broadcast the first run of the revived series, on ABC1, with repeats on ABC2. UK.TV also shows repeats of the revived series. ABC also provided partial funding for the 20th anniversary special episode "The Five Doctors".

The series also has a fan base in the United States, where it was shown in syndication from the 1970s to the 1990s, particularly on PBS stations.

Only four episodes have ever had their premiere showings on channels other than BBC One. The 1983 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors" had its début on 23 November (the actual date of the anniversary) on a few PBS stations two days prior to its BBC One broadcast. The 1988 story Silver Nemesis was broadcast with all three episodes airing back to back on TVNZ in New Zealand in November, after the first episode had been shown in the UK but before the final two instalments had aired there. Finally, the 1996 television film premièred on 12 May 1996 on CITV in Edmonton, Canada, 15 days before the BBC One showing, and two days before it aired on Fox in the United States.

As of April 2011, the revived series has been, or is currently, broadcast weekly in about 50 countries,[78] including the following:

Doctor Who is one of the five top grossing titles for BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.[79] BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith has said that Doctor Who is one of a small number of "Superbrands" which Worldwide will promote heavily.[80]

A special logo has been designed for the Japanese broadcast with the katakana "ドクター・フー" (romanised as Dokutā Fū).[81] The series has apparently "mystified" viewers in Japan where it has been broadcast in a late evening time slot, leading to some not realising it is a family show.[82]

The series one episodes aired in Canada a couple of weeks after their UK broadcast, a situation made possible by the 2004–05 NHL lockout which left vast gaps in CBC's schedule.[citation needed] For the Canadian broadcast, Christopher Eccleston recorded special video introductions for each episode (including a trivia question as part of a viewer contest) and excerpts from the Doctor Who Confidential documentary were played over the closing credits; for the broadcast of "The Christmas Invasion" on 26 December 2005, Billie Piper recorded a special video introduction. CBC began airing series two on 9 October 2006 at 20:00 E/P (20:30 in Newfoundland and Labrador), shortly after that day's CFL double header on Thanksgiving in most of the country.

Series three began broadcasting on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 31 March 2007. It began broadcasting on CBC on 18 June 2007 followed by the second Christmas special, "The Runaway Bride" at midnight,[83] and the Sci Fi Channel began on 6 July 2007 starting with the second Christmas special at 8:00 pm E/P followed by the first episode.[84]

Series four aired in the United States on the Sci Fi Channel (now known as Syfy), beginning in April 2008.[85] It aired on CBC beginning 19 September 2008, although the CBC did not air the Voyage of the Damned special.[86] The Canadian cable network Space broadcast "The Next Doctor" in March 2009, has broadcast the subsequent specials, and will broadcast series five.[87]

Beginning with the 2009/2010 specials and continuing with Series 5, BBC America aired new episodes in the United States, varying from a few days to a few weeks after their original airings in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

On 25 December 2010, BBC America aired the special "A Christmas Carol," making it the first episode to premiere in the United States on the same day it premiered in the United Kingdom.[citation needed] BBC America premiered Series 6 on 23 April 2011, the same day it premiered in the United Kingdom.

DVD and video

A wide selection of serials is available from BBC Video on DVD, on sale in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Every fully extant serial has been released on VHS, and BBC Worldwide continues to regularly release serials on DVD. The 2005 series is also available in its entirety on UMD for the PlayStation Portable. Eight original series serials have been released on Laserdisc[88] and many have also been released on Betamax tape. So far only the new series from 2009 onwards are available on Blu-ray.

Adaptations and other appearances

Doctor Who films

There are two "Dr. Who" feature films: Dr. Who and the Daleks, released in 1965 and Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. in 1966. Both are retellings of existing television stories (specifically, the first two Dalek serials, The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth respectively) with a larger budget and alterations to the series concept.

In these films, Peter Cushing plays a human scientist[89] named "Dr. Who", who travels with his two granddaughters and other companions in a time machine he has invented. The Cushing version of the character reappears in both comic strips and a short story, the latter attempting to reconcile the film continuity with that of the series.

In addition, several planned films were proposed, including a sequel, The Chase, loosely based on the original series story, for the Cushing Doctor, plus many attempted television movie and big screen productions to revive the original Doctor Who, after the original series was cancelled.

Paul McGann starred in the only straight to television film as the 8th incarnation of the Doctor. Although he only appeared within Doctor Who: The Movie, he continued the role in audio books and was confirmed as the Eighth incarnation through flashback footage and other materials in the 2005 revival, effectively linking the two series and the television movie.

In 2009, it was reported that BBC Films had a script for a new Doctor Who film in development,[90] although both David Tennant[91] and Russell T Davies[92] have subsequently denied this.

In 2011, David Yates revealed that a Doctor Who film is in the works, aiming at a 2013-2014 release.[93][94] Yates indicated that his film would not be a continuation of the existing series, but would instead take a different approach to the concept.


Doctor Who has appeared on stage numerous times. In the early 1970s, Trevor Martin played the role in Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday. In the late 1980s, Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker both played the Doctor at different times during the run of a play titled Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure. For two performances, while Pertwee was ill, David Banks (better known for playing Cybermen) played the Doctor. Other original plays have been staged as amateur productions, with other actors playing the Doctor, while Terry Nation wrote The Curse of the Daleks, a stage play mounted in the late 1960s, but without the Doctor.

A pilot episode ("A Girl's Best Friend") for a potential spinoff series, K-9 and Company, was aired in 1981 with Elisabeth Sladen reprising her role as companion Sarah Jane Smith and John Leeson as the voice of K-9, but was not picked up as a regular series.

Concept art for an animated Doctor Who series was produced by animation company Nelvana in the 1980s, but the series was not produced.[95]

The Doctor has also appeared in webcasts and in audio plays; prominent[citation needed] among the latter were those produced by Big Finish Productions from 1999 onwards, who were responsible for a range of audio plays released on CD, as well as 2006's eight-part BBC 7 series starring Paul McGann.

Following the success of the 2005 series produced by Russell T Davies, the BBC commissioned Davies to produce a 13-part spin-off series titled Torchwood (an anagram of "Doctor Who"), set in modern-day Cardiff and investigating alien activities and crime. The series debuted on BBC Three on 22 October 2006.[96] John Barrowman reprised his role of Jack Harkness from the 2005 series of Doctor Who.[97] Two other actresses who appeared in Doctor Who also star in the series; Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, who also played the similarly named servant girl Gwyneth in the 2005 Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead",[98] and Naoko Mori who reprised her role as Toshiko Sato first seen in "Aliens of London". A second series of Torchwood aired in 2008; for three episodes, the cast was joined by Freema Agyeman reprising her Doctor Who role of Martha Jones. A third series was broadcast from 6 to 10 July 2009, and consisted of a single five-part story called Children of Earth. A fourth series, Torchwood: Miracle Day jointly produced by BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide and the American entertainment company Starz debuted in 2011 and left the usual Cardiff setting for the first time.

The Sarah Jane Adventures, starring Elisabeth Sladen who reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith, was developed by CBBC; a special aired on New Year's Day 2007 and a full series began on 24 September 2007.[99] A second series followed in 2008, notable for (as noted above) featuring the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. A third and fourth series aired in the autumn of 2009 and 2010 respectively.

An animated serial, The Infinite Quest, aired alongside the 2007 series of Doctor Who as part of the children's television series Totally Doctor Who. The serial featured the voices of series regulars David Tennant and Freema Agyeman but is not considered part of the 2007 series.[100] A second animated serial, Dreamland, aired in six parts on the BBC Red Button service, and the official Doctor Who website in 2009.[101]

Numerous other spin-off series have been created not by the BBC but by the respective owners of the characters and concepts. Such spin-offs include the Faction Paradox, Iris Wildthyme, Bernice Summerfield and P.R.O.B.E. series plus others including the current K-9 television series, currently airing on Disney XD.[102]

Announced on October 20, 2011, a new audio spin-off series titled Counter-Measures will be released in July 2012. The series is set in 1964 and centers on the characters Captain Gilmore, Rachel Jensen and Allison from the story Remembrance of the Daleks who have been commissioned by the government to be part of a new specialist group to investigate unexplained phenomena and new dangerous technology.[103]

Charity episodes

In 1983, coinciding with the series' 20th anniversary, a charity special titled The Five Doctors was produced in aid of Children in Need, featuring three of the first five Doctors, a new actor to replace the deceased William Hartnell, and unused footage to represent Tom Baker. This was a full-length, 90-minute film, the longest single episode of Doctor Who produced to date (the television movie ran slightly longer on broadcast where it included commercial breaks).

In 1993, for the franchise's 30th anniversary, another charity special, titled Dimensions in Time was produced for Children in Need, featuring all of the surviving actors who played the Doctor and a number of previous companions. Not taken seriously by many,[citation needed] the story featured the Rani opening a hole in time, cycling the Doctor and his companions through his previous incarnations and menacing them with monsters from the show's past. It also featured a crossover with the soap opera EastEnders, the action taking place in the latter's Albert Square location and around Greenwich, including the Cutty Sark. The special was one of several special 3D programmes the BBC produced at the time, using a 3D system that made use of the Pulfrich effect requiring glasses with one darkened lens; the picture would look perfectly normal to those viewers who watched without the glasses.

In 1999, another special, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, was made for Comic Relief and later released on VHS. An affectionate parody of the television series, it was split into four segments, mimicking the traditional serial format, complete with cliffhangers, and running down the same corridor several times when being chased (the version released on video was split into only two episodes). In the story, the Doctor (Rowan Atkinson) encounters both the Master (Jonathan Pryce) and the Daleks. During the special the Doctor is forced to regenerate several times, with his subsequent incarnations played by, in order, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley. The script was written by Steven Moffat, later to be head writer and executive producer to the revived series.[21]

Since the return of Doctor Who in 2005, the franchise has produced two original "mini-episodes" to support Children in Need. The first, aired in November 2005, was an untitled seven-minute scene which introduced David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor directly after his regeneration from the previous episode. It was followed in November 2007 by "Time Crash", a 7-minute scene which featured the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor (played once again by Peter Davison). The Doctor Who production team did not produce a new Children in Need mini-episode for the 2008 and 2009 events; instead, for the 2008 event, the opening scene from the 2008 Christmas special, The Next Doctor was broadcast and for the 2009 event, a scene from the 2009 Christmas Special The End of Time was broadcast.

A set of two mini-episodes, titled Space and Time respectively, were produced to support Comic Relief. They were aired during the Comic Relief 2011 event.[104]

During 2011 Children in Need, an exclusively-filmed segment showed the Doctor addressing the viewer, attempting to persuade them to purchase items of his clothing, which were going up for auction for Children in Need. This was followed by a trailer for the upcoming Christmas episode.

Spoofs and cultural references

Doctor Who has been satirised and spoofed on many occasions by comedians including Spike Milligan and Lenny Henry. Doctor Who fandom has also been lampooned on programmes such as Saturday Night Live, The Chaser's War on Everything, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Family Guy, American Dad!, South Park, Community as Inspector Spacetime, and The Simpsons.

The Doctor in his fourth incarnation has been represented on several episodes of The Simpsons, starting with the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming". He also appeared in Matt Groening's other animated series Futurama in the episode Möbius Dick as well as entering the TARDIS in the episode "All the Presidents' Heads".

Jon Culshaw frequently impersonates the Fourth Doctor in the BBC Dead Ringers series. Culshaw's "Doctor" has telephoned four of the "real" Doctors—Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy—in character as the Fourth Doctor. In the 2005 Dead Ringers Christmas special, broadcast shortly before "The Christmas Invasion", Culshaw impersonated both the Fourth and Tenth Doctors, while the Second, Seventh and Ninth Doctors were impersonated by Mark Perry, Kevin Connelly and Phil Cornwell, respectively.

Less a spoof and more of a pastiche is the character of Professor Justin Alphonse Gamble, a renegade from the Time Variance Authority, who appeared in Marvel Comics' Power Man and Iron Fist #79 and Avengers Annual #22. His enemies include the rogue robots known as the Dredlox.[105]

There have also been many references to Doctor Who in popular culture and other science fiction franchises, including Star Trek: The Next Generation ("The Neutral Zone", among others). In the Channel 4 series Queer As Folk (created by later Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies), the character of Vince was portrayed as an avid Doctor Who fan, with references appearing many times throughout in the form of clips from the programme. In a similar manner, the character of Oliver on Coupling (created and written by current show runner Steven Moffat) is portrayed as a Doctor Who collector and enthusiast. References to Doctor Who have also appeared in the young adult fantasy novels Brisingr[106][107] and High Wizardry,[108] the video game Rock Band,[109] the soap opera EastEnders,[110] the Adult Swim comedy show Robot Chicken, the Family Guy episodes "Blue Harvest" and "420", and the game RuneScape.

A TARDIS made a cameo appearance in an episode of the 1990s sci-fi detective series Crime Traveller.

The BBC Radio series The Navy Lark featured the following exchange between characters played by Leslie Phillips and Jon Pertwee.

PHILLIPS:"I saw this film once about a chap called Doctor No..." PERTWEE: "Doctor who?" PHILLIPS: "No, not him! This was a good actor...."

Doctor Who has long been a referent for political cartoonists, from a 1964 cartoon in the Daily Mail depicting Charles de Gaulle as a Dalek[111] to a 2008 edition of This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow in which the Tenth Doctor informs an incredulous character from 2003 that the Democratic Party will nominate an African-American (Barack Obama, who eventually won the presidency) as its presidential candidate.[112]

The word "TARDIS" is an entry in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.[113] One of the most noticeable "tip of the hat" to the whole Doctor Who series, was evident for all to view in the popular late-'80s cult-classic (in its own right) film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, where the eponymous protagonists travel through time in a public phone booth (which is NOT "bigger on the inside"). In that movie, the time machine was originally to be a 1969 Chevrolet van, but the idea was rejected as being too close in concept to the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future trilogy. Instead, the time machine was styled after a 1960s American telephone booth. Its similarity to the time-travelling British police box-shaped TARDIS of the BBC's television programme Doctor Who is reflected in the Cracked parody in which the Doctor threatens to sue Rufus.

Museums and exhibitions

There have been various exhibitions of Doctor Who in the United Kingdom, including the now closed exhibitions at:


Since its beginnings, Doctor Who has generated hundreds of products related to the show, from toys and games to collectible picture cards and postage stamps. These include board games, card games, gamebooks, computer games, roleplaying games, action figures and a pinball game. Many games have been released that feature the Daleks, including Dalek computer games.


Doctor Who books have been published from the mid-sixties through to the present day. From 1965 to 1991 the books published were primarily novelised adaptations of broadcast episodes;[citation needed] beginning in 1991 an extensive line of original fiction was launched, the Virgin New Adventures and Virgin Missing Adventures. Since the relaunch of the programme in 2005, a new range of novels have been published by BBC Books, featuring the adventures of the Ninth, Tenth and 11th Doctors. Numerous non-fiction books about the series, including guidebooks and critical studies, have also been published, and a dedicated Doctor Who Magazine with newsstand circulation has been published regularly since 1979. There is also a Doctor Who Adventures magazine published by the BBC. In April 2010 Hub Magazine released a Doctor Who Special (Issue 116) which collected new articles and pieces from various writers associated with both Classic and New Series Doctor Who, including Andrew Cartmel, Paul Magrs, Joseph Lidster, Mark Morris, Simon Clarke and Scott Harrison (who also guest-edited the issue)

Blackpool Illuminations

In 2007, Doctor Who and a number of his enemies were portrayed in illuminated road features for Blackpool Illuminations. More pictures of the Doctor with his new companion Donna were added in 2008, along with new monsters such as the Ood plus some three dimensional models of the TARDIS and Daleks.[114] Only two actors playing the Doctor have switched on the Illuminations: Tom Baker in 1975 and David Tennant in 2007.[citation needed]

Cardiff Christmas Lights

In 2010, Matt Smith switched on the Cardiff Christmas Lights as part of the 10th anniversary of Winter Wonderland, an event in which an open air ice-rink and fair are opened in Cardiff's civic centre. Matt used the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver to switch on the lights, and was accompanied by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.[115]


Although Doctor Who was fondly regarded during its original 1963–1989 run, it received little critical recognition[citation needed] at the time. In 1975, Season 11 of the series won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for Best Writing in a Children's Serial. In 1996, BBC television held the "Auntie Awards" as the culmination of their "TV60" series, celebrating 60 years of BBC television broadcasting, where Doctor Who was voted as the "Best Popular Drama" the corporation had ever produced, ahead of such ratings heavyweights as EastEnders and Casualty.[116] In 2000, Doctor Who was ranked third in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, produced by the British Film Institute and voted on by industry professionals.[117] In 2005, the series came first in a survey by SFX magazine of "The Greatest UK Science Fiction and Fantasy Television Series Ever". Also, in the 100 Greatest Kids' TV shows (a Channel 4 countdown in 2001), the 1963–1989 run was placed at number eight.

The revived series has received recognition from critics and the public, across various different awards ceremonies. These include:


The British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA) nominations, released on 27 March 2006, revealed that Doctor Who had been shortlisted in the "Drama Series" category. This is the highest-profile and most prestigious British television award for which the series has ever been nominated. Doctor Who was also nominated in several other categories in the BAFTA Craft Awards, including Writer (Russell T Davies), Director (Joe Ahearne), and Break-through Talent (production designer Edward Thomas). However, it did not win any of its categories at the Craft Awards.

On 22 April 2006, the programme won five categories (out of 14 nominations) at the lower-profile BAFTA Cymru awards, given to programmes made in Wales. It won Best Drama Series, Drama Director (James Hawes), Costume, Make-up and Photography Direction. Russell T Davies also won the Siân Phillips Award for Outstanding Contribution to Network Television.[118] The programme enjoyed further success at the BAFTA Cymru awards the following year, winning eight of the 13 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actor for David Tennant and Best Drama Director for Graeme Harper.[119]

On 7 May 2006, the winners of the British Academy Television Awards were announced, and Doctor Who won both of the categories it was nominated for, the Best Drama Series and audience-voted Pioneer Award. Russell T Davies also won the Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing for Television.[120] Writer Steven Moffat won the Writer category at the 2008 BAFTA Craft Awards for his 2007 Doctor Who episode "Blink".[121]

The series also won awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony on 27 April 2008, including "Best Screenwriter" for Steven Moffat, "Best Director: Drama" for James Strong, "Best Director Of Photography: Drama" for Ernie Vincze, "Best Sound" for the BBC Cymru Wales Sound Team and "Best Make-Up" for Barbara Southcott and Neill Gorton (of Millennium FX).[122]

In March 2009, it was announced that Doctor Who had again been nominated in the "Drama Series" category for the British Academy Television Awards; however, it lost to the BBC series Wallander at the Awards on Sunday 26 April.[123] The series picked up two BAFTAs at the British Academy Television Craft Awards on Sunday 17 May. Visual Effects company The Mill won the "Visual Effects" award for the episode "The Fires of Pompeii" and Philip Kloss won in the "Editing Fiction/Entertainment" category.[124]

In 2011, Matt Smith was nominated for best television actor at the 2011 Bafta Television Awards, but eventually lost out to Daniel Rigby from Eric and Ernie. It was the first time an actor portraying The Doctor had received such a nomination.

Other British awards

In 2005, at the National Television Awards (voted on by members of the British public), Doctor Who won "Most Popular Drama", Christopher Eccleston won "Most Popular Actor" and Billie Piper won "Most Popular Actress". The series and Piper repeated their wins at the 2006 National Television Awards, and David Tennant won "Most Popular Actor" in 2006 and 2007, with the series again taking the Most Popular Drama award in 2007.[125] At the 2008 National Television Awards Tennant won "Outstanding Drama Performance" and the series again won the Drama category;[126] they repeated these victories the next time the awards were held, in 2010.[127]

A scene from "The Doctor Dances" won "Golden Moment" in the BBC's "2005 TV Moments" awards,[128] and Doctor Who swept all the categories in's online "Best of Drama" poll in both 2005[129] and 2006.[130] The programme also won the Broadcast Magazine Award for Best Drama.[131] Eccleston was awarded the TV Quick and TV Choice award for Best Actor in 2005; in the same 2006 awards, Tennant won Best Actor, Piper won Best Actress and Doctor Who won Best-Loved Drama.[132][133]

Doctor Who was nominated in the Best Drama Series category at the 2006 Royal Television Society awards,[134] but lost to BBC Three's medical drama Bodies.[135]

Doctor Who also received several nominations for the 2006 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards: the programme for Best Drama, Eccleston for Best Actor (David Tennant was also nominated for Secret Smile), Piper for Best Actress and Davies for Best Writer. However, it did not win any of these categories.[136]

A panel of journalists and television executives for the annual awards given out at the Edinburgh Television Festival voted Doctor Who as the best programme of the year in 2007 and 2008.[137][138]

In 2009, Doctor Who was voted the 3rd greatest show of the noughties by Channel 4, behind Top Gear and The Apprentice.[citation needed]

Doctor Who was nominated at the 2010 BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards for 'Best TV Show'. It lost out to Channel 4's The Inbetweeners.[139]

Doctor Who was nominated for the Scream Award for best TV show but lost to True Blood.

The episode "Vincent and the Doctor" was shortlisted for a Mind Award at the 2010 Mind Mental Health Media Awards for its "touching" portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh.[140]

Science-fiction awards

In every year of its broadcast since 2005, Doctor Who has received multiple nominations (each for a different episode) for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form winning three as of summer of 2011. (Doctor Who is the only television series since Star Trek to have more than two episodes nominated for a Hugo award in a single year, having had three separate nominations each in 2006, 2007, and 2010. )

Several episodes of the 2005 series of Doctor Who were nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: "Dalek", "Father's Day" and the double episode "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances". At a ceremony at the Worldcon (L.A. Con IV) in Los Angeles on 27 August 2006, the Hugo was awarded to "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances".[141] "Dalek" and "Father's Day" came in second and third places respectively.[142] The 2006 series episodes "School Reunion", "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" and "The Girl in the Fireplace" were nominated for the same category of the 2007 Hugo Awards, with "The Girl in the Fireplace" winning.[143] The 2007 series episodes "Blink" and "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" also secured nominations in this category in the 2008 Hugo Awards,[144] with "Blink" winning the award.[145] The 2008 series episodes "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" and "Turn Left" secured nominations in this category in the 2009 Hugo awards, but lost to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.[146] The 2009 series episodes "The Waters of Mars", "The Next Doctor", and "Planet of the Dead" secured nominations in this category in the 2010 Hugo awards,[147] with "The Waters of Mars" winning the award.[148] "Vincent and the Doctor", "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang", and "A Christmas Carol" from the 2010 series were also nominated in the Short Form category for the 2011 awards, which are due to be presented in late August 2011.[149]

On 7 July 2007, the series won three Constellation Awards: David Tennant won "Best Male Performance in a 2006 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episode "The Girl in the Fireplace", and the series itself won "Best Science Fiction Television Series of 2006" and "Outstanding Canadian Contribution to Science Fiction Film or Television in 2006". It was eligible for the latter award because of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's involvement as co-producer of the series.[150] A year later, the series again won three Constellation Awards: David Tennant won "Best Male Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episodes "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood", Carey Mulligan won "Best Female Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episode "Blink" and the series itself won "Best Science Fiction Television Series of 2007".[151]

On 19 September 2009, the series was the first winner of the British Fantasy Award for "Best Television Programme".[152]

Overseas awards

On 8 November 2007, Doctor Who was nominated for the 34th Annual People's Choice Awards in the category of "Favorite Sci-Fi Show". The awards, broadcast on CBS on 8 January 2008 are voted on by the people via an Internet poll. The series faced competition from another revival of an older series, Battlestar Galactica, as well as Stargate Atlantis.[153] It was defeated by Stargate Atlantis.[154] In June 2008, the series won the inaugural Best International Series category at the 34th Saturn Awards, defeating its spin-off, Torchwood, which was also nominated.[155] The Seoul International Drama Awards 2009 honoured it with an award as The Most Popular Foreign Drama of the Year.[156]

See also


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Cited texts

Further reading

  • Matt Hills. Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating "Doctor Who" in the Twenty-First Century (I.B. Tauris, 2010) 261 pages. Discusses the revival of the BBC's Doctor Who in 2005 after it had been off the air as a regular series for more than 15 years; topics include the role of "fandom" in the sci-fi programme's return, and notions of "cult" and "mainstream" in television.

External links

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