Happy 48th Birthday, Doctor Who!

As some may or may not have noticed, I have a HUGE Doctor Who fan. Its a funny story how I started watching Doctor Who. About 3 years ago, a friend of mine suggested I watch Torchwood, which is a spin off of Doctor Who, and immediately fell in love with it. A few episodes in, I believe, there was a reference to the Doctor. At which point, I stopped everything I was doing and did my research. I HAD to watch Doctor Who before I can continue with Torchwood. At which point, my love for the Doctor started.

I am no die hard fan. I am not completely obsessed with the series. I do have a favorite Doctor (Tennant). I do have a favorite episode (Blink). I do have a favorite villain (Dalek). But, I am not crazy about it. haha. Enough about me.

On November 23, 1963 debuted a show that many thought wouldn’t make it. And ended up being the longest running sci-fi show ever. Below is a great article about the show via Death + Taxes and pictures courtesy to Oh No They Didn’t.

 


For the uninitiated, “Doctor Who” tells the story of the Doctor, a centuries-old Time Lord who travels around throughout space and time in a machine called the TARDIS, usually with a human companion, saving the universe from various enemies and dangers.

The original series ran from 1963 until 1989, then a movie was produced in 1996 and the series was rebooted in 2005. The new version, which currently stars Matt Smith as the Doctor, just wrapped its sixth season.


The first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” starts with a pair of teachers in a high school worrying about one of their students, Susan Foreman, who is exceptionally brilliant in some areas but bizarrely misinformed in others. They follow her to her home, which leads them to a police phone box inside a junkyard. Upon stepping inside – which is bigger than the outside – we get our very first glimpse at the TARDIS and learn that it stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

Very little is revealed about the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, in that first episode. He appears very different than later versions, however, seeming harsh when he speaks to his granddaughter Susan, and when he refuses to let the two teachers leave the TARDIS. It’s leaps and bounds from the more jovial current incarnation.

The half-hour episode ends with the TARDIS landing on a mysterious desert-like terrain, with an ominous shadow approaching.


The Doctor was not originally written to be a reincarnating character, but Hartnell’s health started to fade and the writers needed to devise a way to keep the show going after the actor left. So they wrote in the Time Lord’s ability to regenerate himself. He went through seven incarnations during the series’ original run, then the eighth version starred in the movie, and versions nine, ten and eleven have been featured in the reboot.

The longest-running Doctor so far is the fourth version, played by Tom Baker, who was on the show from 1974 through 1981. He may also be the most iconic, with his signature extra-long, multi-colored scarf.

Aside from years of goofy storylines and writing that combines interesting and sometimes scary science fiction with sharp wit, the rotating cast has helped the longevity of the series. It keeps it from falling prey to the whims of a single star, but it also keeps things fresh. There has been some kind of change-up almost every season of the new series. If the Doctor stays the same, then the companion changes. Since 2005 we’ve seen Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy come along in the TARDIS, sometimes also accompanied by friends, family or significant others from their own lives.

Fans tend to rally behind the different Doctors and companions, and having new ones every couple of years keeps it from going stale. And since each companion and each version of the Doctor has a unique personality, the dynamic of their relationship is constantly shifting. Their interactions can be as compelling – or sometimes more so – than the actual plot of an episode.


There have been different versions of various enemies over the years, but some of the most popular are the Daleks and the Cybermen. The Daleks are the Doctor’s most feared enemy, and though they look like upside-down trash cans with plungers for arms, they are viciously lethal and practically indestructible, with their trademark cry of “exterminate.” The Cybermen are “upgraded” humans – they take a human brain, remove emotions, and put them in a metal suit. They are similarly lethal and indestructible.

Weeping Angels are a fan favorite, despite being a brand new enemy. They debuted in the 2007 episode “Blink,” and appear as stone angel statues if anyone is looking at them but can move and kill when no one is watching.

For anyone wishing to start watching the show, the best place for an introduction is the premiere episode of the rebooted series. That debut, “Rose,” introduces the audience to the ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, and his companion Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. Give it a chance, because the first episode is a little slow, but then it picks up.

There’s too much history and referencing back to start at any of the next few seasons – even when the Doctor regenerates into David Tennant‘s tenth version, he still has his relationship with Rose established – but another starting point is season five.

Tennant’s Doctor has regenerated into Smith’s eleventh, and we’re introduced to a new companion, Amy Pond, at the same time. There was also some shifting with the creative team, so the series had a small makeover. If all you want is to get caught up in time for the Christmas special, watching season five and six then moving backwards would work.

Here is a clip of the very first Doctor Who episode!
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