Sci-fi drama series Doctor Who tells the adventures of a mysterious traveller in time known only as “The Doctor” who travels around the universe with a variety of different companions in his Police Box shaped TARDIS time machine which has the extraordinary feature of being bigger on the inside than its outward appearance would suggest.
As the series progressed more was discovered about the Doctor:- he is over 900 years old; has two hearts; is from a planet called Gallifrey and is of a race called The Time Lords who have mastered time travel but have a strict policy of non-interference with other races whether for good or ill. In direct contravention of this policy the Doctor stole a TARDIS and went off to explore the universe helping to right wrongs and fight evil wherever he went. When the Doctor becomes mortally wounded his race have the ability to regenerate their bodies into a new form with a completely new appearance and personality – this unique quality enabled the series to re-invent itself every few years with a new lead actor.
With the series revival in 2005 more facts were gradually revealed about the Doctor’s history such as a great war which had wiped out the Time Lords leaving the Doctor as the last of his race. In the fourth season of New Who the Doctor’s grand daugter (played by Georgia Moffatt) was re-introduced briefly. The lively performance of David Tennant made the show a true TV stand out and his departure at end of 2009 once again heralded a new direction for the show. Stephen Moffatt (one of New Who’s best writers also replaced Russell T. Davies as the show’s creative head at the end of the 2009 season.
Trvia: Cult writer of The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams was script editor on the show during the late 1970’s. The show was first broadcast in the UK the day after the assassination of Kennedy. The idea for the Daleks was by extremely culty writer Terry Nation.
(1)(1963-66) William Hartnell was the first to play the Doctor arriving in London in 1963 with his granddaughter Susan and taking her two teachers Ian and Barbara on a series of often historical adventures, Hartnell was already quite old when he took on the role of the crotchety doctor and when he began to have trouble with the demands of the part the producers handily came up with the regeneration angle.
(2) (1966-69) Patrick Troughton played the part very differently as a mischievous character hiding his keen intelligence from adversaries behind a bumbling exterior. At the end of his time in 1969 the Time Lords finally caught the Doctor and tried him for his meddling ways and as punishment exiled him to Earth with a changed appearance.
(3) (1970-1974) This ushered in the changed format of the Jon Pertwee era with most of the stories set on present-day Earth and with the show made in colour for the first time. Trapped on Earth the Doctor joined a military organisation called UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) as their scientific adviser. Commanded by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart whom the Doctor had twice before met in his previous incarnation, UNIT was set up to tackle alien invasions of which there were many.
(4) (1974-81) Now freed from his exile, the role of the Doctor was taken over by Tom Baker who played him with an irresistible charm and a very long scarf.
(5) (1982-84 ) The early eighties saw Peter Davison take on the role as the youngest-looking incarnation yet and a lover of cricket. During this time the show was moved away from its traditional Saturday tea-time slot to mid-week.
(6) (1984 – 86) Next Colin Baker took over wearing the most garish costume imaginable. This era saw the programme’s popularity waning and it was suspended for 18 months before being brought back by public pressure.
(7) (1987 – 89) Sylvester McCoy became the Doctor in 1987 for its final three years. The show was finally cancelled in 1989.
(8) (1996) Then in 1996 there was an attempt to make a new series with American backing with a TV movie pilot produced in the states with Paul McGann taking the lead – it followed BBC series continuity with McCoy reprising his role briefly for a regeneration scene. A full series was never commissioned.
(9) (2005) After a 16-year absence Doctor Who returned in a proper new BBC made series with Christopher Eccleston taking on the part. His Doctor was a leather jacket wearing Northerner who grins in the face of danger. But also had an intensely serious side as the last living Time Lord following a devastating war between Time Lords and Daleks which saw his people annihilated.
(10) (2005 -2009) With Eccleston quitting after the first series the excellent David Tennant took over the role, appearing in the Christmas episode (broadcast 25 December 2005) and the new series which started 15 April 2006.
(11) (2010 -) Tennant bowed out in the Christmas 2009 episode The End of Time with Matt Smith taking over as the new Doctor and bringing a darker edge to the character. He was if anything even more popular than Tennant!
(12) (2014 – ) With the departure of Smith the BBC went for a completely different approach with the middle aged Peter Capaldi becoming the latest Doctor. The changeover generated massive worldwide interest and he has managed to claim the role as his own.
Enemies: The other vital ingredient of Doctor Who is the adversaries he encounters in each story. His most famous foes are The Daleks, ruthless mutated creatures who can only survive inside metal travel machines; Also The Cybermen, Yeti, Autons, Ice Warriors, Sontarans and countless other alien races who perhaps only ever made a single appearance. The Doctor’s arch-enemy is The Master – another renegade Time Lord, but a totally evil one.
Archives: Regrettably many of the 1960s episodes of Doctor Who no longer exist in the archives and some of the Pertwee stories now only exist in B&W form. Off-air soundtrack recordings of all the missing episodes do survive however.
Gap Years: During the years from 1989-2005 with no new TV Who (other than the one-off TV Movie) the Doctor still flourished with new adventures in book form with “missing” adventures of old doctors told and further adventures of the Paul McGann incarnation. There were also some BBC radio plays featuring Jon Pertwee. Also special (non-BBC) CD Audio Adventures were made with TV cast involvement and a few video productions featuring peripheral Doctor Who characters.
Films: There were also two feature films in the 1960s which starred Peter Cushing as the Doctor. These films were based on the first two William Hartnell Dalek stories and are not considered to be part of the TV series continuity.
(a) BBC1 / 679x25m-e 15x45m-e 1x90m-e / 1963-89 (26 years) (first ep: 23 November 1963)
(b) BBC1 / 1x85m / 27 May 1996
(c) BBC1 / 2005 -2010 (first ep: 26 March 2005)
Creator: Sydney Newman (uncredited) / Theme Music: Ron Grainer
(a) Original Producer: Verity Lambert
(b) Writer: Matthew Jacobs / Director: Geoffrey Sax / Executive Producers: Alex Beaton, Philip Segal, Jo Wright
(c) Executive Producer & main writer: Russell T Davies (2005-2009), Stephen Moffatt (2010-)
The Doctors (in chronological order) WILLIAM HARTNELL / PATRICK TROUGHTON / JON PERTWEE / TOM BAKER / PETER DAVISON / COLIN BAKER / SYLVESTER McCOY / PAUL McGANN / CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON / DAVID TENNANT / MATT SMITH / PETER CAPALDI
Some of the Companions: CAROLE ANN FORD as Susan Foreman / WILLIAM RUSSELL as Ian Chesterton / JACQUELINE HILL as Barbara Wright / PETER PURVES as Steven Taylor / FRAZER HINES as Jamie / DEBORAH WATLING as Victoria Waterfield / WENDY PADBURY as Zoe / KATY MANNING as Jo Grant / ELIZABETH SLADEN as Sarah Jane Smith / LOUISE JAMESON as Leela / MARY TAMM as Romana(1) / LALLA WARD as Romana(2) / JANET FIELDING as Tegan / SARAH SUTTON as Nyssa / NICOLA BRYANT as Peri / SOPHIE ALDRED as Ace / BILLIE PIPER as Rose Tyler / FREEMA AGYEMAN as Martha Jones / CATHERINE TATE as Donna Noble / KAREN GILLAN as Amy Pond / JENNA COLEMAN as Clara Oswald / PEARL MACKIE
Also: NICHOLAS COURTNEY as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart / ROGER DELGADO, ANTHONY AINLEY, DEREK JACOBI AND JOHN SIMM have all also played The Doctor’s chief rival The Master.
News and updates on the series.
Jenna Coleman says no to more Who
13 October 2016... Former companion Jenna Coleman who has made a serious step into the big time thanks to her starring role in high profile and popular ITV drama Victoria has told the radio times that she definitely has no plans to return to Doctor Who. “Yeah, I think there’s a bit of interest from fans there in particular. I mean it’d be fun to do, but again maybe some things are best left in the imagination.” She told the magazine. She also said that she is looking for to new young adult Who spin-off Class “That was part of the story that I loved, I thought it worked really well, of having Clara as a teacher and then run away into the stationery cupboard and Narnia, and sometimes by accident bringing along a couple of kids. I thought it had really huge appeal. So yeah, I really look forward to seeing that.”