Created on: January 14, 2013
"Doctor Who" is a science-fiction adventure series which has been produced by the BBC since 1963, and is now nearing its 50th anniversary.
First broadcast on the day after Kennedy's assassination, on Nov. 23, 1963, the show features a mysterious time traveller called the Doctor who travels the universe in the TARDIS. The TARDIS is of course a machine that can travel anywhere in time and space. It's an enormous machine, but is bigger on the inside than on the outside (dimensionnaly transcendtal) and is disguised as a police telephone box from the 1960s.
The original series was broadcast from 1963 until 1989, predominantly in 25 minute episodes. Periodic attempts were made to revive it, but the series was finally relaunched in 2005, and has run ever since in 45 minute episodes. The show began in black and white but switched over to color in 1970. When the original Doctor, William Hartnell, became too ill to carry on with the part, the production team hit on the concept of 'regeneration'. This means that instead of simply recasting the part with a similar actor, the Doctor changes his whole appearance and personality.
To date there have been eleven 'official' Doctors in the series: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and now Matt Smith. Each has brought their own distinct style to a much loved character.
Not much is known about the Doctor, in spite of frequent hints. He is a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey, and he has two hearts. Back in 1963 he had a granddaughter called Susan who travelled with him, and these days he claims to have been a father once.
The Doctor, usually travelling with a (usually young and female) human assistant, travels from time to time and from planet to planet having adventures and saving the world. Although many of the monsters in Doctor Who are ruthless and cruel, the Doctor tends to avoid using direct violence, instead defeating enemies through cunning and intelligence.
Monsters to look out for include the squat, metal Daleks, robotic war machines that contain icky mutants. The Daleks are the Doctor's oldest and most tenacious foe, dating right back to 1963, and they are never far away. The Cybermen are the runners up, clanking silver giants that are cybernetically 'enhanced' humans with their emotions removed. And for individual enemies, few are as memorable as the Master, a rival Time Lord to the Doctor with a penchant for black suits and chuckling. Most recently played by John Simm in David Tennant's swansong, the Master is a bonkers villain, but never dull to watch.
Beyond these broad outlines, the best way to get into" Doctor Who" is to simply pick an episode and start watching. Episodes are generally self-contained, and usually great fun with or without prior knowledge. After 50 years, the show has to reinvent itself almost constantly, so there are plenty of jumping-on points for new fans. Why not start with Matt Smith's 2010 debut The Eleventh Hour? Or the very first 1963 episode An Unearthly Child? Or a classic episode like City of Death from 1979, when ratings were at their highest in the UK?
After nearly 50 years across TV, film, novels, graphic novels, radio plays, computer games and virtually any other media you can think of, "Doctor Who" still continues to tell exciting and gripping stories, and long may it continue
Learn more about this author, Kenneth Andrews.
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