The program is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, 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". It has been recognized 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; in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, it has become a cult television favorite and 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 programs, including the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006, and five consecutive wins at the National Television Awards since 2005, in the Drama category.
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The program 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 program was relaunched in 2005, produced in-house by BBC Cymru Wales in Cardiff. The first was produced by the BBC and series two and three had some development money contributed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which was credited as a co-producer. Doctor Who also spawned spin-offs in multiple media, including the current television programs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, the standalone K-9, and a single 1981 pilot episode of K-9 and Company.
The Doctor has been 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 encountered one another, they are all meant to be aspects of the same character.
Doctor Who first appeared on BBC television at 17:15 GMT on 23 November 1963, following discussions and plans that had been in progress for a year. The Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, was mainly responsible for developing the program, 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. The series' title theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The program was originally intended to appeal to a family audience. The BBC drama department's Serials division produced the program for 26 series, broadcast on BBC One. Viewing numbers that had fallen (though comparably increased at some points), 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. Although it was effectively, if not formally, canceled 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.
While in-house production had ceased, the BBC was hopeful of finding 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. Segal's negotiations eventually led to a television film. The Doctor Who television film was 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 program Doctor Who remained dormant until 2003. In September of that year, BBC Television announced the in-house production of a new series after several years of unsuccessful 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.
Doctor Who finally returned with the episode "Rose" on BBC One on 26 March 2005. There have been four further series in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010 and Christmas Day specials in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The 2005 version of Doctor Who is a direct continuation of the 1963–1989 series, as is the 1996 telefilm. This differs from other series relaunches that have either been reimaginings or reboots (e.g., 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 (e.g. Star Trek: The Next Generation and spin-offs).
Public ConsciousnessEditThe programme rapidly became a national institution in the United Kingdom, with a large following among the general viewing audience. 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; however, the program 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. During the 1970s, the Radio Times announced that a child's mother said the theme music terrified her son. The Radio Times was apologetic, but the theme music remained.
There were more complaints about the programme's content than its music. 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 negative portrayal of Chinese people in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977).
It has been said that watching Doctor Who from a position of safety "behind the sofa" (as the Doctor Who exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in London was titled) and peering cautiously out to see if the frightening part was over is one of the great shared experiences of British childhood. The phrase has become commonly used in association with the program and occasionally elsewhere.
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 programs the corporation then produced. The same report found that 3% of the surveyed audience regarded the show as "very unsuitable" for family viewing. 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."
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. 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.
The 21st century revival of the programme has become the centrepiece of BBC One's Saturday schedule, and has "defined the channel." Since its return, Doctor Who has consistently received high ratings, both in number of viewers and as measured by the Appreciation Index. In 2007, Caitlin Moran, television reviewer for The Times, wrote that Doctor Who is "quintessential to being British." The film director Steven Spielberg has commented that "the world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who."
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. Occasionally serials were loosely connected by a storyline, such as Series 16's quest for The Key to Time or Series 18's journey through E-Space and the theme of entropy.
The programme was intended to be educational and for family viewing on the early Saturday evening schedule. 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. 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, 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.
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.
The serial format changed for the 2005 revival, with each series consisting of thirteen 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.
756 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), three 60-minute Christmas specials and a 72 minute Christmas Special in 2007. 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.
The DoctorEditThe 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 old time machine called the "TARDIS", whose name is an acronym for "Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space." As it appears much larger on the inside than on the outside, the TARDIS has been described by the Third Doctor as "dimensionally transcendental." Because of a malfunction of its Chameleon Circuit, it is stuck in the shape of a 1950s-style British police box.
However, not only did the initially irascible and slightly sinister Doctor quickly mellow 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 in AppearanceEdit
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 serial The Deadly Assassin established that a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times, for a total of thirteen incarnations (although at least one Time Lord, the Master, has managed to circumvent this in The Keeper of Traken, 1981.) To date, the Doctor has fully gone through this process and its resulting after-effects on ten occasions, with each of his incarnations having his own quirks and abilities but otherwise sharing the memories and experience of the previous incarnations.
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 females, the production team for the 1963–1989 series maintained a long-standing taboo against any overt romantic involvement in the TARDIS. The taboo was controversially broken in the 1996 television film when the Eighth Doctor was shown kissing companion Grace Holloway.
Previous companions reappeared in the series, usually for anniversary specials. 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. Afterwards, 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, with K-9 appearing briefly in the final episode, "Journey's End".
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. For one episode ("Voyage of the Damned") the Doctor's companion was Astrid Peth, played by Australian performer Kylie Minogue.
Karen Gillan now plays the 11th Doctor's companion, named Amy Pond. For several adventures Amy Pond's fiance Rory Williams, played by Arthur Darvill, also travelled with both The Doctor and Amy.
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. The actor Nicholas Courtney who portrayed the Brigadier had previously also starred as Bret Vyon alongside first Doctor William Hartnell in the 12-part The Daleks' Master Plan, and he appeared on television with every Doctor of the classic series except Colin Baker, but appears with the Sixth Doctor 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 spinoff in 2008, more than 40 years after the character was first introduced, making him the longest-serving ongoing character in the franchise beyond the Doctor himself. He and UNIT appeared regularly during the Third Doctor's tenure, and UNIT has continued to appear or be referred to in the revival of the show and its spinoffs.
When Sydney Newman commissioned the series, he specifically did not want to perpetuate the cliché of the "bug-eyed monster" of science fiction. However, monsters were popular with audiences and so became a staple of Doctor Who almost from the beginning. Over the series' initial 26-year run, notable adversaries include the Autons, the Sontarans, the Silurians and Sea Devils, the Ice Warriors, the Yeti, the Rani, and Davros, creator of the Daleks.
With the show's 2005 revival, executive producer Russell T Davies stated 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 in the 2009-10 Specials. Davies' successor, Steven Moffat, has continued the trend by reviving the Silurians. Since its 2005 return, the series has also introduced new recurring aliens, such as the Slitheen, Ood, Judoon, and Weeping Angels.