Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963. The programme depicts the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord—a spacefaring and time-travelling humanoid alien. He explores the universe in his TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Accompanied by companions, the Doctor combats a variety of foes, while working to save civilisations and help people in need.
Let’s see some interesting facts about him!
1. The show is a significant part of British popular culture, and elsewhere it has become a cult television favourite.
2. It has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series.
3. The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production in 1996 with a backdoor pilot, in the form of a television film. The programme was relaunched in 2005, and since then has been produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff.
4. Doctor Who has also spawned numerous spin-offs, including comic books, films, novels, audio dramas, and the television series Torchwood (2006–2011), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007–2011), K-9 (2009–2010), and Class (2016), and has been the subject of many parodies and references in popular culture.
5. Twelve actors have headlined the series as the Doctor. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show with the concept of regeneration into a new incarnation – an idea introduced in 1966 to allow the show to continue after the departure of original lead William Hartnell.
6. The conceit is that this is a Time Lord trait through which the character of the Doctor takes on a new body and personality to recover from a severe injury.
7. Each actor’s portrayal differs, but all represent stages in the life of the same character and form a single narrative. The plot’s time-travelling nature means that different incarnations of the Doctor occasionally meet. The current lead, Peter Capaldi, took on the role after Matt Smith’s exit in the 2013 Christmas special “The Time of the Doctor”.
8. Doctor Who follows the adventures of the primary character, a rogue Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who simply goes by the name “The Doctor”. He fled from Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS – “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” – time machine which allows him to travel across time and space.
9. The TARDIS has a “chameleon circuit” which normally allows the machine to take on the appearance of local objects as a disguise.
10. However, the Doctor’s TARDIS remains fixed as a blue British police box due to a malfunction in the chameleon circuit.
12. The Doctor rarely travels alone and often brings one or more companions to share these adventures. His companions are usually humans, as he has found a fascination with planet Earth. He often finds events that pique his curiosity as he tries to prevent evil forces from harming innocent people or changing history, using only his ingenuity and minimal resources, such as his versatile sonic screwdriver.
13. As a Time Lord, the Doctor has the ability to regenerate when his body is mortally damaged, taking on a new appearance and personality. The Doctor has gained numerous reoccurring enemies during his travels, including the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Master, another renegade Time Lord.
14. When he was 13, David Tennant wrote in a school essay called “Intergalactic Overdose” that he was “convinced” he was “going to play the part of the Doctor on TV”.
15. The Weeping Angels aren’t props – they’re played by actresses in stone costumes who have to stay very, very still.
16. The noise the TARDIS makes was created by rubbing piano strings with a key.
17. Nicholas Briggs, the voice of the Daleks in recent series, had to bring along his own analogue voice modulator to create the voice as the BBC couldn’t find a way to replicate their distinctive sound digitally.
18. In an early draft of the very first Doctor Who script, it’s strongly implied that the Doctor is planning to kill future companions Ian and Barbara in order to protect his secret. This was quickly taken out.
19. Wendy Padbury, the agent who discovered Matt Smith as a young actor, played the second Doctor’s companion Zoe Heriot in the late 1960s.
20. In fact, three of the actresses who played the Doctor’s companions went on to become agents, and all of them ended up representing actors who would play the Doctor.
21. In 1988, Paramount Pictures wanted to make a Doctor Who movie starring either Michael Jackson or Bill Cosby as the Doctor.
22. William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor from 1963 to 1966, was having health problems toward the end of his run on the series. To ensure that the show could go on without its original star, and to avoid enraging viewers who had come to love Hartnell, the showrunners decided that, instead, they would make the ability to regenerate be a part of The Doctor’s mythology.
23. Years after it was written, an internal BBC memo was uncovered that outlined the “metaphysical change” that would take place as the First Doctor became the Second Doctor. “It is as if he had had the L.S.D. drug,” the memo explained, “and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect.”
24. The Doctor has been married three times (that we know about) – to Queen Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, and River Song.
25. Tennant is married to Georgia Moffett, who played the Doctor’s daughter opposite him in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and is actually the daughter of the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. So the couple’s children have Doctors for their father and grandfather.
26. Tom Baker’s famously long scarf as the fourth Doctor was created partly by accident. The knitter hired to create it, Begonia Pope, wasn’t told how long it needed to be, so just used up all the wool she was given. It ended up 20 feet long (but was eventually trimmed down a bit).
27. In 2009 a group of volunteers clearing a pond in Hampshire found a submerged Dalek. It’s not clear how it got there.
28. he Daleks were based on the Nazis by their creator, Terry Nation, who suggested their call of ‘Exterminate!’, their obsession with forcible eugenics and their dedication to total conformity. The BBC designer Raymond Cusick, meanwhile, came up with the distinctive pepper-pot shape and the zapper with its sinister storm trooper salute.
29. In The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1966) the Daleks roll into London and turn Britain’s stout inhabitants into mind-controlled, brainwiped ‘Robomen’ – a stark nod back to the once-real possibility of an Axis invasion of Britain.
30. Tom Baker joined a monastery at the age of 15. ‘I was an affectionate boy in those days, and I was quite willing to show God some if that was what He fancied,’ Baker observed drily in his autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker? ‘For a time it was all worthwhile just to be in a frock.’ But after eight years, the bloom was off the rose, as Baker relates in some hair-raising passages: vicious discipline, fumbling in the dark, chanting every morning. ‘Some mornings I suspected I could hear God tutting at the indignity of it all.’ He ended up polishing floors and washing pots until a visiting priest encouraged him to be honest about his loss of faith. Baker left the monastery after six years. ‘I felt full of optimism,’ he wrote, ‘full of hope that I could at last get out of God’s clutches, sign up with the Devil and get on the old primrose path to pleasure, even if it did lead to Hell.’
31. The show employed the BBC’s first ever female producer. A story dramatised in Mark Gatiss’s BBC docudrama about the beginnings of the series, An Adventure in Space and Time. Verity Lambert was recruited to the BBC by its head of drama, Sydney Newman, with whom she had previously worked on ABC’s popular Armchair Theatre TV programme. Like Doctor Who, Armchair Theatre was filmed live, so Lambert was a past master at dealing with the kind of problems that shoots with no breaks can generate.
32. The gas masks in “The Empty Child” were made in part from cans of baked beans after attempts to find authentic WWII gas masks failed because they contain dangerous asbestos.
33. Peter Capaldi and sixth Doctor Colin Baker are the only actors to have been cast as the Doctor after previously appearing in the series as another character.
34. The 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” was notable for having a future companion and a future Doctor in its cast as different characters – Karen Gillan and Capaldi.
35. In 2007, Hugh Grant told The Sun that he’d been offered the role of the Doctor but turned it down because he didn’t think the new show would be a success.
36. The person who was originally supposed to design the Daleks was Ridley Scott – later the director of Alien and Gladiator – but he left his job at the BBC before he could get around to it.
37. An audience research report from 1988 showed that Bonnie Langford’s character, Mel, was “unpopular” (to say the least) with viewers – “56% of respondents who answered a questionnaire on the Paradise Towers story wished she had been eaten”.
38. The 1965 episode “Mission to the Unknown” is the only one in the series’ history that doesn’t feature the Doctor, the TARDIS, or any of his companions.
39. Alternative costume designs for Smith included one design that was described as being like a pirate.
40. Doctor Who’s main creator, Sydney Newman, was furious about the inclusion of the Daleks, as he’d been adamant that he didn’t want clichéd “bug-eyed monsters” in his show. (He later admitted he might have been wrong about this.)
41. The fourth Doctor advertised computers on televison.
42. The words “Dalek” and “TARDIS” have become so widely used that they now both appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.
43. It’s not entirely clear what the Doctor is a doctor of. Over the years, he’s both claimed that he is a medical doctor and also denied it.
44. In 1995, Steven Moffat posted a “particularly stupid” fan theory to a Doctor Who news group. Sixteen years later, he used it as part of the plot of “A Good Man Goes to War”.