Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series in the world. The BBC in Great Britain first produced it in 1963 and the show premiered on BBC1 on Saturday November 23, the day after the assassination of President John F Kennedy.


The concept was to produce a programme for family viewing that would both entertain and educate. To do so the format decided on would concern travel through both time and space to facilitate the opportunity to cover both historical and scientific subjects. To better engage the viewers it was decided to feature a ‘family’ group in the series and the members would be as followed:



Grandfather - This was the character of the Doctor. A somewhat cantankerous elderly gentleman, whose inquisitive manner would often be the catalyst for the stories that followed.


Child - Susan, apparently a normal teenage schoolgirl, but revealed to be as alien to 1960s Earth as the 1960s would be to someone from today. It was thought that a younger character would enable children to empathise and see the stories through her eyes.


Uncle - Ian Chesterton: science teacher at Susan’s school.


Aunt - Barbara Wright: history teacher at Susan’s school.


The idea behind the characters of Ian and Barbara was that as they were school teachers they would be someone the viewer felt they could trust, the Doctor after all was a little untrustworthy – at least initially. The fact that they were teachers also gave an ideal way for facts to be fed to the viewer during the course of the adventures.


The credit for Doctor Who can not really be laid at the hands of any one person however it is generally agreed that chief amongst those responsible were Sydney Newman, who as BBC Head of Drama commissioned the series and Verity Lambert who was the series original producer. It would however be unfair to overlook the contributions made by the designer of the original TARDIS interior (Peter Brachacki), the author of the pilot and first serial (Anthony Coburn, developed from an idea by CE (Cecil Edwin) Webber), Warris Hussain (director of the pilot and first serial) and the creators of the iconic title sequence (visuals by Bernard Lodge, theme composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop).



Of course there is one person who revolutionised the show, much to Sydney Newman’s distaste: Terry Nation. Newman was adamant that the show be educational and not be an excuse for ‘bug-eyed monsters’, but the success of the second serial’s BEMs the Daleks made the inclusion of further ‘monsters’ a given thing; even to the extent of bringing back the Daleks who had been killed off in the first story. 



The initial story concerned Ian and Barbara (William Russell and Jacqueline Hill) giving in to their combined suspicions about Susan (Carole Anne Ford) and following her home to what appeared to be an old junkyard. Going in they could find no trace of Susan, but did find and old Police Box, an unlikely item of scrap. They were taken by surprise by a somewhat abrasive old man (the Doctor, William Hartnell) who demanded to know what they were doing in his yard. Hearing Susan’s voice from inside the Police Box they forced their way past the Doctor, and found themselves inside a room which was much larger than possible and also alive with circuitry: it was the product of a technology undreamt of at that stage in Earth’s history.  A confrontation between the old man and the teachers resulted in the Doctor ‘accidentally’ launching the Ship. All this was the pilot episode (though the original pilot was deemed unsuitable at the time by Newman, and it was remade with a few changes) and the episode ended with the TARDIS arriving in (what is assumed to be) the past where the group came up against a tribe of primitives who have lost the ability to make fire. This first story introduced such mainstays as the Doctor and his associates being imprisoned and having to escape, and for the need to return to the Ship (the TARDIS) for safety. It wasn’t however until the second story and the introduction of the series iconic ‘monsters’ the Daleks, that Doctor Who became a ‘must see’.


The Essentials


The Doctor - a very old (though doesn’t always look it) traveller through time and space. He comes from the planet Gallifrey and although he looks human is one of that planets ruling elite: The Time Lords. The Doctor refers to himself simply as ‘the Doctor’; no other names are used, unless required for deception or convenience, when the usual choice is Dr John Smith.


He has two hearts, a respiratory bypass system (allowing him to close his lungs and re-breath the air trapped inside for a short period), a degree of telepathy and the ability to undergo a complete cellular metamorphosis when his life is threatened with death. This technique has come to be called ‘regeneration’ and was introduced to allow the replacement of the lead in what was now a very popular TV show. The ability to regenerate has become part of the Time Lord physiology and has been limited to a total number of 12 occurrences, though one would assume that this could be gotten around when the need for a fourteenth Doctor arrives.


The Doctor is considered a renegade within Time Lord society, as he believes that evil should be confronted wherever possible and as such he constantly breaks the sacrosanct Time Lord laws of non-intervention, something that pro-intervention Time Lord factions have not been slow to exploit. At least twice his fellow Time Lords have tried the Doctor for his ‘crimes’, but this did not stop him at one stage becoming their Lord President; at least for a short while.



The Doctor is morally opposed to violence and never carries a gun; however he does bow to the inevitable and resort to force when there is no other avenue available to him. His greatest weapons are his mind and its vast resources of scientific and esoteric knowledge. Of course bumming around history hasn’t stopped him picking up a few useful tricks from such people as Houdini; and he is not afraid to drop a few names.


TARDIS - The Doctor travels time and space in his ship, which is called the TARDIS and although originally thought to be unique is merely one of many such time capsules manufactured by the Time Lords. Due to the Time Lord philosophy of non-intervention, the TARDIS has defences but no weapons systems.


Companions - One or more companions usually accompany the Doctor in his travels. This was initially to enable an exchange of information and to allow the programme to educate its viewers, but now more for the case of narrative flow. Over the years the TARDIS has seen a number of different companions, though most seem to be attractive young ladies (which became known as the Crumpet Factor, when they were seen as a way to maintain the attention of fathers after the afternoon sports programme). The number of companions varied and included, at two different times, the robots K-9 (mk1 and mk2) and Kamelion. A number of companions did not survive their time with the Doctor: Katarina, Sarah Kingdom, Adric, Kamelion.

Times/Places – The use of the TARDIS meant that adventures could take place on different planets and different time periods. With the exception of the early third Doctor UNIT stories, where he was exiled to Earth, it was rare that the location was used as a base for more than one story.  However it must be mentioned that according to the Doctor’s travels there are a lot of planets out there that look like quarries.


A legend that refused to die


The series ran from 1963 until 1987 without interruption (though there was a period when the series was rested for a year; the reason given being to allow the show to be brought up to date however most fans believe it was more to do with BBC office politics).  During this time the Doctor underwent six regenerations and was therefore portrayed by seven different actors.


Unfortunately as the years went by BBC budgets did not match those available to US productions and this became particularly noticeable after the arrival of the first Star Wars film (which is really number four – and they say UNIT chronology is difficult) and the flurry of US TV wannabes that followed. As a result, while the stories retained a degree of quality the finished effect was often spoilt by the limitations in production. At the same time the BBC were beginning to chase ratings (something that is unnecessary as being funded by the TV license fee the Beeb has a guaranteed income) and decided to experiment with scheduling (note putting a genre programme on against one of the biggest soap operas on TV (Coronation Street) is not a good idea) resulting in a fall in perceived popularity. Ironically at the time of cancellation the series had begun to regain some of its previous strengths and indeed its popularity was once more beginning to rise.


This however was not the end. The BBC licensed Virgin Publishing to produce a range of original full-length novels to essentially carry on the story. To do so Virgin published both a range of stories featuring the then present seventh Doctor, and a series of ‘Missing Adventures’ featuring previous Doctors and set between transmitted TV stories.


It was within the seventh Doctor stories that the most change would be seen. Titled The New Adventures of Doctor Who, the series continued from where the TV series finished, and promised stories both bigger and bolder than previously possible. This probably explains why the first book opened with the Doctor’s teenage companion Ace, wandering around the TARDIS in her underwear, and later went on to feature naked temple girls in ancient Mesopotamia; Mary Whitehouse would not have been amused!


The first change to hit readers was that after a number of books, the character of Ace was written out and a new companion, Benny, was introduced. A couple of books later and Ace was back, however she had now grown up and become a fully fledged, hard as nails, space commando with her own hidden agenda.


The TARDIS would gain further crewmembers and at the landmark 50th novel (Happy Endings) would see Benny marry her newly acquired lover, Jason, and leave the Doctor. There were however uncertain times ahead.


The Enemy Within (or not)


The BBC had announced that they would be co-producing a Doctor Who TV movie with Universal, which would act as a pilot for a brand new series. The TVM would feature a new regeneration for the Doctor and would be set in America (though shot in Canada as is so often the case now with US TV shows). The new Doctor was played by Paul McGann and he was teamed up with an American heart surgeon, Grace (Daphne Ashbrook) who inadvertently ‘kills’ a critically injured seventh Doctor and thus brings about his regeneration. The TV Movie was set around the turn of the millennium and was spoilt for many by some rather silly and unnecessary plot twists. Though the movie was successful in the UK ratings, in the US it failed, partly due to poor scheduling and lack of familiarity within the mindset of the American audience.


Paul McGann however continued to ‘portray’ the eighth Doctor in a series of novels launched by BBC Worldwide to replace the Virgin Publishing venture, which at the loss of this licence diverted its efforts into a stand-alone series based around the character of Benny. During the Virgin period a company called Big Finish Productions had started producing a range of audio plays based on the Benny stories, and then successfully received a license from the BBC to produce original Doctor Who stories using the previous cast members. With the advent of a new Doctor, BFP were also able to continue to chronicle the adventures of the eight Doctor, with Paul McGann providing the voice.


After many audio plays and a couple of web based animated adventures, the BBC announced the arrival of a ninth Doctor, played by Robert E Grant, in a new fully animated, and hopefully to be released on DVD, web story The Scream of the Shalka, written by Paul Cornell who was also the creator of Benny. With a rather large amount of media coverage and BBC hype it was hoped that this would mean the Doctor’s 40th anniversary would see many more such stories produced.





While that story was still being serialised over the Internet, the BBC made the announcement that Doctor Who would return to TV in 2005. The show is now produced by BBC Wales under the watchful eyes of Russell T. Davies, a previous writer of Doctor Who novels and the creator of both Queer as Folk and The Second Coming.


The ninth Doctor is played by Christopher Eccleston, who has worked with Davies on previous projects (including The Second Coming where he played the son of God) who has a reputation for playing serious and intense parts but has adopted a lighter ‘comic’ side for the Doctor, which is readily dropped for serious angst when the situation turns grim. Then new Doctor comes with a new look, and in the case of this series at least that means a leather jacket and cropped hair – well why not.  Ironically after the earlier ratings battle with Coronation Street, the ninth Doctor speaks with a Mancunian accent.

Accompanying the Doctor in his adventures is Rose Tyler, played by singer turned actress Billie Piper. Rose is said to be more independent than previous female assistants, but then to be honest we have had this said about Sarah, Leela and Ace, as well as more his equal, something also said about Romana – we shall just have to wait and see though so far she is living up to this saving the Doctor and the Earth in Rose and showing for the first time a real appreciation as to what happens when a person from contemporary London is exposed to the Doctor’s hectic lifestyle – culture shock is only the start of it.


The TARDIS is still stuck in the form of a Police Box, but the interior has been redesigned and while still retaining the basic layout (and a return of the roundels) it has a much more organic feel; suggesting that perhaps in the time since the TVM it has been through a lot and its evolution has been eclectic in the extreme.  Other special effects are looking good; and they are in the hands of both Mike Tucker and Oscar (for Gladiator) winning effects house The Mill.


The new series of 13 45 minute episodes began transmission on BBC 1 at 7:00pm on Saturday 26th March 2005, so I will be revisiting this page at the end of the season. Meanwhile I invite you all to post comments in the forum. However the media build up has been quite spectacular with generally rave reviews of preview screenings and it seems every body is keen to mention the Doctor. Certainly the BBC have been screening trailers and have dedicated a page in the Radio Times to the show, plus a fold out RT cover and pull out booklet for the launch edition; there are also bill board posters too! There have been spots on chat shows (Parkinson on ITV1 and Friday Night with Jonathon Ross on BBC 1), coverage on Blue Peter (which has also showcased the transformation of a compost bin into a Dalek by a pair of young viewers who were presented with their Blue Peter badges by Eccleston as the Doctor-he used a badge to destroy the ‘Dalek’) and the official bbci website was completely revamped, it included a real time countdown until the transmission of the first new episode and now features a themed splash page leading up to each new episode with behind the scenes articles and clips after the event. There is also a companion show Doctor Who Confidential shown immediately after each episode on BBC 3. This half hour show looks at both behind the scenes and onscreen factors, often relating to the episode in some way, The BBC has also announced that the series (though not Confidential though this can be viewed via the website) will debut on DVD in May in an economy format of episodes only and in November as a complete series TARDIS shaped box set with additional extras.



Rose was transmitted as scheduled against ITV1’s popular Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (a show where the former child actors/singing duo host a series of ‘challenges’, ‘pranks’, guest spots and a chance for someone to win the items advertised during the commercial breaks) which had been rescheduled to start at 7:00pm and had been extensively promoted as including an interview with David Beckham (former star of Manchester United FC, captain of the England football team and husband to former ‘Posh Spice’ Victoria). Initial ratings indicate that Rose trounced its opposition gaining a peak of 10.6 million viewers and approx 43% of the viewing figures (Ant & Dec achieved 7.9 million) so far this lead has been maintained, though figures did drop off for the second episode (though still remaining respectable), indeed the April 9th screened The Unquiet Dead was the most watched show that Saturday, beating even the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla (now Duchess of Cornwall).



He is back!!

So he is but there have been many changes. The TARDIS is now radically different, the internal doors now match the external ‘Police Box’ doors, in a style borrowed from the Peter Chushing feature films, while this seems a little insecure and perhaps even ‘tacky’ it does allow for a number of wonderful shots where the TARDIS doors are open and the console room is visible – shots that are achievable without costly special effects due to the external doors being built into the standing TARDIS console room set. The biggest change in the interior of the TARDIS is probably the console itself. No longer composed of hard lines the now comprises an essentially round structure of illuminated blue ‘glass’ with the traditional hexagonal structure being supplied by six struts that form both the base of the console and the divisions on the console itself. The Time Rotor is once more linked to the ceiling as in the TVM and there are again supports forming arch-like structures although unlike the TVM they appear organic rather than mechanical. The evolution of the TARDIS is discussed further in its own section.


Between the events of the TVM and the appearance of the ninth Doctor it seems there have been major changes in the universe at large. It has been revealed that there was a major conflict, the Time War, which has resulted in the destruction of planets and races. One of the casualties was the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey which we are told was reduced to a cinder leaving the Doctor as the last living Time Lord. It seems likely that this war was the cause of the Doctor’s recent regeneration, as it has been stated that he took part in this war. The Doctor’s current outward persona of the ‘northern laddish clown’ seems to be a cover, and perhaps an escape from, for his more serious and guilt ridden self. Indeed the Doctor now seems willing to take wild risks in an effort, perhaps, to atone for his failures in the war; this has rendered him an easy target for emotional manipulation –as the Gelft ably demonstrated in The Unquiet Dead. Just who destroyed Gallifrey, and who actually won the war have yet to be revealed…


 In what could undoubtedly be termed a shock announcement (hey, even he wasn’t prepared for it – the BBC let it out in error when they confirmed the series’ renewal for 2006) Christopher Eccleston will only be the Doctor for the one 2005 season.  The current season ends with a two-parter, the mysterious and so far unnamed 12th episode and the, now it seems, rather aptly titled 13th The Parting of the Ways. There will however be a Christmas Special and it is here that the tenth Doctor will make his debut. The new Doctor has now been confirmed as David Tennant, who recently came to the public’s attention as the young Casanova, in the three part series also by Russell T Davies. No details are yet available regarding the look of the tenth Doctor, but it has been confirmed that Billie Piper will continue as Rose. In many ways it seems fitting that the ninth Doctor, who in his first episode turned down the sexual advances of Rose’s mother should be replaced by an actor currently famed for his portrayal of the world’s greatest lover!


Or rather possible spoilers as much of what I include here is speculation on my part drawn from comments made in the press, both the ever so accurate newspapers and interviews with, loose lipped, cast members in genre publications.


The 12th and mysteriously anonymous penultimate episode will probably feature a Dalek invasion of the Earth, probably in Rose’s home time period as I believe Mickey will be involved, though it may simply mean that the story includes a visit or even concludes back at her home.  The Daleks may be the new improved model as seen in the 6th episode Dalek, but could be a new updated and more frightening model – please note that as far as I am concerned the traditional Daleks are scary when they are handled properly as a comparison between the classic 60’s episodes and the latter appearances in the 70’s/80’s indicates. I presume the title of the 12th episode will include the word ‘Dalek’ as it is being kept blank to avoid spoiling the surprise, however it could just as easily include ‘Cybermen’ or ‘Walford’ as they would be just as surprising. It is likely that the Doctor will sacrifice himself to save Rose and that at the end of The Parting of the Ways begins the regeneration, or at least is put into a regeneration instigating situation – it is unlikely in my opinion that the regeneration will take place during the Christmas Special (hmmm perhaps in the interest of political correctness I should refer to it as the Winterfest Special, but then as I as a Pagan don’t have a problem saying ‘Christmas’ I don’t see why others should!!) as it has been stated that Eccleston is here for the one series only and with its given title it would seem that someone leaves or at least passes in this episodes – though maybe it just means that Rose says goodbye to Mickey (perhaps he runs of with a Thal?). Only time, as they say, will tell…