He has been a staple of British popular culture for almost 50 years. Multiple actors have played him. Fans the world over have delighted at his exploits, waiting patiently for when he will return to grace the screen again. No, this isn’t James Bond we’re talking about. This is “Doctor Who,” the cult science fiction TV series that has thrilled audiences since its inception in the ‘60s. But just who is Doctor Who, and why should you care?
The premise: “Doctor Who” tells of an alien, simply called The Doctor, who travels through time and space in his personal time machine, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space, center), which is shaped like a British police box. Always landing himself into trouble, The Doctor’s sole purpose in life is to help people, almost always from monstrous aliens set on world domination. Never traveling alone, The Doctor is always with a human companion who acts as the audience surrogate.
The history: The Doctor’s alien physiology allows him to regenerate when close to death, becoming a different person with different personality quirks every time. Thanks to this ability, multiple actors have played the part over the last five decades, the most recent incarnation (Matt Smith) being his eleventh.
The show began in 1963 in a black-and-white serialized format on BBC and continued until put on hiatus in 1989. By that point, The Doctor had gone through a total of eight actors over the course of 26 seasons and a television movie, becoming a permanent part of British pop culture.
In 2005 the show was resurrected, beginning again with season one and still going today. The modern version of the show, while sharing continuity with the past seasons, acts as a soft reboot that has gotten an entirely new generation hooked on “Doctor Who”, and has also allowed the show to gain greater notoriety here in America.
The aliens: Besides the ever changing Doctor and his companions, one of the most iconic elements of the show are the alien enemies The Doctor confronts. While he has faced hundreds of adversaries over the years, three arch foes keep popping up to terrorize The Doctor. The Master is The Doctor’s evil counterpart, a cunning mastermind from the same species of alien Time Lords. The Cybermen are cyborgs purged of all emotion, obsessed with converting all organic life to fit their goals. However, the greatest threat to the Doctor, and the most iconic, are the Daleks (Left), alien mutants in robotic shells who constantly yell, “Exterminate!”
The fandom: “Doctor Who” has persisted over the years thanks in no small part to its fandom. With smart and quirky characters caught up in adventures mixing science fiction with philosophy and humor, it’s no wonder the show has become as popular as it is. With the beginning of the seventh season this past Saturday, even more people are discovering the fun and brilliance of “Doctor Who.”