Doctor Who has been a British sci-fi TV series produced by the BBC since 1963 that has managed to become part of the pop culture of various countries across the globe. It appeals to a wide range of people, including those from different age groups, races, nationalities, and socioeconomic classes. It is also one of the longest-running TV shows in history. What has made Doctor Who such a huge success—despite periods of disastrous TV ratings—remains a mystery.
According to Paddy O’Donnell, professor of psychology at the University of Glasgow, the reason science fiction in general works is that it explores psychological and societal themes but in a fantasy world where you can explore them in ways that are more difficult to do in real life. Doctor Who is no exception to this rule. Each episode is written in a different genre (from horror to historical parody, Victorian ghost stories to ancient Greek wars), which gives the show diversity and an authority to invent that other shows just don’t have. But before we say more, get inside our TARDIS (the time machine with which the doctor travels throughout history) and let’s learn 25 Facts About Doctor Who and what makes the show so awesome!
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When Sydney Newman, the Head of Drama at the BBC, first created the series, its objective was to engage the entire family on Saturday nights after football (soccer). The show’s aim was to educate children about science and history, using time travel and historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo.
The Doctor actually is a doctor, though it’s not entirely clear what type. However, in a sick bay in the 1967 story “The Moonbase,” the Doctor was asked, “Listen, are you really a medical doctor?” and he replied, “Yes, I think I was once, Polly. I think I took a degree once in Glasgow. Eighteen eighty-eight I think. Lister.”
The Doctor has visited many different planets, but his home planet is called Gallifrey.
The character of the Doctor was partly inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Comparisons have been made between the Doctor and the famous literary detective. In fact, both the fourth and eleventh Doctors have dressed as Holmes in episodes of the series.
The Doctor has been married three times; he was married to Queen Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, and River Song.
Few individuals are said to know the Doctor's true name. River Song whispered something to the Tenth Doctor to make him trust her during "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", confirmed by writer Steven Moffat to be his name in the accompanying Doctor Who Confidential.
At the height of his success as the Doctor, William Hartnell presented his wife, Heather, with a solid gold TARDIS topped with a sapphire. They were the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of their day.
The eleventh Doctor is known for wearing a fez, but he was not the only Doctor to do so. In “Silver Nemesis: Part 1” (1988), the seventh Doctor was briefly seen wearing a fez.
The title “Time Lord,” used to describe the Doctor’s people, wasn’t used until 1969. It was another four-and-a-half years before his home planet was called “Gallifrey” on-screen.
In 1988, Paramount wanted to make a Doctor Who movie starring either Michael Jackson or Bill Cosby as the Doctor. We wonder how that would have turned out.
Twelve actors have played the Doctor from 1963 when the show started to today. Tom Baker, the fourth actor to play the Doctor, from 1974 to 1981 (172 episodes), holds the record for the longest run.
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The noise the TARDIS makes was created by rubbing piano strings with a key.
In twenty-six years, from 1963 to 1989, Doctor Who only won two awards, a Royal Television Society award and a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award. However, the newly revived series from 2005 onward has received great recognition from critics and the public, winning over 120 awards, and being nominated for 230, including BAFTAs and NTAs.
Matt Smith is the youngest actor to play the Doctor; he started at age twenty-six.
When the original series was struggling with ratings in the 1980's, the show’s co-creator, Sydney Newman, wrote a letter to BBC One controller Michael Grade, suggesting some radical new ideas for the show, including the introduction of a Time Lady. That was thirty years ago, however, and things have truly changed, Doctor Who is currently the BBC’s biggest-selling show around the world.
During his travels throughout history, the Doctor has met and in some cases befriended many famous people including Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, Elizabeth I, and Winston Churchill.
If you thought Batman is the absolute king when it comes to gadgets, think again. The Doctor has some of the coolest devices that even the Dark Knight would be jealous of, such as the sonic screwdriver, which has many uses including the ability to unlock almost anything, and the psychic paper, which can trick people into seeing whatever the user wants them to see printed on it.
Doctor Who employed the BBC’s first female producer. Verity Lambert was Sydney Newman’s former production assistant and had no production experience when he first approached her to produce the series.
A hundred and three episodes of the series are lost. The BBC destroyed or erased many episodes of Doctor Who in the 1960's and ’70's for various reasons including saving space, leaving a huge gap in the series’ archives. In an attempt to recover the missing episodes, which mostly consist of first and second Doctor appearances, the BBC and fans continue requesting copies from people who worked on it and put the film of the shows on tape to be returned.
The character of Captain Jack, played by John Barrowman, introduced in the first series was the first openly gay character to be portrayed in the history of the series.
Lara Croft, the main protagonist of the Tomb Raider video games, is a strong influence behind River Song. Like Croft, River Song is an archaeologist known for using a gun.
According to Peter Capaldi, the twelfth Doctor’s costume was inspired by David Bowie.
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 version would be a success. Is he regretting it now? You bet!
Homeric reinvention, “The Myth Makers” (1965), didn’t feature Helen of Troy because the producers decided they wouldn’t be able to afford anyone attractive enough. “None taken,” (meaning offense) said the rest of the female cast.
Doctor Who is banned in China because the government authorities don’t want to promote anything that could be seen as rewriting history.
Want more Doctor Who facts? Take a look at 25 Doctor Who Facts Whovians Might Not Know.