Doctor Who: A Primer

This primer is designed to introduce “newbies” to the world of Doctor Who. It will cover a short history of the show and explain some of the show’s key concepts and characters.

Doctor Who premiered on the BBC in 1963. It is a Sci-Fi show about The Doctor, a 900 year old alien from a race of people called Time Lords. The Doctor travels through time and space in an usual vessel called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). The Doctor usually has one or more companions that travel with him. The Doctor is mortal and can be placed in near death situations. In case of imminent death, the Doctor goes through a process known as Regeneration, where the Doctor changes forms completely, becoming a new man. The Doctor travels to many different planets, but has a particular fondness for Earth. Sometimes, this is a disadvantage for the planet though, as the Doctor’s enemies seem to target Earth and they seem to have a special hate for Humanity. The Doctor has many various and deadly enemies. The most famous of these are the Daleks, which look a bit like metal garbage cans, Cybermen, which are men made of metal and, the Master, who is an evil megalomaniacal fellow Time Lord.

There have been ten actors to previously play the Doctor. On April 3rd, the Eleventh Doctor will begin his run. The series is generally divided into two eras: The Classic Series and the New Series. The Classic Series comprises 1963-1999 and covers the runs of the first Eight Doctors. They are:

William Hartnell (First Doctor: 1963-1966)

Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor: 1966-1969)

Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor: 1970-1974)

Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor: 1974-1981)

Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor: 1982-1984)

Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor: 1984-1986)

Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor: 1987-1989)

Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor: 1996)

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The show’s  “Classic” Era ends after Paul McGann’s one and only term as the Eight Doctor in the 1996 T.V. Movie. The show then goes off the air for the next 9 years, but never leaves the public consciousness.  This drought continues until 2004, when it is announced that Doctor Who will be revived on the BBC by Russell T. Davies, creator of “Queer as Folk.” As it happens, Davies has recently worked on a show called “cassanova” with a young and promising actor named David Tennant. Davies and his team of Executive Producer Julie Gardner and Producer Phil Collinson cast Actor Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and a young popstar named Billie Piper as his Companion, Rose Tyler. The show premiers in 2005. This officially marks the start of the “New Series” Era. That Era continues to his very day, and has seen three Doctors travel in the TARDIS. Russell T. Davies fundamentally changes the history of the series by doing away with the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey, and, his people, the Time Lords. In Davies’ continuity, sometime between the Eighth Doctor’s first appearance and the start of the Ninth Doctor’s adventures, the Time Lords and their enemies the Daleks have been involved in the Great Time War. This war, which raged across time and space, resulted in the destruction of both races and their respective home planets: Gallifrey and Skaro. It is revealed during the series that this event was caused by the Doctor himself. This allowed Davies to give the Doctor a new pathos, as he is saddled with the guilt of that choice. Along with the TARDIS, the Doctors in the new series also use a prerennial tool that has been used in the Classic Series as well, the Sonic Screwdriver, and a new toll invented by Davies, Psychic Paper. Here are the Doctors who have been seen so far in the New Series.

Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor: 2005): Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor was wracked by grief after the Time War stole everything from him. He returns to Earth to start over on the only other planet he has ever considered home. He meets Rose Tyler in a department store while investigating the Nestene Consciousness. Rose leaves with the Doctor and travels in time, first to the future and then to the past. She returns to Earth, but a year has passed and her Mother, Jackie, and boyfriend, Mickey, are furious with her and the Doctor. However, she decides to continue traveling with the Doctor. Along the way, they meet the Slitheen and see the return of his old enemies, the Daleks. The also meet Captain Jack, a con man and former Time Agent, who we will see again. On the Game Station, formerly Satellite Five, far in the future, the Doctor encounters the Daleks once again, this time planning to enslave the Earth. After setting himself on a course that will kill not just the Daleks, but him as well, he sends Rose and the TARDIS back to the present day. Rose, not willing to give up on the Doctor, opens the control console to expose the Heart of the TARDIS. She absorbs the energy of the TIme Vortex and is able to return the TARDIS to the Game Station. After a face off with the Dalek Emperor, she destroys the entire Dalek fleet and all of the Daleks. She also brings Captain Jack, who has been killed, back to life. Rose mind begins to burn due to all of the energy, so the Doctor absorbs it from her via a kiss. The energy is too much for the Doctor to contain, and he must regenerate. As he leaves, the Doctor states that both he and Rose were, fantastic. In a volcano of energy, the Doctor changes every cell in his body. As the process completes, we bid farewell to the Ninth Doctor and hello to…

David Tennant (Tenth Doctor: 2005-2010): The Tenth Doctor has a manic energy about from the instant he arrives. This Doctor is quite a bit more carefree than his predecessor. However, his tenure is to be marked with heartbreaking moments of loss. Rose decides to continue traveling with the Doctor, and she believes she’ll be with him forever. Unfortunately, the Daleks and the Cybermen threaten the human and race, and while helping the Doctor repel the invasion, she is trapped in a parallel universe, with her mother and Mickey. The next season sees the Doctor with a new companion, Martha Jones, who works at a Hospital that the Doctor is posing as a patient ask. Martha also makes the decision to travel with the Doctor.She fancies the Doctor, but he doesn’t return the affection. This series sees the return of the Doctor’s fellow Time Lord: The Master. Tennant’s final 13 episode series sees a new companion, Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate, takes up residence in the TARDIS. Donna was introduced in the Christmas Special 2006, The Runaway Bride. That was another new thing in the new series era. BBC commissioned an hour-long Christmas Special, beginning in 2005, after the arrival of the Tenth Doctor. This is the first time Doctor Who has ever appeared on Christmas. The Christmas Special is still a part of the BBC lineup today. David announced his departure following the end of his third series as the Doctor. It was decided that five final Specials starring David’s Doctor would be produced. The final special sees the Master resurrected to match with the Tenth Doctor one last time. The final special, called “The End of Time”, would also bring back the Time Lords and Gallifrey for a brief appearance. Timothy Dalton would play the Time Lord President Rassilon in the special. After absorbing a fatal dose of radiation, the Tenth Doctor embarks on a “farewell tour” of sorts, saying goodbye to his former companions. His last words are: “i don’t want to go.” He regenerates in the TARDIS alone, a regeneration so explosive that it blows out the windows of the TARDIS and destroys the control room. As the TARDIS crashes to Earth, the newly reborn Eleventh Doctor holds on for dear life, shouting “Geronimo!”

In addition to David Tennant, the end of the Tenth Doctor’s time in the TARDIS will also see the departure of Producer Julie Gardiner and Executive Producer and Showrunner Russell T. Davies. The reins of show are turned over to writer Steven Moffat. The casting of the role of the Eleventh Doctor is a huge source of excitement ove the next few months. Finally, in a specially filmed episode of Doctor Who Confidential, it is announced that the keys of the TARDIS will be handed to:

Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor: 2010-????): Matt Smith debuted as the Eleventh Doctor on April 3rd. His first episode, The Eleventh Hour, was watched by over 8 Million people. Smith Doctor seems a bit more reckless and is a bit of a klutz. His costume consists of tweed coat, boots, suspenders and a bow tie. It remains to be seen just how Matt with establish his Doctor, but the reviews thus far are very positive. The Doctor is in!

That brings you up to speed with where we are now. The first episode of the new fifth series has been aired in the UK, but you can watch it online. In the US, the new series will premier on BBC America on Saturday, April 17th at 9:00 pm. There is a new Doctor, a new TARDIS and a new Sonic Screwdriver. This is the time to jump on board. The Eleventh Doctor’s era has begun.

The show’s official website is

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