What Is It?
Doctor Who is a British TV show that started in 1963 about an alien known only as “The Doctor”, who travels through time and space, helping those that need it (in direct opposition of his race, who believe in non-interference.) He tends to travel with companions, usually human, who are the viewers’ eyes into the universe.
The original series ran until 1989. There was an American attempt to revive the show, which resulted in a film in 1996 but no new series. That had to wait until 2005, when Russell T Davies brought it back, followed by three spin-off series – Torchwood (2006–2011), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007–2011), K-9 (2009–2010), and Class (2016)
Why I Love It
This is quite hard to pin down. I grew up watching it, so it was seminal to my upbringing. The original series worked on a serial basis – each story was broken into four or five episodes which often ended on a cliffhanger, so it was slightly additive. It’s also a little kitsch and a wee bit camp, both of which I thoroughly enjoy.
There was also the fact that the Doctor would change, or regenerate, which allowed new actors to take over. This keeps the series fresh, with each incoming actor bringing their own take to the character. Needless to say, I love the fact the Doctor finally regenerated as a woman!
Most Whovians have a favourite Doctor. I don’t. For me, each brings something new, and that makes it impossible to pick a particular iteration. That said, the episodes I’ve rewatched the most are all Matt Smith’s era. When it comes to actual favourite character, I’m firmly on the dark side and love the Master. Specifically Anthony Ainley’s version, whom I grew up with, though I also adore Missy.
There’s no good reason for loving the Master. I was seven when he came back to the screens, and his unrepentant naughtiness appealed to me. It was the last episode in 1989 – “Survival” – that cemented my adoration. After years of having to remain in Delgado’s shadow, Ainley was able to play the Master as he wanted, and the difference was remarkable.
The Master returned to Who in 2007, though he used the name Harold Saxon. I am not a fan of the Sound of Drums story. The Master has always been very much the captain of his own fate, and for that to be removed reduced the character in my opinion. It wasn’t until “The End of Time” where he tells the Doctor to “move” so he can battle Rassilon that Simm sounded like the Master.
When Missy started making appearances, the fandom speculated for a long time as to whether she was the Master or another Time Lord. she had a bit of a rocky start, but certainly came into her own. I loved the Doctor’s attempt to redeem her. It seemed to work, but as she was killed by her previous self (it’s complicated) we’ll never really know.
Sci Fi Connections
Seeing as Doctor Who is 50 years old, I’ll by here all day if I note alllll the sci fi connections, so I’m picking from 2005 on.
Most obvious is John Barrowman, whose character of Captain Jack Harness went on to star in the spin-off Torchwood. Christopher Eccleston, who played the first Doctor in the reboot, portrayed the villainous Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. Following Doctor David Tennant went on to play Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, bad guy Kilgrave in the Netflix superhero series Jessica Jones, and demon Crowley in Good Omens.
Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor) played the embodiment of Skynet, in Terminator Genisys (2015) and is set to star alongside Jared Leto in Sony’s Spider-Man spin-off Morbius. Michelle Gomez (Missy) plays Lilith in the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Should You Watch It?
Some people look at Who’s 50 year history and wonder if they can ever get into it, to which I say – of course you can! Each regeneration does a soft reset of the show, with only companions Rose and Clara already being with the Doctor at the time of change. This means most incoming actors provide an “in”.
Doctor Who also has a large and very active fandom. While there’s the odd bad apple, as a rule it’s a very welcoming group of people. I met some good friends through the Who fandom back in 2005, most of whom I’m still in contact with. If you like madcap adventures on alien worlds and through Earth’s history (and sometimes future) which usually require a lot of running, then Doctor Who is the show for you.