Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveller known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship, the TARDIS, which appears from the exterior to be a blue 1950s police box. With his companions, he explores time and space, solving problems, facing monsters and righting wrongs.
The programme is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world and is also a significant part of British popular culture. It has been recognised for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects during its original run, and pioneering use of electronic music (originally produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the show has become a cult television favourite and has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. It has received recognition from critics and the public as one of the finest British television programmes, including the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006.
The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. After an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production with a backdoor pilot in the form of a 1996 television film, the programme was successfully relaunched in 2005, produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff. Some development money for the new series is contributed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which is credited as a co-producer. Doctor Who has also spawned spin-offs in multiple media, including the current television programmes Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the 1981 pilot episode K-9 and Company.
The show's lead character is currently portrayed by David Tennant. In the programme's most recent series, which ran from 5 April to 5 July 2008, Catherine Tate played the Doctor's companion, reprising her role of Donna Noble from the 2006 Christmas special. Another Christmas special will air in 2008, followed by four more specials in 2009; the next full series has been confirmed for airing in 2010.
While in-house production had ceased, the BBC was hopeful of finding an independent production company to relaunch the show. Philip Segal, a British expatriate who worked for Columbia Pictures' television arm in the United States, approached the BBC about such a venture. Segal's negotiations eventually led to a television movie. The Doctor Who television movie was broadcast on the Fox Network in 1996 as a co-production between Fox, Universal Pictures, the BBC, and BBC Worldwide. Although the film was successful in the UK (with 9.1 million viewers), it was less so in the United States and did not lead to a series.
Licensed media such as novels and audio plays provided new stories, but as a television programme Doctor Who remained dormant until 2003. In September of that year, BBC Television announced the in-house production of a new series after several years of unsuccessful attempts by BBC Worldwide to find backing for a feature film version. The executive producers of the new incarnation of the series are writer Russell T Davies and BBC Wales Head of Drama/BBC Television Controller of Drama Commissioning Julie Gardner. It has been sold to many other countries worldwide (see Viewership).
Doctor Who finally returned with the episode "Rose" on BBC One on 26 March 2005. There have been three further series in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and Christmas Day specials in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The fourth series began on BBC One on 5 April 2008. There will be a rest year in 2009, with no new series, although David Tennant will star in 4 specials in that year. After the 2008 Christmas special and four special episodes in 2009, a fifth full-length series is planned for Spring 2010, with Steven Moffat replacing Davies as head writer and executive producer.
The 2005–present version of Doctor Who is considered a direct continuation of the 1963–89 series, as is the 1996 telefilm. This differs from other series relaunches that have either been reimaginings or reboots (e.g., Battlestar Galactica and Bionic Woman) or series taking place in the same universe as the original but with a totally new cast of characters (e.g., Star Trek: The Next Generation and spin-offs).
The programme rapidly became a national institution, the subject of countless jokes, newspaper mentions and other popular culture references. Many renowned actors asked for or were offered and accepted guest starring roles in various stories.
With popularity came controversy over the show's suitability for children. Moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse repeatedly complained to the BBC in the 1970s over what she saw as the show's frightening or gory content. The programme became even more popular — especially with children. John Nathan-Turner, who produced the series during the 1980s, was heard to say that he looked forward to Whitehouse's comments, as the show's ratings would increase soon after she had made them. During the 1970s, the Radio Times, the BBC's listings magazine, announced that a child's mother said the theme music terrified her son. The Radio Times was apologetic, but the theme music remained.
There were more complaints about the programme's content than its music. During Jon Pertwee's second season as the Doctor, in the serial Terror of the Autons (1971), images of murderous plastic dolls, daffodils killing unsuspecting victims and blank-featured android policemen marked the apex of the show's ability to frighten children. Other notable moments in that decade included the Doctor's apparently being drowned by Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin (1976) and the allegedly negative portrayal of Chinese people in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977).
It has been said that watching Doctor Who from a position of safety "behind the sofa" (as the Doctor Who exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in London was titled) and peering cautiously out to see if the frightening part was over is one of the great shared experiences of British childhood. The phrase has become commonly used in association with the programme and occasionally elsewhere.
A BBC audience research survey conducted in 1972 found that by their own definition of "any act(s) which may cause physical and / or psychological injury, hurt or death to persons, animals or property, whether intentional or accidental", Doctor Who was the most violent of all the drama programmes the corporation then produced. The same report found that 3% of the surveyed audience regarded the show as "very unsuitable" for family viewing. However, responding to the findings of the survey in The Times newspaper, journalist Philip Howard maintained that: "to compare the violence of Dr Who, sired by a horse-laugh out of a nightmare, with the more realistic violence of other television series, where actors who look like human beings bleed paint that looks like blood, is like comparing Monopoly with the property market in London: both are fantasies, but one is meant to be taken seriously."
The image of the TARDIS has become firmly linked to the show in the public's consciousness. In 1996, the BBC applied for a trademark to use the TARDIS' blue police box design in merchandising associated with Doctor Who. In 1998, the Metropolitan Police filed an objection to the trademark claim; in 2002 the Patent Office ruled in favour of the BBC.
The 21st century revival of the programme has become the centrepiece of BBC One's Saturday schedule, and has "defined the channel". In 2007, Caitlin Moran, television reviewer for The Times, wrote that Doctor Who is "quintessential to being British". The film director Steven Spielberg has commented that "the world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who.
Doctor Who originally ran for 26 seasons on BBC One, from 23 November 1963 until 6 December 1989. During the original run, each weekly episode formed part of a story (or "serial") — usually of four to six parts in earlier years and three to four in later years. Notable exceptions were the epic The Daleks' Master Plan, which aired in twelve episodes (plus an earlier one-episode teaser, "Mission to the Unknown", featuring none of the regular cast), almost an entire season of 7-episode serials (season 7), the 10-episode serial The War Games, and The Trial of a Time Lord, which ran for 14 episodes (albeit divided into three production codes and four narrative segments) during Season 23. Occasionally serials were loosely connected by a storyline, such as Season 16's quest for The Key to Time or Season 18's journey through E-Space and the theme of entropy.
The programme was intended to be educational and for family viewing on the early Saturday evening schedule. Initially, it alternated stories set in the past, which would teach younger audience members about history, with stories set either in the future or in outer space to teach them about science. This was also reflected in the Doctor's original companions, one of whom was a science teacher and another a history teacher.
However, science fiction stories came to dominate the programme and the "historicals", which were not popular with the production team, were dropped after The Highlanders (1967). While the show continued to use historical settings, they were generally used as a backdrop for science fiction tales, with one exception: Black Orchid set in 1920s UK.
The early stories were serial-like in nature, with the narrative of one story flowing into the next, and each episode having its own title, although produced as distinct stories with their own production codes. Following The Gunfighters (1966), however, each serial was given its own title, with the individual parts simply being assigned episode numbers. What to name these earlier stories is often a subject of fan debate.
Writers during the original run included Terry Nation, Henry Lincoln, Douglas Adams, Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks, Dennis Spooner, Eric Saward, Malcolm Hulke, Christopher H. Bidmead, Stephen Gallagher, Brian Hayles, Robert Sloman, Chris Boucher, Peter Grimwade, Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch.
The serial format changed for the 2005 revival, with each series consisting of thirteen 45-minute, self-contained episodes (60 minutes, with adverts, on overseas commercial channels), and an extended episode broadcast on Christmas Day. Each series includes several standalone and multi-part stories, linked with a loose story arc that resolves in the series finale. As in the early "classic" era, each episode — whether standalone or part of a larger story — has its own title.
751 Doctor Who instalments have been televised since 1963, ranging from 25-minute episodes (the most common format), to 45-minute episodes (for Resurrection of the Daleks in the 1984 series, a single season in 1985, and the revival), to two feature-length productions (1983's "The Five Doctors" and the 1996 television movie), to the two 60-minute Christmas specials produced for the revival and the more recent 72 minute 2007 Christmas Special.
Between about 1964 and 1974, large amounts of older material stored in the BBC's various video tape and film libraries were either destroyed or simply wiped. This included many old episodes of Doctor Who, mostly stories featuring the first three Doctors — William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. Following consolidations and recoveries the archives are complete from the programme's move to colour television (starting from Jon Pertwee's time as the Doctor), although a few Pertwee episodes have required substantial restoration; a handful have been recovered only as black and white films, and several survive in colour only as NTSC copies recovered from North America (a few of which are domestic, off-air Betamax tape recordings, not transmission quality). In all, 108 of 253 episodes produced during the first six years of the programme are not held in the BBC's archives. It has been reported that in 1972 almost all episodes then made were known to exist at the BBC, whilst by 1978 the practice of wiping tapes had ended.
Some episodes have been returned to the BBC from the archives of other countries who bought copies for broadcast, or by private individuals who got them by various means. Early colour videotape recordings made off-air by fans have also been retrieved, as well as excerpts filmed from the television screen onto 8 mm cine film and clips that were shown on other programmes. Audio versions of all of the lost episodes exist from home viewers who made tape recordings of the show.
In addition to these, there are off-screen photographs made by photographer John Cura, who was hired by various production personnel to document many of their programmes during the 1950s and 1960s, including Doctor Who. These have been used in fan reconstructions of the serials. These amateur reconstructions have been tolerated by the BBC, provided they are not sold for profit and are distributed as low quality VHS copies.
One of the most sought-after lost episodes is Part Four of the last William Hartnell serial, The Tenth Planet (1966), which ends with the First Doctor transforming into the Second. The only portion of this in existence, barring a few poor quality silent 8 mm clips, is the few seconds of the regeneration scene, as it was shown on the children's magazine show Blue Peter. With the approval of the BBC, efforts are now under way to restore as many of the episodes as possible from the extant material. Starting in the early 1990s, the BBC began to release audio recordings of missing serials on cassette and compact disc, with linking narration provided by former series actors. "Official" reconstructions have also been released by the BBC on VHS, on MP3 CD-ROM and as a special feature on a DVD. The BBC, in conjunction with animation studio Cosgrove Hall has reconstructed the missing Episodes 1 and 4 of The Invasion (1968) in animated form, using remastered audio tracks and the comprehensive stage notes for the original filming, for the serial's DVD release in November 2006. Although no similar reconstructions have been announced as of early 2007, Cosgrove Hall has expressed an interest in animating more lost episodes in the future, despite the announcement in April 2007 that this project is on indefinite hiatus.
In April 2006, Blue Peter launched a challenge to find these missing episodes with the promise of a full scale Dalek model.
The character of the Doctor was initially shrouded in mystery. All that was known about him in the programme's early days was that he was an eccentric alien traveller of great intelligence who battled injustice while exploring time and space in an unreliable old time machine called the TARDIS, an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space. As it appears much larger on the inside than on the outside, the TARDIS has been described by the Third Doctor as "dimensionally transcendental and, due to a malfunction of its Chameleon Circuit, is stuck in the shape of a 1950s-style British police box.
However, not only did the initially irascible and slightly sinister Doctor quickly mellow into a more compassionate figure, it was eventually revealed that he had been on the run from his own people, the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey.
As a Time Lord, the Doctor has the ability to regenerate his body when near death. Introduced into the storyline as a way of continuing the series when the writers were faced with the departure of lead actor William Hartnell in 1966, it has continued to be a major element of the series, allowing for the recasting of the lead actor when the need arises. The serial The Deadly Assassin established that a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times, for a total of thirteen incarnations (although at least one Time Lord, The Master, has managed to circumvent this). To date, the Doctor has gone through this process and its resulting after-effects on nine occasions, with each of his incarnations having his own quirks and abilities but otherwise sharing the memories and experience of the previous incarnations:
Other actors have also played the Doctor, though rarely more than once (see the list of actors who have played the Doctor).
Despite these shifts in personality, the Doctor remains an intensely curious and highly moral adventurer who would rather solve problems with his wits than by using violence.
Throughout the programme's long history there have been controversial revelations about the Doctor. For example, in The Brain of Morbius (1976), it was hinted that the First Doctor may not have been the Doctor's first incarnation (although the other faces depicted may have been incarnations of the Time Lord Morbius); during the Seventh Doctor's era it was hinted that the Doctor was more than just an ordinary Time Lord. In the Eighth Doctor movie, the Doctor described himself as being "half human". The revelation has become controversial amongst series fans, given that there have been no references to the concept during the original or revived television series. The very first episode, An Unearthly Child, revealed that the Doctor has a granddaughter, Susan Foreman, and in "Fear Her" (2006), he remarked that he had, in the past, been a father. The 2005 series revealed that the Ninth Doctor thought he had become the last surviving Time Lord, and that his home planet had been destroyed. In the 2008 series episode "The Doctor's Daughter", the Doctor's cells are used to produce a daughter (played by Georgia Moffett, the real-life daughter of Fifth Doctor actor Peter Davison) who is subsequently named Jenny by Donna as a result of the Doctor describing her as "a generated anomaly".
Dramatically, the companion characters provide a surrogate with whom the audience can identify, and serve to further the story by requesting exposition from the Doctor and manufacturing peril for the Doctor to resolve. The Doctor regularly gains new companions and loses old ones; sometimes they return home or find new causes — or loves — on worlds they have visited. Some have even died during the course of the series.
Although the majority of the Doctor's companions have been young, attractive females, the production team for the 1963–1989 series maintained a long-standing taboo against any overt romantic involvement in the TARDIS. The taboo was controversially broken in the 1996 television film when the Eighth Doctor was shown kissing companion Grace Holloway. The 2005 series played with this idea by having various characters think that the Ninth Doctor and Rose (played by Billie Piper) were a couple, which they vehemently denied (see also "The Doctor and romance"). The idea of a possible involvement was suggested again in "Smith and Jones", when the Tenth Doctor kisses his soon-to-be new companion Martha Jones, although the Doctor insists that the kiss was simply for the purpose of 'genetic transfer'. In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", the Doctor is kissed by Donna Noble to shock him in order to neutralise a poison in his system.
Previous companions reappeared in the series, usually for anniversary specials. One former companion, Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen), together with the robotic dog K-9, appeared in an episode of the 2006 series more than twenty years after their last appearances in the 20th Anniversary story "The Five Doctors" (1983). Afterwards, the character was featured in the spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Sladen once again appeared as Sarah Jane in the final two episodes of the fourth season of the new Doctor Who, with K-9 appearing briefly in the final episode, "Journey's End".
The latest companions of the Doctor included a large ensemble cast ranging from Catherine Tate reprising her role as Donna, Billie Piper as Rose, Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith, Freema Agyeman as Martha, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane and John Barrowman as Captain Jack, all of whom departed in the episode "Journey's End". Agyeman appeared as Martha Jones in three episodes of the spin-off series Torchwood before returning to Doctor Who halfway through the fourth series.. Billie Piper briefly reprised her role as Rose Tyler in the fourth series episode "Partners in Crime" and returned to the series from "Turn Left" to "Journey's End". For the 2007 Christmas episode "Voyage of the Damned", the Doctor's companion was Astrid Peth, played by Australian performer Kylie Minogue.
Though not a companion, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was a recurring character in the original series making his first appearance alongside the Second Doctor and his final alongside the Seventh. The actor Nicholas Courtney who portrayed the Brigadier had previously also starred as Bret Vyon alongside first Doctor William Hartnell in the 12-part The Daleks' Master Plan, and he has appeared with every doctor of the classic series except Colin Baker, although he appears with the Sixth Doctor in the charity crossover special Dimensions in Time. His photo appears among Sarah Jane Smith's personal items in The Sarah Jane Adventures. He and UNIT appeared regularly during the Third Doctor's tenure, and it has continued to appear or be referred to in the revival of the show and its spin-offs.
When Sydney Newman commissioned the series, he specifically did not want to perpetuate the cliché of the "bug-eyed monster" of science fiction. However, monsters were a staple of Doctor Who almost from the beginning and were popular with audiences. Notable adversaries of the Doctor from the series' initial 26-year run include the Autons, the Cybermen, the Sontarans, the Zygons, the Sea Devils, the Silurians, the Ice Warriors, the Rani, the Yeti, Davros (the creator of the Daleks), the Master (a Time Lord with a thirst for universal conquest), and, most notably, the Daleks. This continued with the resurrection of the series in 2005.
Current executive producer, Russell T Davies, stated that it had always been his intention to bring back classic icons of Doctor Who one step at a time: Daleks in series 1, Cybermen in series 2 and the Master in series 3. He also stated that he was not finished and would continue reviving villains from the series' past. Series 4 saw the return of the Sontarans and the Daleks' creator, Davros. Since its 2005 return, the series has also introduced new aliens, including the Slitheen, the Ood and the Judoon.
The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation (who intended them as an allegory of the Nazis) and BBC designer Raymond Cusick. The Daleks' début in the programme's second serial, The Daleks (1963–64), caused a tremendous reaction in the viewing figures and the public, putting Doctor Who on the cultural map. A Dalek appeared on a postage stamp celebrating British popular culture in 1999, photographed by Lord Snowdon.
The original theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with assistance from Dick Mills. The various parts were built up by creating tape loops of an individually struck piano string and individual test oscillators and filters. The Derbyshire arrangement served, with minor edits, as the theme tune up to the end of Season 17 (1979–80).
A more modern and dynamic arrangement was composed by Peter Howell for Season 18 (1980), which was in turn replaced by Dominic Glynn's arrangement for Season 23's The Trial of a Time Lord (1986). Keff McCulloch provided the new arrangement for the Seventh Doctor's era which lasted from Season 24 (1987) until the series' suspension in 1989. For the return of the series in 2005, Murray Gold provided a new arrangement which featured samples from the 1963 original with further elements added; in the 2005 Christmas episode "The Christmas Invasion", Gold introduced a modified closing credits arrangement that was used up until the conclusion of the 2007 series.
A new arrangement of the theme, once again by Gold, was introduced in the 2007 Christmas special episode, "Voyage of the Damned".
Versions of the "Doctor Who Theme" have also been released in a pop music venue over the years. In the early 1970s, Jon Pertwee, who had played the Third Doctor, recorded a version of the Doctor Who theme with spoken lyrics, titled, "Who Is the Doctor". In 1988 the band The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (later known as The KLF) released the single "Doctorin' the Tardis" under the name The Timelords, which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in Australia; this version incorporated several other songs, including "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter (who recorded vocals for some of the CD-single remix versions of "Doctorin' the Tardis"). Others who have covered or reinterpreted the theme include Orbital, Pink Floyd, the Australian string ensemble Fourplay, New Zealand punk band Blam Blam Blam, The Pogues, and the comedians Bill Bailey and Mitch Benn, and it and obsessive fans were satirised on The Chaser's War on Everything. A reggae/ska version of the Doctor Who theme tune was released on the Explosion label in 1969 by Bongo Herman and Les. The theme tune has also appeared on many compilation CDs and has made its way into mobile phone ring tones. Fans have also produced and distributed their own remixes of the theme.
The incidental music for the first Doctor Who adventure, An Unearthly Child, was written by Norman Kay. Many of the stories of the William Hartnell period were scored by electronic music pioneer Tristram Cary, whose Doctor Who credits include The Daleks, Marco Polo, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Gunfighters and The Mutants. Other composers in this early period included Richard Rodney Bennett, Carey Blyton and Geoffrey Burgon.
The most frequent musical contributor during the first fifteen years was Dudley Simpson, who is also well known for his theme and incidental music for Blake's 7, and for his haunting theme music and score for the original 1970s version of The Tomorrow People. Simpson's first Doctor Who score was Planet of Giants (1964) and he went on to write music for many adventures of the 1960s and 1970s, including most of the stories of the Jon Pertwee / Tom Baker periods, ending with The Horns of Nimon (1979). He also made a cameo appearance in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (as a Music hall conductor).
Beginning with The Leisure Hive (1980), the task of creating incidental music was assigned to the Radiophonic Workshop. Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell contributed many scores in this period and other contributors included Roger Limb, Malcolm Clarke and Jonathan Gibbs.
All the incidental music for the 2005 revived series has been composed by Murray Gold and Ben Foster and has been performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from the 2005 Christmas episode The Christmas Invasion onwards. A concert featuring the orchestra performing music from the first two series took place on 19 November 2006 to raise money for Children in Need. David Tennant hosted the event, introducing the different sections of the concert. Murray Gold and Russell T Davies answered questions during the interval and Daleks and Cybermen menaced the audience whilst music from their stories was played. The concert aired on BBCi on Christmas Day 2006. A Doctor Who Prom was celebrated on 27 July 2008 in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the annual BBC Proms. The BBC Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic Choir performed Murray Gold's compositions for the series, conducted by Ben Foster, as well as a selection of classics based around the theme of space and time. The event was presented by Freema Agyeman and guest-presented by various other stars of the show with numerous monsters participating in the proceedings. It also featured the specially filmed mini-episode Music of the Spheres, written by Russell T Davies and starring David Tennant.
Since its 2005 return, the series has featured occasional use of excerpts of pop music from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, including works by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Electric Light Orchestra, Soft Cell, Rogue Traders, Britney Spears and the Scissor Sisters. The soundtrack for Series 1 and 2 was released on 4 December 2006 by Silva Screen Records. The soundtrack for Series 3 was released on 5 November 2007. A soundtrack for the 4th series was recently announced, and is due to be released in November 2008.
Almost all of the original sound effects and audio backgrounds during the 1960s were overseen by the Radiophonic Workshop's Brian Hodgson, who worked on Doctor Who from its inception until the middle of Jon Pertwee's tenure in the early 1970s, when he was succeeded by Dick Mills. Hodgson created hundreds of pieces of "special sound" ranging from ray-gun blasts to dinosaurs, but without doubt his best known sound effects are the sound of the TARDIS as it de-materialises and re-appears, and the voices of the Daleks.
The basic audio source Hodgson used for the TARDIS effect was the sound of his house keys being scraped up and down along the strings of an old gutted piano, and played backwards. The famous Dalek voice effect was obtained by passing the actors' voices through a device called a ring modulator, and it was further enhanced by exploiting the distortion inherent in the microphones and amplifiers then in use. However, the precise sonic character of the Daleks' voices varied somewhat over time because the original frequency settings used on the ring modulator were never noted down.
Doctor Who has always appeared on the BBC's mainstream BBC One channel, where it is regarded as a family show, drawing audiences of many millions of viewers. The programme's popularity has waxed and waned over the decades, with three notable periods of high ratings. The first of these was the "Dalekmania" period (circa 1964–1965), when the popularity of the Daleks regularly brought Doctor Who ratings of between 9 and 14 million, even for stories which did not feature them. The second was the late 1970s, when Tom Baker occasionally drew audiences of over 12 million. During the ITV network strike of 1979, viewership peaked at 16 million. Figures remained respectable into the 1980s, but fell noticeably after the programme's 23rd season was postponed in 1985 and the show was off the air for 18 months. Its late 1980s performance of three to five million viewers was seen as poor at the time and was, according to the BBC Board of Control, a leading cause of the programme's 1989 suspension. Some fans considered this disingenuous, since the programme was scheduled against the soap opera Coronation Street, the most popular show at the time. After the series' revival in 2005 (the third noteworthy period of high ratings), it has consistently had high viewership levels for the evening on which the episode is broadcast, and often attracts the most viewers on that evening. The BBC One broadcast of "Rose", the first episode of the 2005 revival, drew an average audience of 10.81 million, third highest for BBC One that week and seventh across all channels. The largest audience for an episode of Doctor Who since its revival was achieved by the 2007 Christmas special "Voyage Of The Damned", which received 13.31 million viewers, a feat which also made it the second most watched show of the year. The highest weekly chart ranking is first, for the 2008 series finale "Journey's End", which was watched by 10.57 million viewers. The current revival also garners the highest audience Appreciation Index of any non-soap drama on television. Its continued viewership has resulted in becoming part of the UK's popular culture.
The series also has a fan base in the United States, where it was shown in syndication from the 1970s to the 1990s, particularly on PBS stations (see Doctor Who in North America). New Zealand was the first country outside the UK to screen Doctor Who beginning in September 1964, and continued to screen the series for many years, including the new series from 2005. In Canada, the series debuted in January 1965, but the CBC only aired the first twenty-six episodes. TVOntario picked up the show in 1976 beginning with The Three Doctors and aired it through to Season 24 in 1991. TVO's schedule ran several years behind the BBC's throughout this period. From 1979 to 1981, TVO airings were bookended by science-fiction writer Judith Merril who would introduce the episode and then, after the episode concluded, try to place it in an educational context in keeping with TVO's status as an educational channel. The airing of The Talons of Weng-Chiang resulted in controversy for TVOntario as a result of accusations that the story was racist. Consequently the story was not rebroadcast. CBC began showing the series again in 2005.
A fan base exists in Australia, where it has been exclusively first run on the ABC, and periodically repeated - including screening all available episodes for the show's 40th anniversary in 2003. Repeats have also been shown on the subscription television channel UK.TV. The ABC also broadcasts the first run of the revived series, on ABC1, with repeats on ABC2. UK.TV also shows repeats of the revived series. The ABC also provided partial funding for the 20th anniversary special episode "The Five Doctors".
Only four episodes have ever had their premier showings on channels other than BBC One. The 1983 twentieth anniversary special "The Five Doctors" had its début on 23 November (the actual date of the anniversary) on the Chicago PBS station WTTW in the United States and various other PBS members two days prior to its BBC One broadcast. The 1988 story Silver Nemesis was broadcast with all three episodes edited together in compilation form on TVNZ in New Zealand in November, after the first episode had been shown in the UK but before the final two instalments had aired there. Finally, the 1996 television film premièred on 12 May 1996 on CITV in Edmonton, Canada, fifteen days before the BBC One showing, and two days before it aired on Fox in the US.
A wide selection of serials is available from BBC Video on VHS and DVD, on sale in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. Every fully extant serial has been released on VHS, and BBC Worldwide continues to regularly release serials on DVD. The 2005 series is also available in its entirety on UMD for the PlayStation Portable.
As of July 2008, the revived series has been, or is currently, broadcast weekly in 42 countries, including Argentina(People+Arts),Australia (ABC), Austria (Pro 7), Belgium (Één), Brazil (People+Arts), Canada in English on (CBC) and in French on (Ztélé), Catalonia (TV3 and BBC Entertainment), Croatia (Croatian Radiotelevision), Denmark (Danmarks Radio), Finland (TV2), France (France 4), Germany (Pro 7,Sci Fi Channel (Germany)), Hong Kong (ATV World and BBC Entertainment), Hungary (RTL Klub-owned COOL TV), Iceland (RÚV), Ireland (TV3), Israel (yes stars 2), Italy (Jimmy), Japan (BS-2, a channel of NHK), Malaysia (Astro Network), the Netherlands (NED 3), New Zealand (Prime TV), Norway (NRK), Poland (TVP1), Portugal (People+Arts, SIC Radical), Russia (STS TV), Spain (People+Arts [first run], Sci Fi Channel [second run, new dubbing]), Latin America (People+Arts), South Korea (KBS2 (dubbed in Korean) and Fox (subtitled in Korean)), Sweden (SVT), Switzerland (Pro 7), Thailand (Channel 7), Turkey (Cine5), the United States (Sci Fi Channel [first run], public television [second run] and BBC America [second run]), Greece (Skai TV), Style UK (part of Showtime Arabia) for the Middle East, North Africa and the Levant territories. The series has also been sold to, but not yet shown in Romania (TVR). Doctor Who is one of the five top grossing titles for BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm. BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith has said that Doctor Who is one of a small number of "Superbrands" which Worldwide will promote heavily.
A special logo has been designed for the Japanese broadcast with the katakana "ドクター・フー" (romanised as Dokutaa Fuu). The series has apparently "mystified" viewers in Japan where it has been broadcast in a late evening time slot, leading to some not realising it is a family show.
The series one episodes aired in Canada a couple of weeks after their UK broadcast, a situation made possible by the 2004–05 NHL lockout which left vast gaps in CBC's schedule. For the Canadian broadcast, Christopher Eccleston recorded special video introductions for each episode (including a trivia question as part of a viewer contest) and excerpts from the Doctor Who Confidential documentary were played over the closing credits; for the broadcast of "The Christmas Invasion" on 26 December 2005, Billie Piper recorded a special video introduction. CBC began airing series two on 9 October 2006 at 8:00 pm E/P (8:30 in Newfoundland and Labrador), shortly after that day's CFL double header on Thanksgiving in most of the country.
Series three began broadcasting on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 31 March 2007. It began broadcasting on CBC on 18 June 2007 followed by the second Christmas special, "The Runaway Bride" at midnight, and the Sci Fi Channel began on 6 July 2007 starting with the second Christmas special at 8:00 pm E/P followed by the first episode.
Series four aired in the U.S. on the Sci-Fi Channel, beginning in April 2008. It will air on CBC Canada starting 19 September 2008.
In these films, Peter Cushing plays a human scientist named "Dr. Who", who travels with his two granddaughters and other companions in a time machine he has invented. The Cushing version of the character reappears in both comic strip and literary form, the latter attempting to reconcile the film continuity with that of the series.
In addition, a number of planned films were proposed including a sequel, The Chase loosely based on the original series story (the third to feature the same antagonists), for the Cushing Doctor, plus many attempted TVM and big screen productions to revive the original Doctor Who, after the original series was cancelled. (See List of unmade Doctor Who serials and films#Proposed films)
A pilot episode for a potential spin-off series, K-9 and Company, was aired in 1981 with Elisabeth Sladen reprising her role as companion Sarah Jane Smith and John Leeson as the voice of K-9, but was not picked up as a regular series.
Concept art for an animated Doctor Who series was produced by animation company Nelvana in the 1980s, but the series was not produced.
The Doctor has also appeared in webcasts and in audio plays; prominent among the latter were those produced by Big Finish Productions from 1999 onwards, who were responsible for a range of audio plays released on CD, as well as 2006's eight-part BBC 7 series starring Paul McGann.
Following the success of the 2005 series produced by Russell T Davies, the BBC commissioned Davies to produce a 13-part spin-off series titled Torchwood (an anagram of "Doctor Who"), set in modern-day Wales and investigating alien activities and crime. The series debuted on BBC Three on 22 October 2006. John Barrowman reprised his role of Jack Harkness from the 2005 series of Doctor Who. It was shot in Summer and Autumn 2006. Two other actresses who appeared in Doctor Who also star in the series; Eve Myles as Gwen, who also played the similarly-named servant girl Gwyneth in the 2005 Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead", and Naoko Mori who reprised her role as Toshiko Sato first seen in "Aliens of London". A second series of Torchwood aired in 2008; for three episodes, the cast was joined by Freema Agyeman reprising her Doctor Who role of Martha Jones.
A new K-9 children's series, K-9, is in development, but not by the BBC.
The Sarah Jane Adventures, starring Elisabeth Sladen who reprises her role as Sarah Jane Smith, has been developed by CBBC; a special aired on New Year's Day 2007 and a full series began on Monday, 24 September 2007.
In 1999, another special, "Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death", was made for Comic Relief and later released on VHS. An affectionate parody of the television series, it was split into four segments, mimicking the traditional serial format, complete with cliffhangers, and running down the same corridor several times when being chased. (The version released on video was split into only two episodes.) In the story, the Doctor (Rowan Atkinson) encounters both the Master (Jonathan Pryce) and the Daleks. During the special the Doctor is forced to regenerate several times, with his subsequent incarnations played by, in order, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Joanna Lumley. The script was written by Steven Moffat, later to be head writer and executive producer to the revived series.
The Doctor in his fourth incarnation has been represented on several episodes of The Simpsons, starting with the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming". Jon Culshaw frequently impersonates the Fourth Doctor in the BBC Dead Ringers series. Culshaw's "Doctor" has telephoned four of the "real" Doctors — Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy — in character as the Fourth Doctor. In the 2005 Dead Ringers Christmas special, broadcast shortly before "The Christmas Invasion", Culshaw impersonated both the Fourth and Tenth Doctors, while the Second, Seventh and Ninth Doctors were impersonated by Mark Perry, Kevin Connelly and Phil Cornwell, respectively.
Less a spoof and more of a pastiche is the character of Professor Justin Alphonse Gamble, a renegade from the Time Variance Authority, who appeared in Marvel Comics' Power Man and Iron Fist #79 and Avengers Annual #22. His enemies include the rogue robots known as the Dredlox.
There have also been many references to Doctor Who in popular culture and other science fiction franchises, including Star Trek: The Next Generation ("The Neutral Zone", among others). In the Channel 4 series Queer As Folk (created by current Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies), the character of Vince was portrayed as an avid Doctor Who fan, with references appearing many times throughout in the form of clips from the programme. References to Doctor Who have also appeared in the young adult fantasy novel High Wizardry, the video game Rock Band, the soap opera EastEnders, the Adult Swim comedy show "Robot Chicken" and the Family Guy Star Wars spoof episode "Blue Harvest", among other sources. Doctor Who has long been a favourite referent for political cartoonists, from a 1964 cartoon in the Daily Mail depicting Charles de Gaulle as a Dalek, to a 2008 edition of This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow in which the Tenth Doctor informs an incredulous character from 2003 that the Democratic Party will nominate an African-American (Barack Obama) as its presidential candidate.
The revived series has received particular recognition from critics and the public. In 2005, at the National Television Awards (voted on by members of the British public), Doctor Who won "Most Popular Drama", Christopher Eccleston won "Most Popular Actor" and Billie Piper won "Most Popular Actress". The series and Piper repeated their wins at the 2006 National Television Awards, and David Tennant won "Most Popular Actor" in 2006 and 2007, with the series again taking the Most Popular Drama award in 2007. A scene from "The Doctor Dances" won "Golden Moment" in the BBC's "2005 TV Moments" awards, and Doctor Who swept all the categories in BBC.co.uk's online "Best of Drama" poll in both 2005 and 2006. The programme also won the Broadcast Magazine Award for Best Drama. Eccleston was awarded the TV Quick and TV Choice award for Best Actor in 2005; in the same awards in 2006 Tennant won Best Actor, Piper won Best Actress and Doctor Who won Best-Loved Drama.
Doctor Who also received several nominations for the 2006 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards: the programme for Best Drama, Eccleston for Best Actor (David Tennant was also nominated for Secret Smile), Piper for Best Actress and Davies for Best Writer. However, it did not win any of these categories.
Several episodes of the 2005 series of Doctor Who were nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: "Dalek", "Father's Day" and the double episode "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances". At a ceremony at the Worldcon (L.A. Con IV) in Los Angeles on 27 August 2006, the Hugo was awarded to "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances". "Dalek" and "Father's Day" came in second and third places respectively. The 2006 series episodes "School Reunion", "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday", and "The Girl in the Fireplace" were nominated for the same category of the 2007 Hugo Awards, with "The Girl in the Fireplace" winning. The 2007 series episodes "Blink" and "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" also secured nominations in this category in the 2008 Hugo Awards, with "Blink" winning the award.
The British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA) nominations, released on 27 March 2006, revealed that Doctor Who had been short-listed in the category of Best Drama Series. This is the highest-profile and most prestigious British television award for which the series has ever been nominated. Doctor Who was also nominated in several other categories in the BAFTA Craft Awards, including Best Writer (Russell T Davies), Best Director (Joe Ahearne), and Break-through Talent (production designer Edward Thomas). However, it did not eventually win any of its categories at the Craft Awards.
On 7 May 2006 the main BAFTA award winners were announced, and Doctor Who won both of the categories it was nominated for, the Best Drama Series and audience-voted Pioneer Award. Russell T Davies also won the Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing for Television. Writer Steven Moffat won the Best Writer category at the 2008 BAFTA Craft Awards for his 2007 Doctor Who episode "Blink".
On 22 April 2006, the programme won five categories (out of fourteen nominations) at the lower-profile BAFTA Cymru awards, given to programmes made in Wales. It won Best Drama Series, Drama Director (James Hawes), Costume, Make-up and Photography Direction. Russell T Davies also won the Siân Phillips Award for Outstanding Contribution to Network Television. The programme enjoyed further success at the BAFTA Cymru awards the following year, winning eight of the thirteen categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actor for David Tennant and Best Drama Director for Graeme Harper.
On 7 July 2007, the series won three Constellation Awards: David Tennant won "Best Male Performance in a 2006 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episode "The Girl in the Fireplace", and the series itself won "Best Science Fiction Television Series of 2006" and "Outstanding Canadian Contribution to Science Fiction Film or Television in 2006". It was eligible for the latter award due to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's involvement as co-producer of the series.
On 8 November 2007, the series received its first mainstream American award nomination when it was nominated for the 34th Annual People's Choice Awards in the category of "Favorite Sci-Fi Show". The awards, broadcast on CBS on 8 January 2008 are voted on by the people via an Internet poll. Doctor Who faced competition from American-produced series Battlestar Galactica (itself a revival of an older series), and Stargate Atlantis. It was defeated by Stargate Atlantis. In June 2008, the series won the inauguaral Best International Series category at the 34th Saturn Awards, defeating its spin-off, Torchwood, which was also nominated.
On 12 July 2008, the series won three Constellation Awards: David Tennant won "Best Male Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episodes "Human Nature/The Family Of Blood", Carey Mulligan won "Best Female Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode" for the episode "Blink" and the series itself won "Best Science Fiction Television Series of 2007".
A panel of journalists and television executives for the annual awards given out at the Edinburgh Television Festival voted Doctor Who as the best programme of the year in 2007 and in 2008.