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Doctor Who On Television

22 November 1963. President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas in the United States of America. The following day in the United Kingdom, the BBC began the broadcast of a new family drama serial entitled "Doctor Who". The show's premise, of an old traveller taking three younger characters on adventures through time and space gave the show great scope and meant that educational, historical adventures could be intermingled with more fantastic science-fiction adventures.

The show's initial run lasted for twenty-six seasons, with the series finally being axed in 1989. One of the reasons for the show's longevity was the way in which the producers and writers came up with the idea of changing the principal actor without changing the central character himself. Regeneration. When the Doctor's current body "dies", he can change it for a new one - which retains all his old memories and base principals, but has its own unique personality. During the initial televised run, seven actors played the Doctor. In order, these were: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.

As the series progressed, early hints that the Doctor was something other than Human were confirmed. Specifically, it was revealed that he was a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey – a race of beings who have not only transcended the barriers of space and time but also having a differing biology to the human norm, with two hearts, the ability to bypass the respiratory system and the ability to regenerate being amongst the most notable variances. The Doctor is a renegade from his people, travelling the universe and helping others while his people adopt a non-intervention policy towards the "lesser" races. Despite these and other revelations, the Doctor’s personal past remained shrouded in mystery to a degree.

The cancellation of the television series was not the end of the Doctor however, and VHS and DVD releases of the televised adventures continued to sell well for the BBC. Additionally, re-runs of the show continued being syndicated world wide and on British satellite and cable channels. In 1996, a joint effort between the BBC and an American production company (Universal Television) was produced as a trial to see if a new series would work.

The television movie starred Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor and was extremely continuity heavy considering its purpose as an introduction of the series to a new audience. The opening narration contained mention of Time Lords and the planet Skaro which would be meaningless to non-fans. Additionally, the audience was introduced to Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor only to have him change into Paul McGann a short way into the film. A new series failed to materialise on screen despite the merits of the actor, the production values and the show's loyal fan base.

The BBC finally decided to "regenerate" the series for a new audience themselves and in March 2005, Christopher Eccleston made his debut as the wandering Time Lord. The series was a critical and public success and in 2006, David Tennant became the Tenth Doctor for three seasons and thee Christmas specials. The actor left the role in 2009 following four specials aired during that year. From 2010 to 2013, the Doctor was played by Matt Smith who, it turns out, was actually the thirteenth (and final) incarnation of the Time Lord. Thanks to the power of story, our hero was given a new regenerative cycle and 2014 will see the debut of Peter Capaldi's tenure.

Doctor Who Logos - Classic Series.
Doctor Who Logos - "Classic Series"

For more information about the Doctor Who television series, check the links in the Community section of this site.

A good start is the BBC's own Doctor Who site.

More Information
Doctor Who Logos - New Series.
Doctor Who Logos - "New" Series