FAQ Section 1
What is "Doctor Who"?
FAQ Item 1.1 - Who, and what, is Doctor Who
Doctor Who is, or was, the longest-running science-fiction series in
the history of television. Created by the BBC in 1963 as a children's
sci-fi series, Doctor Who eventually expanded its boundaries
to just about every possible genre of television except for the musical.
Spanning 26 seasons, the original BBC series had seven different actors
taking on the lead role. Doctor Who was famous for its infinite
flexibility and wide, dedicated, fan following. The show celebrated
its 30th anniversary on November the 23rd, 1993.
The 158th and final BBC produced Doctor Who story, "Survival", aired in
December of 1989. No further episodes have been produced by the BBC over
the past six years, even though the show was never officially cancelled.
In spite of this, Doctor Who lives on today, on the radio and in a popular
series of full-length novels.
In 1996, a television movie, made by Universal and the BBC continued the
story line. It was hoped that this would lead to another series of shows,
but the fate of Doctor Who is still undecided at this time.
FAQ item 1.2 - Why is the series called Doctor Who if that's not his name?
In "An Unearthly Child", the very first Doctor Who episode, aired on
November 23, 1963. William Hartnell, the show's main character, was
introduced simply as "The Doctor", a cranky old man with a time machine
shaped like a British Police Box. Because his character was shrouded in
mystery, the title Doctor Who merely referred to the fact that we were
never to know exactly who this man is.
At various times in the show, different names were referred to:
"The Doctor" - the name he introduces himself as in every single story, and
the (proper) name many people call him by.
"Doctor Foreman" - Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright refer to him as this
initially when they are investigating their unusual
student Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter.
"Doctor Who" - WOTAN in "The War Machines" referred to the Doctor by this
name; it was acknowledged as an error by the writing staff.
"Dr. John Smith" - alias used while working for U.N.I.T. during his exile
"Theta Sigma" - Used twice, in "The Armageddon Factor" and "The Happiness
Patrol"; apparently, a Time Lord nickname given to the Dr.
during his time at the Academy on Gallifrey.
"Merlin" - It's revealed in "Battlefield" that, in a future (?) incarnation,
the Doctor will become Merlin, adviser to King Arthur. The time
reference is uncertain since it involves parallel universes.
There are also various word plays on his name "Sir the Doctor is here
to see you" "Doctor? Doctor Who?".... and so forth. Apart from what he
was called, the series did present us, over the past 30-some years, with
much more information.
FAQ Item 1.3 - Just who is the Doctor?
The Doctor is a Time Lord, one of the elite of the planet Gallifrey. The
Time Lords are an immensely old and powerful society who have the ability
to travel through time in their TARDISes, but whose policy is not to
interfere with the rest of the universe. Instead, they simply observe and
act only when absolutely necessary. Gallifreyan society, ruled by the
High Council, is a dull and stagnant affair; some might even say that it
is slowly decaying.
The Doctor, of the Prydonian group of Time Lords, fled Gallifrey at some
point (ostensibly because of boredom) and is now living the life of a
renegade. His interference with space and time is in direct contravention
to Time Lord policy, and he has twice been tried on this point. Despite
this, the Doctor continues to traverse the galaxy, often with a companion
or two, battling evil and oppression in all its many guises.
As a Time Lord, the Doctor has two hearts and can withstand temperature
extremes better than humans. They have a symbiotic link with their time
machines. They can also regenerate when their present body is worn out or
FAQ Item 1.4 - What is Regeneration?
In 1966, an ill William Hartnell decided to leave the program, in the
middle of its fourth season (there are conflicting reasons; it was
either illness or a contract dispute). In order to keep the series going,
it was decided to draw on the Doctor's unknown abilities as an alien and
have him "regenerate". Regeneration is a type of bodily renewal, during
which the Time Lord gains a completely new form, and often undergoes a
moderate personality change. In this fashion, the elderly William
Hartnell gave way to the younger Patrick Troughton. The Doctor has
regenerated seven times, and is in his eighth incarnation (this is
including in the movie).
FAQ Item 1.5 - What is the TARDIS?
The TARDIS (an acronym for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space)
is the time machine that the Doctor and other Time Lords travel in; it is
the main vehicle for the series, which takes us to any number of times
and places. It's "dimensionally trancendental" - bigger inside than out -,
and, in the Doctor's case, it sometimes doesn't work properly. The Doctor's
TARDIS is generally stuck in the shape of a Police Call Box, a familiar
shape in England in 1963 but now obsolete. The version of the TARDIS that
the Doctor uses is known as a "type 39", (though the Doctor usually refers
to it as a "type 40") as with the British Police Call Box, the type 39 is
considered an obsolete and outdated version of a TARDIS.
On numerous occasions the Doctor has attempted to repair his ship, with
humorous and disastrous results. There is evidently some sort of
telepathic link between the Doctor and his ship; they share a symbiotic
relationship, and, as in the New Adventures, when the TARDIS malfunctions,
so does the Doctor. The TARDIS is perhaps the second-most important
character in the series; it is our "passport to adventure", and,
in many ways, is the Doctor himself.
FAQ Item 1.6 - What are some of the best, or most popular Doctor Who episodes?
(Based on a poll in r.a.dw Nov. 96 - Feb. 97)
The 13 most popular shows, in order of broadcast,
"Tomb of the Cybermen" Troughton
"Genesis of the Daleks" Tom Baker
"Pyramids of Mars" Tom Baker
"The Deadly Assassin" Tom Baker
"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" Tom Baker
"City of Death" Tom Baker
"The Caves of Androzani" Davison
"Remembrance of the Daleks" McCoy
"The Curse of Fenric" McCoy
"Enemy Within" McGann
FAQ Item 1.7 - What are the Doctor Who movies starring Peter Cushing about?
During the 1960's when the show really took off, two movies were produced
which starred Peter Cushing (of horror film fame) as the Doctor. Unlike
the television show, the Doctor was a kindly old human inventor, Susan
and Barbara were both shown to be his granddaughters, and Ian was Barbara's
boyfriend. All three companions were significantly younger than their
television counterparts. The cast of companions in the second movie
was altered to omit Barbara and Ian, and to introduce Doctor Who's niece
Louise and a bumbling police officer named Tom Campbell.
The two films were titled "Doctor Who and the Daleks" based upon the
episode entitled `The Daleks', and "Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD" based
upon the episode `The Dalek Invasion of Earth'. Although considerably
shortened, the movies generally followed the plotlines of the TV episodes.
FAQ Item 1.8 - What is this "K-9 & Company" Special I keep seeing?
This was a one-hour story pilot, an intended spinoff of Doctor Who
aired on December 28, 1981, featuring Sarah Jane Smith and K-9, two
former companions of the Doctor, teaming up as a dynamic crime-fighting
duo. The pilot did not sell, but the story is generally repeated every
Christmas as a special Doctor Who story and is aired every so often
in the United States to help raise pledge money when the public
T.V. stations which air Doctor Who hold fiscal drives.
FAQ Item 1.9 - What was the "Dimensions in Time" 30th Anniversary Special?
The 1993 "Children in Need" charity appeal on the BBC coincided with
Doctor Who's 30th anniversary. In commemoration of the event, the BBC
aired "Dimensions in Time", a short adventure consisting of two 14-minute
episodes. "DiT" featured all five living Doctors and a number of
companions battling the evil Time Lord (Lady) known as the Rani, who is
interfering with the Doctor's own personal timeline and has recruited
many of his greatest foes to aid her. "DiT" was aired in a 3-D format,
and took place on the set of the BBC soap opera "EastEnders". Characters
from "EastEnders" made brief appearances in the story. It is not commercially
FAQ Item 1.10 - What was the name of the 1996 TV movie?
There was no alternate title given in the movie itself, or any subtitle,
but most fans refer to it as the "Enemy Within". Why? Philip Segal,
the movie's producer, used this title at a fan convention and it has
been adopted by others since then. Generally it is refered to
as the "Television movie" by retailers, or "Doctor Who - The Movie".
At this time a video for the TV movie is only availalbe in the UK
and other countries (not the US).