Yeah, I said what I said. You can rattle off the names of the world's greatest sci-fi series to me and try to justify how they are the best, but the truth is that none of them hold a candle to Doctor Who. I even have the facts to prove it. Sadly, I don't have people to prove them to. You see, as a sci-fi nerd, I often find myself facing disappointment due to the fact that most youngsters in India don't watch Doctor Who (a travesty, really).
So, today, on the show's 53rd anniversary, allow me to welcome you into the TARDIS (you'll find out soon enough) and introduce you to, well, the secrets of time and space.
First things first, what is Doctor Who?
Doctor Who is a British science-fiction series that follows the adventures of The Doctor and his companions as they explore the deepest crevices of space and time in the former's spaceship, The TARDIS. And of course, there's a fair bit of running, action and spunk going on, which is an added bonus really.
The show first aired on November 23rd, 1963 starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. The original series ran for 26 seasons from 1963-1989, after which it went on an official hiatus. A television film, which was intended to be a backdoor pilot for the reboot, was released in 1996 and starred Paul McGann as The Eighth Doctor, but the attempt was largely unsuccessful. The show was finally revived by Russell T. Davies in 2005, with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.
So wait, he's actually called The Doctor and not Doctor Who?
YES. *Gives you a death glare*
The Doctor belongs to a race of people called the Time Lords, who were once one of the greatest civilizations in the universe tasked with protecting the integrity of time and space. I make it sound cool, but really, it got to their heads and led to their destruction. But, I digress.
Bored (that's what we think) of life on his planet, Gallifrey, The Doctor steals a spaceship, a Mark 1 Type-40 TARDIS, and runs away, traveling through time and space, and saving countless civilizations. Oh, and he picks up companions along the way, many of whom went on to become so famous that they starred in their own spin-off shows. All in a day's work.
But if there's only one 'Doctor', what's all this Ninth Doctor and Tenth Doctor stuff?
You can blame that on his physiology. Time Lords have a way of cheating death: instead of dying upon reaching a sufficiently old age or sustaining a fatal injury, Time Lords regenerate. This means that they channel energy through their bodies and undergo a physical transformation, thus acquiring a new form every regeneration.
Since 1963, 13 actors have thus played the Doctor: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, John Hurt, and Peter Capaldi. The show has often brought different Doctors together for special episodes.
Back up, what's a type-40 TARDIS?
The TARDIS is the name of The Doctor's spaceship. It stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space, and has a chameleon circuit that can make it blend into its surroundings by resembling local objects. However, the one in the type-40 TARDIS that The Doctor stole was faulty, which is why it always looks like a blue police box (a common sight in the England of 1963).
There have been instances to prove that the TARDIS is at least partially sentient since she has protected The Doctor and his companions on numerous occasions.
With me? Now, everything was going merrily, but then came the Time War, or the war to end all wars.
Fought between the Time Lords and their arch-enemies, the Daleks, the Time War was destructive not just to both parties involved, but to the entire universe. Countless races were wiped out of existence one by one, until it became clear that the Daleks were just too powerful to be defeated.
In order to end the bloodshed, the Doctor made the most difficult decision of his life: he blew Gallifrey up, consequently obliterating both his people and the Daleks. When the 2005 reboot aired, the Time War had already happened and The Doctor was the last Time Lord left in the universe.
So, does The Doctor only travel, or does he do anything interesting as well?
Does saving the universe multiple times count? You will find that there's no scarcity of villains in the Whoverse, but the ones to watch out for are the Daleks (beings that experience no emotions except hate) and their creator Davros, the Cybermen, The Weeping Angels, The Silence, and the Master.
What's been Doctor Who's impact on the world, and where should I start watching?
Here's an answer: not only does Doctor Who hold the Guinness World Record for being the longest running science fiction series of all time, it also holds those for being the "most successful" (based on broadcast ratings) and the largest ever simulcast for a TV drama for its 50th anniversary special.
More than that, it's not just a television show, but a tight-knit community of dedicated people who still revisit the series over and over again. From films and audiobooks to paperbacks and museums, Doctor Who shaped the century for not only Britain but for science-fiction fans around the world as well.
If you're planning on watching it, I suggest you start with the 2005 series with Christopher Eccleston, since the original ones are hard to get in India. Don't worry, though, you will be given enough background as you go. Also, the first episode is kind of ridiculous. Bear with us, please.
Now, as the Doctor says, "Geronimo!"