This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Some facts about "Doctor Who":
The show premiered on the British Broadcasting Company on Nov. 23, 1963, as a serialized adventure series for kids that ran until 1989. The BBC launched the current incarnation, an hourlong drama, in 2005.
The series follows the adventures of an eccentric genius who travels in a time machine called the TARDIS (which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space).
The TARDIS has a "chameleon circuit" so it can blend into its surroundings. That circuit is broken on The Doctor's TARDIS, so it always looks like a 1960s-era British police phone box. The enormous interior of the TARDIS exists in another dimension. The Doctor's quick explanation is that "it's bigger on the inside."
The Doctor who is not an Earthling, but the last of the Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey usually brings one or more human companions along, venturing both to Earth's past (the series originally was intended to be educational) and to alien worlds. His companions often provide the touch of humanity The Doctor lacks. Plus, they usually need to be rescued.
Eleven actors have played The Doctor seven during the original series (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy), one in an American TV movie in 1996 (Paul McGann), and three since the 2005 reboot (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith). There also were two movies made in 1965 and 1966, starring Peter Cushing, but fans don't count those as part of the canon.
When severely injured, The Doctor regenerates his body. This alters his appearance, brain cells and personality a neat screenwriter's trick that allows each new actor to apply his own spin to the character. The Doctor supposedly is limited to 12 regenerations, so he's almost at his limit. Future screenwriters will cross that bridge, no doubt, when they come to it.
The Doctor has fought many alien species, most famously the dome-headed Daleks which mechanically shout "ex-ter-mi-nate!" when dealing with all other species and the silvery robotic Cybermen.
Another nemesis is The Master, a renegade Time Lord. That role, too, has been filled by several actors. In the current series, The Master was played by John Simm (from the BBC series "Life on Mars").
The Doctor never uses a gun or other weapons. His only tools are a "sonic screwdriver" and his substantial brainpower.
The reboot of "Doctor Who" has launched two spin-off series: the racy "Torchwood" (an anagram of "Doctor Who"), about a secret squad of alien-fighting scientists; and the family-friendly "The Sarah Jane Adventures," centered on one of The Doctor's companions from the 1970s, journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen, who died April 19 of cancer).
Though he sometimes uses the alias John Smith, The Doctor's real name has never been revealed. The title "Doctor Who" is a running joke.