Doctor Who is a long-running (and we do mean long; it predates Star Trek) British science-fiction television show. And it is glorious. The Doctor, an immortal/regenerating alien that has been portrayed by a variety of actors since the show's inception, travels through space and time in a
1960s-era police box super-advanced, living spaceship called a TARDIS. Joined by a variety of companions (mostly female), he solves kinks in time and sees the wonders of the universe. It's also famous for the various monsters it created, most notably the Daleks (cyborg space Nazis) and the Cybermen (cyborg space Communists)...and especially, the Silence and Weeping Angels.
Doctor Who is the longest ongoing sci-fi series in the history of television. It started in 1963 and ran until 1989 where it was temporarily frozen. It attempted a restart with a 1996 movie, but the circumstances were not yet ripe. The show finally started again in 2005 and is currently still running. Throughout this history the show has maintained the same continuity, thanks to the fact that the main protagonist The Doctor (aka Doctor Who) is an alien capable of "regeneration" upon the time of death or when he grows old. This rejuvenates and replaces all the cells in his body, effectively changing his appearance and somewhat his mannerisms and personality (because it also changes the brain). In this way, the series has been able to continue with different actors without resorting to "remakes" or "reimaginings" or "spinoffs" like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. There were a couple of unsuccessful attempts at making spinoffs (One during the original run and one more recently, both based on the rather twee K-9 the tin dog), and two more successful, the recent Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures (cancelled during its fifth year due to the death of the lead actress). Torchwood is Doctor Who with a large dose of GRIMDARK (if you're a horny 12 year old and just comedy for those who aren't, Children of Earth is when Torchwood becomes worth watching), along with a literally immortal lead character with a Charisma score so high that Alpenhorn-mancers turn gay for him within a sixteen mile radius. Everyone is gay for Captain Jack Harkness. He even has a sexuality test named after him.
The show is heavily episodic, with the Doctor travelling through time and space in his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space) and landing in different historical periods on Earth and elsewhere in the universe, often when there is some sort of trouble or disturbance nearby. The Doctor protects the flow of history, preventing paradoxes and manipulations and attempts to stop evil and violence everywhere. This gains him the enmity of his own race, the Gallifreyan Time Lords who have pledged to use their time-travelling technology only to observe but not interfere. Even so they often ask the Doctor to act on their behalf. The time lords got a bit shit towards the end of the original run, and were unceremoniously killed off en masse during the gap between the original and new runs in an offscreen "Time War".
The show has become iconic in British culture and science fiction fandom around the world for many reasons, amongst them:
- Having been around for fucking ever. Even if you were born during the window when Dr Who was not being made, the chances are you remember it from re-runs or carefully archived bootlegged copies made by that one uncle you had (No, not that one).
- Cheesy low budgeted effects and monsters which gave the show a special charm and made it rely on story instead of flashy visuals.
- The TARDIS machine which has a "chameleon circuit" which allows it to change external appearance to fit into different environments where it "lands", its inside is much bigger than the outside, potentially infinite, thanks to the space-time technology it uses. The Doctor's TARDIS got its chameleon circuit busted and is permanently stuck in the iconic shape of a 60's British Police Box. And when we say iconic we mean the British police have to ask Doctor Who before they can use its likeness, not the other way around.
- The character of The Doctor and his eccentric figure, with his alien traits like regeneration and a double heart.
- The show has been known to be aimed at a younger audience but scare them at the same time, so "hiding behind the sofa" has become a phrase connected to it.
- It also retains a big following amongst older fans because its two-sided nature; it is largely easy-going, tongue-in-cheek and comical but often turns to darker and serious tones, with good storytelling.
- Comical yet fearsome enemies like the Daleks (Genocidal Nazi Pepper-pots with death rays and the best E-VIL VOI-CES E-VER while exterminating FUCKING EVERYTHING, think of the already-overpowered and omnicidal Necrons mixed with Nazis and turned up to 11 billion), Sontarans (Huge domed heads, eyebrows and foreheads of a 4e Tiefling-basically Mr. Potato Head), Autons (Shop Dummies of Death), Weeping Angels (Scared the shit out of children everywhere, don't ever blink) and memorable "supervillain" antagonists like The Master, a rival Time Lord, and the ever-wrinkly Davros, who's basically Palpatine, the Joker, Honsou, Abaddon, Trayzn the Infinite, Asdrubael Vect, & Kheradruakh the Decapitator all rolled into one.
- Hiding behind the sofa from the aforementioned Daleks was such a common event in the lives of several decades of children that the phrase "Hiding behind the sofa" has entered Britfag slang as a slightly tongue-in-cheek way of saying "Scared shitless".
- Various toys, gadgets and gags the Doctor uses, including a 'Sonic Screwdriver' tool and the use of Jelly Babies candy to distract or bribe people.
- The theme tune. You know it, you love it. Yes you do, stop lying.
- Not being your average Science-Fiction story. While many normal Space Opera-style Sci-Fi stories are samey and bland, Doctor Who has practically every kind of adventure imaginable taking place. From dinosaurs on a space ship to gas-masked zombies (who are creepy as all Hell) to literally going to hell, Doctor Who has it all.
Originally the Doctor could only regenerate 12 times, resulting in 13 different versions of himself (12 because David Tennant once managed to regenerate into himself) but during the 2013 Christmas special he managed to restart a new cycle (something that the Timelords offered The Master in The Five Doctors all the way back in 1983.). He is currently in his 12th incarnation (13th counting John Hurt who doesn't get an official number for watch-the-damn-show reasons), meaning that he's had thirteen official actors so far. That's most of them around that logo, starting top-left and not including Matt Smith, John Hurt, Peter Capaldi, or Jodie Whittaker. Man, it might be time to update that thing, innit?
- William Hartnell (1963-1966): A mysterious grumpy old professor. Didn't like to have humans tag along with him, but changed his mind after a while. Extremely intelligent (like all Doctors, duh), but also short-tempered. And a pretty good fighter, despite being old: Once beat up a big man in fisticuffs, while laughing. The Daleks and Cybermen were introduced during his time. (Evidently, one of the replacement actors for Hartnell is a fan of 40k. Duncan got a request to paint flayed wracks from either Hurndall or Bradley, Hartnell been died in 1975 so it couldn't be him.)
- Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): A cosmic hobo. Likes music, and plays recorder. More of an anti-authority figure than his predecessor. Looked like a total idiot, made his enemies underestimate him, and ran away quite a lot. It was also during his time that his race, the Time Lords, was first introduced. At the end of Troughton's run they banished him from Gallifrey for breaking the Prime Directive, and forced him to regeneration as punishment.
- Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): A gentleman and a dandy. Spend a lot of time stuck on Earth, thanks to his stupid race putting him into exile. Could do Venusian Aikido and liked fast cars. The Master, his arch-nemesis and a fellow Time lord, was introduced: He tried to conquer the world with plastic chairs! We're not kidding.
- Tom Baker (1974-1981): The bohemian, a total weirdo, who liked candy and had an extremely long, very colorful scarf. Very good in playing a fool: No one could be as stupid as he seemed. Could switch from manic to serious in a single moment. The most well-known Doctor, probably due to his long tenure. Davros, the creator of the Daleks and a total maniac, was introduced.
- Peter Davison (1981-1984): Pretty much the complete opposite of his predecessor. Very much human, very noble, liked cricket. Was the youngest actor in the role, until Matt Smith some 25 years later. Some people hated him just for replacing Tom Baker. People died a lot during his time: Sometimes there was literally no one left but him and his companions - or, in case of his last story, only his companion. Is the father-in-law of David Tennant (Tenth Doctor).
- Colin Baker (1984-1986): An unstable maniac. More violent than the rest of his incarnations put together. The whole show became bloodier during his time. Thought he was awesome, despite always wearing that awful coat. Generally regarded as being the worst Doctor, at least in the TV shows, but became much more awesome in the audio.
- Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989): Started like a goofy wacky fellow, but became more serious later on. Seemed like a god walking among lesser people, and could probably out-manipulate Tzeentch. During his time, they started to turn onto some big questions, like who the hell the Doctor actually is, but then the show got cancelled. Bummer.
- Paul McGann (1996): A romantic. Told people to make the best use of their limited time on this world and embrace their lives instead of being all emo and crying in a corner. But he also stated that he was half-human, which is a lie. The books and audio fleshed him out a bit. Too bad his movie didn't do well enough in America to spawn a new series (damn you America!).
- John Hurt (secret bonus Doctor, 2013): The Doctor as he was fighting in the Time War, known by some as the "War Doctor". In setting chronology, this incarnation fits between McGann's and Eccleston's, but due to committing some horrible war crimes in order to end the Time War, he denied himself the title of "the Doctor" and later regenerations refused to acknowledge his existence; so much so that Matt Smith's version is still referred to in-universe as the Eleventh Doctor, even in mysterious prophecies, despite technically being the twelfth incarnation. He was seen only briefly in the finale of season 7 played a major role in the 50th anniversary special, and had a set of audio adventures, but probably won't be seen again (RIP, John).
- Christopher Eccleston (2005): The only survivor of the horrible Time War, which will never be fully shown, but we have seen parts of. All the other Time Lords died in it (or did they?). Dark and moody, probably because of the survivor's guilt, tended to hide it behind a horribly manic and happy outward appearance. Was pretty dependent on his friends and companions when it came to moral issues. Often found himself in a kind of fix where he couldn't do shit without blowing the hell out of the area around him (the guy dropped missiles on his own head to kill a damn alien threat near him for fucks sake). The first Doctor not to wear (particularly) weird clothes. "You were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I."
- David Tennant (2005-2010): Probably the outwardly happiest of all Doctors... or maybe the most Machiavellian. A total crackpot. Talks a lot of technobabble, at like 90mph, sometimes of something completely unrelated. Attracts a lot of women. For some reason, one of the last monsters featured was EAT. Yeah, that EAT. Oh and, when he'll offer you a chance of redemption and says that he can help you, you bloody well should take that offer! Because he doesn't believe in second chances, nor in letting someone walk away (Unless you're an arch villain). "I've gotten too old, Wilf, and too clever; I don't kill people, but I get them to kill themselves." (you just read that entire paragraph in his voice, didn't you?) Alternatively a child on Christmas morning and the MASTER of the resting bitch face whilst he destroys you, or he watches you destroy yourself. His performance was so good that BBC actually considered to end the series after his tenure because they thought that the show would fail without him.
- Matt Smith (2010-2013): The biggest nutjob since Tom Baker's Doctor. His stories tend to feature fuck-terrifying monsters and situations, including: an army of quantum abominations who only move when you're not looking at them, but logically should be of no threat to anyone who owns a time machine, being trapped in a false-awakening loop, a crack in the wall that eats reality, and an entire fucking race of Slendermen (whom you completely forget even exist when you aren't looking at one). Two of his assistants are insanely hot and another spends most of his time getting killed (and rest of the time being awesome). "I wear a bow-tie now; bow-ties are cool."
- Peter Capaldi (2013-2017): Something in between the Ninth and Fourth Doctors, making him an all-out sinister badass if you know anything about those Doctors. The actor has appeared twice in Doctor Who (well, once in Torchwood) in other roles before becoming the Doctor, which was explained as the Doctor trying to tell himself something. Thus far fans have imagined him in the role as the Doctor in the same style Peter Capaldi has appeared on the show The Thick of It, where he was exceptionally foul-mouthed. It turned out he's pretty damn hilarious. And Scottish. Quite eccentric, though. Apparently a lot of the female fans were outraged that an older guy got the role. It says a lot that the closest thing he had to a catchphrase was "Shut up!"
- Jodie Whittaker: (2017-present)): The first female Doctor in canon. The precedent for Time Lords changing gender was established earlier during the Eleventh Doctor's era, when he mentions banging a Time Lord named the Corsair when he became a she. An actress from Broadchurch to go along with the producer of the same show. Meanwhile David Tennant fangirls cry out in horror. For the third straight time in a decade. Oh and her actress is a feminist. Many fans of the Doctor up until this point cried out in horror when she was announced. Other fans simply shrugged and settled in for new Who, gratified to know that they still weren't having to wait 16 years between episodes anymore. Her first season ranged between mediocre to just above average with an awesome season finale that made the Daleks the powerful threat they should have been during Twelve's tenure, where a Scout takes out an a whole armored Platoon with no effort. However it seems that the BBC is trying to compete with Paramount, CBS and Disney on who can run a decades old franchise into the ground first, as regardless of quality, the next season won't be out until 2020. Making Capaldi's comments about "The Beeb" neglecting the show prophetic. Well this is typical for the BBC dramas. Long breaks between seasons will have the typical viewer lose interest. For fans it's hard to generate hype for a Sci-fi show that won't have another season for at least a year or more.
There have been a number of Doctors who were either the Doctor in strange circumstances, were later retconned or were never intended to be canon in the first place.
- Peter Cushing (1965-66): Yes, THAT Peter Cushing, the guy that played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars and was so oldschool he once played alongside Laurel and Hardy. He played a human scientist called Dr. Who (yes, his last name is Who) in two movie-length remakes of early episodes featuring the Daleks. The movies were not very good and rumours had it that Cushing was taking any work he could to keep his mind off the recent loss of his wife. He is easily the best thing about the movies, mind, and his sweet, grandfatherly Doctor is a flavour almost worth seeing if you don't mind wading through all the crap. It also featured a set of groovy-coloured Daleks (who had decorated their base with lava lamps!), which was considered silly because Daleks are supposed to be drab... at least until they returned in Matt Smith's run as a group of happy fascist murderous rainbows.
- Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley (1999): The BBC has a tradition of making silly parodies of their shows for charity. Dr. Who got one called Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death, where the aforementioned actors played the Ninth through Twelfth Doctors in quick succession. Rowan Atkinson played the role magnificently as the Time Lord Blackadder. He announces to the Master that he is going to marry the only companion he ever had, but the Master enlists the help of the Daleks to kill his archenemy once and for all. Belayed explanations, Zektronic energy, communication based on breaking wind, a couple of Dalek chairs, and LOTS of hijinks later, the Doctor burns through pretty much all of his regenerations in two minutes. It is a very funny short and should be watched, if only for the magnificent snark that only Rowan Atkinson can produce.
- Richard E. Grant (2003): Just a few years after playing the Tenth Doctor in Curse of the Fatal Death, Grant returned as the Ninth Doctor for the "webisode" Scream of the Shalka. This incarnation was angry, moody, looked like a vampire, and compared to Sherlock Holmes by the actor himself (which is funny when you consider that Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, was in the running to be the Eleventh Doctor), but he was still a good man who left no monster rampaging (or at least unstudied) and no woman unsaved. He fought the exeptionally creepy Shalka, whom he defeated with... no, no spoilers, you wouldn't believe it anyway. He also traveled alongside none other than the Master, who was confined to an android body stuck in the TARDIS. They share homoerotic subtext to the level it becomes homoerotic SUPERtext; the author commented that this was intentional.
- As a side note, while they were making the special, some kid pretty much kicked down the door, ranted about how much he loved Doctor Who, and begged for a role in the short. The producers gave him one, causing the kid to all but explode. The kid's name? David Tennant.
- David Morrissey (2009): In the episode "The next Doctor", the 10th Doctor stumbles upon cybermen, cybermonkeys, and a man who calls himself the Doctor, played by David Morrissey, in 1851. He claims to be an incarnation of the gallifreyan time-traveler we have had for 50 years, but something is amiss; his memory is practically gone, his sonic screwdriver isn't sonic, and his TARDIS is a balloon. In the end, it turns out he was actually a regular person who absorbed all information the cybermen had about the Doctor and only thought he was him.
Miniatures and Doctor Who
Miniatures based on Doctor Who have been around since the Eighties. In fact, one of Citadel's earliest plastic kits was a Dalek and a Cyberman, and a few Who-inspired models were also manufactured and sold by Games Workshop itself. FASA also made a few models.
The license got picked up by Harlequin in the Eighties, who made a few minis as well as some skirmish rules. The game was a skirmish combat affair that didn't really fit the show. Harlequin went bust decades ago and the official license lapsed at some point, but BlackTree Miniatures "own a huge stock" of unsold models (or they own the moulds and simply claim they have a huge stock. No one really cares).
Character Options produced a version of Heroclix called Doctor Who Microuniverse. It wasn't really a game, and the minis were pretty awful pre-painted, 28mm-scale minis. It is now out of print, thankfully.
Warlord Games acquired the license for a Doctor Who miniatures game in 2016, which has yet to be released as of 2017. Gale Force Nine is also licensed to produce a card game based on the series.
The Doctor Who Miniatures Game
In part thanks to so many terribly produced games and models in the past, small firm Crooked Dice wrote a scenario based action adventure miniatures game and called it The Doctor Who Miniatures Game. Slick, clever, quick to play and simple to get in to, it went down very well amongst nerds.
Originally produced for fun, it found a great deal of popularity in the part of the UK wargames community who wore tweed and smoked pipes. Buoyed by this success, Crooked Dice approached the BBC for an official license. Auntie Beeb said it would cost ££££ for an official license, but they it was aluded that they could continue to produce the game provided no direct profit was made.
Crooked Dice give the Doctor Who Miniatures Game away for free, and also produce a more generic action-adventure scenario based game called 7TV (Seventies TV, you see). So in a weird reversal of the way things are done, the generic rules cost money but the specific rules are free.
Unfortunately Crooked Dice, who already was producing "look alike" miniatures - started selling hard copies of the rules. This led to problems for them when Warlord Games acquired the Doctor Who license to produce a Miniatures Game and Miniatures - and not only was their Ruleset dropped, but also their range of unofficial Miniatures.
There have been three Doctor Who RPGs published to date. The first was produced by FASA, using the Star Trek RPG system . The FASA game was notable for its strange use Doctor Who continuity and official fluff. For example, it overused the Celestial Intervention Agency from the The Deadly Assassin episode. An odd choice.
The Time Lord RPG was closer to the series and sported a simpler system, along with mechanics that tried to emulate the show (macguffins, bench thumping etc). Published by Virgin and written by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans, it can easily be found on the web. Legendary in the Australian con scene for one of the fastest Total Party Kills ever (GM: "You're in a moving TARDIS..."; Players: "We get out.")
A new game was made in 2010 (and remade in 2011) by Cubicle 7 Entertainment (SLA Industries, Victoriana, Starblazer Adventures), this time in conjunction with the BBC and based on the most recent series. It is rules lite, and biased against combat (much like the teevee show itself). For example: initiative depends on what you're doing, and goes in this order: Talkers, Movers, Doers and Fighters. It is a much better game than the last two, in the sense that it has modern mechanics and actually reflects the show.
- Doctor Who Minatures Game website with free downloads. Regularly updated.
- Time Lord RPG by Marsh Now out of print, you can download this game for free.
- Cubicle 7 RPG store (10th Doctor edition) Cubicle7 doesn't have any promo material of it's own about the game. Odd.
- http://tardis.wikia.com A wordy wiki if you want to read up on the series and lore.