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Doctor Who is a long-running British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC about a mysterious time-travelling adventurer known only as "The Doctor". It is also the title of a 1996 television movie featuring the same character. It is common to see the show's title abbreviated as Dr. Who, even by the BBC, although purists consider this form incorrect.
The programme is a significant part of British popular culture, widely recognised for its creative storytelling and use of innovative music (originally produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). It is also known for its innovative use of low-budget special effects for most of its history. Elements of the programme are extremely well known and identifiable even to non-fans. In Britain and elsewhere, the show has become a cult television favourite on a par with Star Trek and has influenced generations of British television writers, many of whom grew up watching the series. Doctor Who was ranked third in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, produced by the British Film Institute in 2000 and voted on by industry professionals.
After a long period off screen, a new series of Doctor Who started on March 26, 2005, continuing the original 1963–1989 run and the 1996 television movie. Produced by BBC Wales in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the 2005 series has concluded in the United Kingdom, and the programme will be returning for a Christmas special later in the year, followed by a second and third series (including a second Christmas special in 2006). The first series will be repeated on BBC Three beginning July 16, 2005.
It is currently being broadcast weekly in Canada (CBC), Australia (ABC) and New Zealand (Prime TV). The series has also been sold to South Korean station KBS — the first time a British drama series has been sold to a Korean public station.
The Doctor Who 'diamond' logo, used in the show's opening titles from 1973 to 1980.Main article: History of Doctor Who
Doctor Who first appeared on BBC television on November 23, 1963. The programme was born out of discussions and plans that had been going on for a year. Head of Drama, Sydney Newman was mainly responsible for developing it, with contributions by the Head of the Script Department (later Head of Serials) Donald Wilson, staff writer C. E. 'Bunny' Webber, writer Anthony Coburn, story editor David Whitaker and initial producer Verity Lambert. The series' distinctive and haunting title theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire.
The BBC drama department's Serials division produced the programme in-house for the following twenty-six seasons, on BBC One. Falling viewing figures, a decline in the public perception of the show and a less prominent transmission slot saw it suspended as an ongoing series in 1989 by Jonathan Powell, Controller of BBC One. While in-house production had ceased, the BBC was hopeful of finding an independent production company to re-launch the show. Philip Segal, a British expatriate who worked for Columbia Pictures' television arm in the United States, approached the BBC about such a venture.
Segal's negotiations eventually led to a television movie. The movie was broadcast on the Fox Network in 1996 as a co-production between Fox, Universal Pictures, the BBC, and BBC Worldwide. However, although the film was successful in the UK (with audited viewing figures of 9.1 million), it was less so in the United States and did not lead to a series. Although licensed media such as novels and audio plays provided new stories, the programme remained dormant until 2004. In that year, BBC Television began producing a new in-house series after several years of unsuccessful attempts by BBC Worldwide to find backing for a feature film version.
The new series debuted with the episode Rose on BBC One on March 26, 2005; Canada's CBC on April 5, 2005; Australia's ABC on May 21, 2005; and on Prime TV in New Zealand from July 7, 2005. No première date or broadcaster has been announced for the United States. The American Sci-Fi Channel was briefly said to be interested in acquiring the US rights, but withdrew after the network previewed several episodes.
The BBC commissioned a second series and a Christmas special on March 30, 2005. On June 15, it was announced that a third series and a second Christmas special had been commissioned.
During the original 1963–1989 run, each of the weekly episodes formed part of a contained story (or "serial") consisting of several parts — usually either six or four in earlier years and three to four in later years. Three notable exceptions were "The Trial of a Time Lord", which ran for 14 episodes (containing four stories often referred to by individual titles connected by framing sequences) during Season 23; the epic The Daleks' Master Plan, which aired in 12 episodes (plus a one episode teaser entitled Mission to the Unknown, featuring none of the regular cast), and the 10-episode serial The War Games.
The programme was initially devised to be partly educational and for family viewing on the early Saturday evening schedule. The idea was to alternate stories set during important periods of human history (such as the French Revolution, the Roman Empire, or the Battle of Culloden Moor) which would educate younger audience members about history, with stories set either in the future or in outer space, which would educate them about science. This was also reflected in the make-up of the Doctor's original companions, one of whom was a science teacher and another a history teacher.
In practice, however, science fiction stories proved to be far more popular with the viewing public, and the "historicals" were dropped entirely after the first few years. While the series continued to make use of historical settings throughout its run, they were generally used as a backdrop for science fiction themed tales. The series featured only one more purely historical story during its original run, the 1982 serial Black Orchid, set in 1920s Britain. The programme also rapidly became a national institution, to the point where many renowned actors — both serious and comedic — asked for or accepted guest starring roles in various stories.
Doctor Who originally ran for 26 seasons on the BBC, from November 23, 1963 until December 6, 1989. Writers over the years have included Terry Nation, Henry Lincoln, Douglas Adams, Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks, Dennis Spooner, Eric Saward, Malcolm Hulke, Christopher H. Bidmead, Stephen Gallagher, Brian Hayles, Chris Boucher, Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch.
As of June 2005, approximately 709 individual Doctor Who installments have been televised since 1963, ranging in length from 25-minute chapters (the most common format), to two feature-length productions (1983's The Five Doctors and the 1996 television movie).
The serial format changed for the 2005 revival. The new series consisted of thirteen 45-minute self-contained episodes (60 minutes with commercials in Canada), with three two-parters and a loose story arc. For the new series, Russell T. Davies is principal writer and executive producer, with Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell, Robert Shearman, and Steven Moffat also contributing scripts. It is expected that Doctor Who will surpass the number of individual installments of the Star Trek franchise (around 720 episodes) during the third season of the new series.
The character of the Doctor was initially shrouded in mystery. All that was known about him was that he had a granddaughter, Susan, that she was born "in another time, another world", and that both of them were exiles. He also possessed a time-travelling machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), which is dimensionally transcendental (larger on the inside than on the outside), and seemingly never fully under his control. The TARDIS originally had the ability to disguise itself according to its environment, but became "stuck" in the form of a police box after landing in London in 1963, and has remained in that shape ever since (give or take the occasional attempt to fix it). Originally an irascible and highly irritable character, he was quickly shown to be a man of great intelligence and compassion, who abhorred evil in the universe and would always help others if he could.
Over time it was revealed that the Doctor was from an extraterrestrial race known as the Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey. The circumstances under which he left his planet were only vaguely alluded to, but were at least partly due to the restrictive nature of Time Lord society, their rules against interfering with the rest of the universe, and his own desire to explore time and space.
So far, ten actors have played the part for television (including the 1996 television movie and the 2005 revival). The Doctor, like all Time Lords, has the ability to "regenerate" his body when he dies, something he can do twelve times. The production team created this concept to allow for re-casting of the part when an actor wanted to leave or otherwise needed to be replaced. Prior to 2005, the regeneration was always worked into the storyline, but the 2005 series began with the Ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston) already regenerated, and no appearance of the Eighth Doctor (previously played by Paul McGann). In the final episode of the series, The Parting of the Ways, the Ninth Doctor regenerated into the Tenth (played by David Tennant). It is unlikely that the regeneration of the Eighth Doctor to the Ninth will be seen on screen, particularly after the series producer, Russell T. Davies, has called its dramatic merit into question.
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, one of the Doctor's current companionsThe Doctor almost invariably shares his adventures with between one and three companions (the only exception being the serial The Deadly Assassin, in which he travels alone). The idea of the companion is to provide a surrogate for the audience to identify with and to further the story by asking questions and getting into trouble. The Doctor regularly gains new companions and loses old ones; sometimes they return home, or find new causes on worlds they have visited. Some companions have died during the course of the series.
There are some disputes as to the definition of a companion, but fans mostly agree that at least twenty-nine (including K-9 Marks I and II) meet the criteria for "companion" status in the television series, with others being established in the various literary spin-offs. For further details, see the notes in List of supporting characters in Doctor Who.
Despite the fact that the majority of the Doctor's companions are young, attractive females, the series maintained a longstanding taboo against any overt romantic involvement in the TARDIS. However, that has not prevented fans from speculating about possible romantic involvements, most notably between the Fourth Doctor and the Time Lady Romana (whose actors Tom Baker and Lalla Ward shared a romance and brief marriage in real life). The taboo was controversially broken in the 1996 television movie when the Eighth Doctor was shown kissing companion Grace Holloway. The 2005 series strongly hinted at a more-than-platonic relationship between the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler.
The Daleks are perhaps the best known monster faced by the Doctor.When Sydney Newman commissioned the series, he specifically did not want to perpetuate the cliché of the "bug-eyed monster" of science fiction. However, monsters were a staple of Doctor Who almost from the beginning and audiences responded to them.
Notable adversaries of the Doctor include the Autons, the Cybermen, the Sontarans, the Silurians, and the Master, a rival Time Lord with a thirst for universal conquest. Of all the monsters, the ones that ensured the series' place in the public's imagination were the Daleks. The Daleks are lethal mutants in tank-like mechanical armour from the planet Skaro. Their chief role in the great scheme of things, as they frequently remark in their instantly recognisable metallic voices, is to "Exterminate!"
The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation (who intended them as an allegory of the Nazis) and BBC designer Raymond Cusick. Nation also wrote for 1960s telefantasy like The Avengers. He later created the 1970s science fiction programmes Survivors and Blake's 7 and was a writer for the popular American series MacGyver. The Daleks' debut in the programme's second serial, The Daleks, caused a tremendous reaction in the viewership ratings, and put Doctor Who on the map. The Daleks even appeared on a postage stamp celebrating British popular culture in 1999, photographed by Lord Snowdon.
The image of the TARDIS is iconic in British popular culture.Doctor Who has always appeared on the BBC's mainstream BBC One channel, drawing audiences of many millions of viewers. It was most popular in the late 1970s, when audiences frequently averaged as high as 12 million viewers per airing. During the ITV network strike of 1979, viewership peaked at 16 million. No first-run episode of Doctor Who has ever drawn fewer than three million viewers on BBC One, although its late 1980s performance of three to five million regular viewers was seen as being poor at the time, and was a leading cause of the programme's 1989 suspension. The BBC One broadcast of Rose, the first episode of the 2005 revival, drew an average audience of 10.81 million, No. 3 for BBC One that week and No. 7 across all channels.
Only four episodes have ever had their premier showings on channels other than BBC One. The 1983 twentieth anniversary special The Five Doctors had its debut on November 23 (the actual date of the anniversary) on the Chicago PBS station WTTW-TV in the United States and various other PBS affiliates two days prior to its BBC One broadcast. The 1988 story Silver Nemesis was broadcast with all three episodes edited together in compilation form on TVNZ in New Zealand in November, after the first episode had been shown in the UK but before the final two installments had aired there. Finally, the 1996 television movie premiered on May 12 on Citytv in Vancouver, Canada, fifteen days before the BBC One showing.
There was some controversy over the show's suitability for children. Moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse made a series of complaints to the BBC in the 1970s over its sometimes frightening or gory content. Ironically, her actions made the programme even more popular, especially with children. Producer John Nathan-Turner was heard to say that he looked forward to Whitehouse's comments, as the show's ratings would increase soon after she had made them.
During the 1970s, the Radio Times, the BBC's own listings magazine, announced that a child's mother said the theme music terrified her son. The Radio Times was apologetic. However, the visuals were more complained about than the music. During Jon Pertwee's second season as the Doctor, in the serial Terror of the Autons, images of murderous plastic dolls, daffodils killing unsuspecting victims and blank-featured android policemen marked the apex of the show's ability to frighten children.
It has been said that watching Doctor Who from a position of safety "behind the sofa" (as the Doctor Who exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in London was titled) and peering cautiously out to see if the scary bit was over is one of the great shared experiences of British childhood. The term has become a common phrase in association with the programme and occasionally elsewhere.
A wide selection of serials is available on VHS and DVD from BBC Video, on sale in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. Every fully extant serial has been released on VHS, and BBC Worldwide continues to release serials on DVD on a regular basis. The latest series has been generally receiving ratings of about 7.5 million, with the highest so far being 10.81 million for Rose.
Show Description Credit: Wikipedia
|> Airing History & Information|
|Last Airing||Jan 01, 1989|
|Format/Time||Color / 30 Minutes|
|Upcoming Airs||Not currently airing|
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|New Doctor Who is coming back to BBC One in 2005|
(Posted July 20, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)
Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of BBC One, has confirmed that all rights issues regarding Doctor Who have been resolved and has green-lit scripts from writer Russell T Davies.
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