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The central character is an alien adventurer known as The Doctor who looks human but is actually a "Time Lord". They travel through time and space in their ship, the TARDIS (an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension In Space), which appears in the form of a blue police box from the 1950s. Due to its transdimensional nature, it is much larger on the inside.
Each episode finds the Doctor visiting another planet, or a moment in Earth history.
The Doctor often travels with one or more companions or assistants, the majority of whom are human women. The Doctor "regenerates" into a new body rather than dying, allowing a variety of actors to play the role; each incarnation has a different personality as well as physical appearance but retains most of the accumulated memories and knowledge of previous Doctors. Fans often refer to each different incarnation numerically; for example, the incarnation of the Doctor portrayed by Christopher Eccleston would be referred to as "The Ninth Doctor" or simply "Nine". (See the Naming the Doctor section of the Doctor Who Fandom Glossary page.)
A fan in 2010 said: "Doctor Who has so much canon the BBC has lost some of it." 
Doctor Who originally ran for 26 seasons on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 and featured seven different Doctors played by seven different actors. The series was structured as multiple-episode story arcs of varying length within each season or series. The series was also broadcast in many other countries, appearing on PBS in the US. Although the launch of the revival series in 2005 led to a reduction in the number of broadcasters showing the original, the original series series is widely available on streaming services and DVD.
The BBC lost or destroyed many of the earliest episodes, mainly by reusing the tape they were stored on for other shows. The fannish practice of recording the audio of episodes as they aired resulted in the preservation of at least the sound tracks for all the missing episodes. Some episodes were later recovered from television broadcasters in other countries, with the most recent discovery in 2013. As of the end of 2015, all known surviving/recovered episodes of Classic Era Doctor Who up to that point had been released to DVD in the UK.
Fanworks, Tropes and Trends
- Doctor/Sarah Jane Smith
- Doctor/Jamie McCrimmon
- Doctor/Fitz Kreiner
- Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart/Liz Shaw
- Ian Chesterton/Barbara Wright
- Tegan Jovanka/Nyssa of Traken
Between the Classic and the New
A TV movie was also made in 1996. This was a co-production between the BBC and Universal, filmed in Canada; it was intended as a backdoor pilot for an ongoing American series, which never eventuated. The TV movie aired on Fox in the US, where it received poor ratings and reviews. It was more successful in the UK. A key aspect of the TV movie is that while it was a reboot/relaunch of the series, it also was part of the same continuity as the original series, featuring the seventh Doctor regenerating into the eighth (though its official canonicity was not confirmed until the 2005 revival series began to include references to it). For Bjo Trimble's attempt at casting for this production, see Open Letter by Bjo Trimble to Doctor Who Fans.
In the period between the cancellation of the original series in 1989 and the revival in 2005, there was a proliferation of semi-canonical material mostly concerning the Seventh and Eighth Doctors. These books and radio plays were created by fans but published professionally, and in some cases by the BBC.
Outside of television, the franchise continued with a long-running series of original novels launched by Virgin Books in 1991 called the New Adventures, focusing primarily on the Seventh Doctor. A spin-off series, Missing Adventures, followed featuring the first six Doctors. In 1996, BBC Books took over the licence and launched the Eighth Doctor Adventures, focusing on that incarnation, and Past Doctor Adventures, which was a continuation of the Missing Adventures. Virgin, meanwhile, continued the New Adventures line for several more years featuring the exploits of companion Bernice Summerfield.
In 1999, Big Finish Productions began releasing professionally recorded audio dramas set in the Doctor Who universe. Initially, Big Finish made dramas featuring Bernice Summerfield (after obtaining the licence for the character from Virgin Books), but in 2000 it made the breakthrough with the BBC and obtained the licence to produce original audio dramas featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, with the Eighth Doctor added later. The original TV actors play the roles, and many companions from the original series also took part, again played by their original actors. As of 2016, Big Finish has produced hundreds of audio dramas featuring the first eight Doctors. In 2015, the company obtained the rights to feature Doctors and characters from the Modern Era and immediately announced plans for audio dramas featuring the War Doctor, Tenth Doctor and supporting characters such as River Song and Kate Stewart.
The 1989-2005 "interregnum" also saw the production of numerous independent made-for-video productions featuring characters that were licensed directly from their creators, rather than from the BBC. The Doctor could not be featured in any of these (as the BBC owned the rights to the character), but it was still possible for productions to be made such as Downtime, which featured the Classic Era characters Victoria Waterfield, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sarah Jane Smith, again played by their original actors. A series of productions called P.R.O.B.E. saw Caroline John reprise her 1970 role of Liz Shaw in a series that had some similarities to the later official spin-off, Torchwood.
In 2005, the BBC revived the series with Russell T. Davies as head writer and executive producer. The new series, filmed in Wales and made by BBC Wales, continued from the canon of the original series without substantial changes. The format of the show was altered from the multi-episode arcs to the more common television standard of mostly stand-alone episodes. Season running plot arcs—such as the one that launched the idea of Torchwood—are woven into the plot of episodes throughout the series. Steven Moffat was a contributing writer from the beginning of Davies' tenure, and the BBC announced in May 2008 that Moffat would be taking over from Russell T Davies as head writer and executive producer for the revived show's fifth series, to be broadcast in 2010. (Moffat and collaborator Mark Gatiss are also responsible for the BBC Sherlock, which is also a fan favorite, though in both cases, fans sometimes take issue with the showrunners' choices.)
New Who has featured four Doctors and five actors as well as ten main companions (almost all women):
- Rose Tyler - an ordinary girl who falls in love with the Doctor
- Martha Jones - a bright medical student who develops unrequited feelings for the Doctor
- Donna Noble - a feisty temp from Chiswick, the Doctor's "mate" and pal
- Amy Pond - who first met the Doctor as a small child and obsessed over him
- Rory Williams - the young man very much in love with Amy Pond
- Clara Oswald - an "impossible girl" who has a profound impact on the Doctor throughout his lives and leads him to obsess over her safety
- Bill Potts - a university canteen assistant who encounters the Doctor while he is hiding out disguised as a university professor, and accompanies him on his travels
- Ryan Sinclair - a young man aiming to find direction in his life by travelling with the Doctor
- Yasmin Khan - a probationary police officer who is eager to prove herself and explore more of the universe with the Doctor
- Graham O'Brien - a bus-driver and Ryans' grandfather who is trying his best look out for him
The Doctor has had several (potential) love interests in the New series, including Madame de Pompadour, River Song, and Clara Oswald, with River Song actually wedding the Doctor at one point. The series also broke from the original by establishing the possibility of romance between the Doctor and some of their companions. Fandom, however, is divided over this.
In addition to the three "official" Doctors, in 2013 the series also revealed the existence of a previously unknown "unnumbered" incarnation between the eighth and ninth Doctors, known as the War Doctor. In 2020, another unknown iteration of the Doctor was introduced. She is referred to as the Martin!Doctor within fandom.
Both Classic Who and the new series are broadcast pre-watershed (before 9 pm) which means they are intended as family programming, suitable for children.
Fanworks, Tropes and Trends
Also see List of Doctor Who Pairing Names.
Doctor Who RPF
There was little RPF written in the fandom's early years — or if it was written, it was kept underground, as was common with RPF at that time. Since the 2005 launch of New Who, which happened at a moment in time when RPF had come out of the proverbial closet, there's been a fair amount of RPF in this fandom.
RPF pairings appear to have become popular during Ten's run, with a lot of works produced for the pairing of David Tennant/Billie Piper. Tennant/Simm and Tennant/Barrowman also appeared.
During Matt Smith's time as the Eleventh Doctor, there was a fair amount of RPF featuring Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), and Matt Smith (Eleven) in various permutations, including OT3. Alex Kingston/Matt Smith also appeared at this time, and is currently the most popular DW RPF pairing on Ao3.
Doctor Who Fandom
Doctor Who has one of the oldest media fandoms. Early Doctor Who fandom was characterized by fanclubs, fanzines, conventions and tape zines. See Doctor Who Fan Clubs, Doctor Who Fanzines, Doctor Who Conventions and Doctor Who Tapezines.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was an active fan presence on Usenet. On May 24, 1993, alt.drwho.creative was spun off from the Usenet discussion group rec.arts.drwho (RADW). The creation of the group was suggested by Happy Halibut VI (Richard Salter) and set up by Dave Williams. The stated purpose of the group was "for stories and any other bits of creative stuff people may come up with in connection to the TV series 'Doctor Who.'"
The Doctor Who Restoration Team, a volunteer group of fans who restore Doctor Who episodes in collaboration with the BBC, started their work in 1992.
In 2003 a new Doctor Who archive was founded; A Teaspoon and an Open Mind. This archive also includes fanfic for all Doctor Who spinoffs.
With the new series came a massive increase in fic, including het and slash, particularly Jack slash. Conflict arose between old and new fans, as a huge new Doctor/Rose fandom clashed with Classic/Gen fans. Many classic fans were unhappy to see romance make an appearance in the series. However, it was a deliberate choice by showrunner Russell T. Davies to make the show 'sexier' as he felt it was an essential element of modern television.
Fans who ended up Behind the Scenes
- The show's 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is notable in this regard for not only being a longtime fan of the series, but it is documented that he attempted to take over the official Doctor Who Fan Club in the early 1970s, when he was a teenager, and corresponded with the show's then-producer, Barry Letts, at one point even being gifted with scripts from a yet-to-be-broadcast Third Doctor episode.
- Stephen Moffat contributed to discussions and posted his theories at rec.arts.drwho (RADW), in the mid 90s.
An Intricate FandomA fan in 2016 wrote:
To be a true fan of the famous British TV fantasy series "Doctor Who" you need to be the equivalent of a Talmudic scholar. The show has been on for decades, since 1963, and there are some people who have seen almost every episode. And there are those who remember or chronicle the plots of almost every episode, as well as the constantly renewing character of the Doctor himself. He has had 12 "official" regenerations over the years. In fact he has been compared with the mythical "Wandering Jew" as he wanders through time and never dies. The WhoMudists can interpret, quote, evaluate, and correct the body of knowledge which by now can fill a whole wall with texts, videos, and a whole house with memorabilia.
Discussion and Controversy Regarding the 12th Doctor
Every time the Doctor has been recast has generated controversy. The announcement of the casting of the twelfth Doctor in 2013 was a particular sore spot for fans who had wanted a female Doctor, not only because another white man had been cast, but also due to comments by TPTB and others declaring why they didn't want a female Doctor.
- An Open Letter to the Doctor Who Fandom, posted July 2013, "If you don’t see why regenerating into a woman would be only be “credible” or valuable to the narrative if it was the symptom of a plague that needs to be “cured” is offensive as all get out to female viewers and female-allies, you are currently demonstrating what the root of this problem is with this discussion currently: There is nothing wrong with being a woman, and a woman is not a terrible, inferior being." 
Sexism of NewWho
One of the more common controversies between Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat arcs is the differences between the female characters during Davies' time and Moffat's time. Some fans had trouble connecting with Moffat's direction of the series, while others adored it. There were fans that couldn't quite connect with River Song or Amy Pond. Moffat is often criticized for not being able to write in-depth female characters and their relationships with men.
In 2014 a universal study was done to see the differences. It tested the The Bechdel Test between the companions of Davies' era and Moffat's (Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, and River). It tested the companion's Bechdel test and companion's speaking time, along with the overall companion speaking time, female speaking time, and number of female speaking roles. According to the study, Moffat failed.
This study is at best flawed, as the author herself admits. However, a closer look at Moore’s methodology reveals that not only is it flawed: but she is dishonest in her research. She does not include enough details to replicate her results, created a misleading info graphic, failed to address 24% of Moffat’s episodes, and outright lied to her audience.
Still, within fandom the term Moffat Women has become a shorthand for the problematic depiction of female characters during his run. It also highlights how many of these women share similar characteristics and motivations; with some claiming the Moffat is only capable of writing one female character. These criticisms arose again with the character Clara Oswald and with the female regeneration of The Master, Missy.
- The television show Torchwood was spun-off of the "new" Doctor Who around the character of Captain Jack Harkness. Though characters like Captain Jack and Martha Jones have crossed over between the two shows, many fandom communities focus on only one show or the other. Torchwood is designed for a more adult audience than the family-friendly Doctor Who.
- The Sarah Jane Adventures is another television spin-off with Sarah Jane Smith—who was a companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors in the 1970s and made guest appearances on New Who—as its main character. It is designed for a younger audience than Doctor Who.
- Big Finish creates a number of audio dramas based upon the Doctor Who franchise. These are fully licensed productions featuring original TV cast members. Up until 2015 the company was restricted to only using characters and concepts up to the Eighth Doctor. In 2015, its licence expanded to include Torchwood and "modern era" Doctors and characters up to the end of the Eleventh Doctor. A 2013 "mini-episode", "The Night of the Doctor", established that at least the stories featuring the Eighth Doctor were considered part of the TV canon.
- Class is another spinoff shown on BBC3, a BBC web TV service. It's set at Coal Hill Academy (formerly Coal Hill School), which has appeared in episodes of Doctor Who since the show's beginnings in 1963. It's aimed at a young adult audience.
"The first British fanzine appeared in 1975. This was TARDIS. It comprised twelve photocopied pages and cost a meagre 5 pence. The second issue of TARDIS appeared three months later. The page count had now risen to twenty pages for 8 pence... The second issue of TARDIS was the first to include a letters page and thus what can be described as the first real communication between fans." 
- The Much Adapted Tale of Cinderella and her Fairy Goddoctor by hisowlsayswho
- Dear Whovian Authors by saess. The most reviewed Doctor Who fic on FFN
- Seventeen Things That Happen to Rory Williams, After by Scribe. The most kudoed Doctor Who fic on AO3
Sample fan art (First Doctor) based on an audio tape, artist is Pyracantha: "This adaptation is from a series where Dr. Who and his companions land on Earth again and find themselves following the famous Italian explorer Marco Polo. As usual they get involved with dangerous politics, this time in the court of Kublai Khan. Marco is on the left while the Mongol bad guy is in the center. The finished TV live action recordings of the series have been lost, so all that remains of it are still pictures, the script, and the spoken audio tracks. The episode dates from early 1964. Many of the audio tracks survived because fans recorded them with tape recorders from the TV. I remember doing the same thing with my favorite TV shows back then but Dr. Who didn't come to the USA until the 70's. Original art is ink on illustration board, 5 1/2" x 5", spring 1981.' -- Dr Who number 10 Marco Polo (May 28, 2017)
A Fifth Doctor portrait by Connie Faddis
- Doctor Who: The New Doctors by osmosis8
- Laughing Landing by aimeekitty
- Doctor Who Christmas Carol by danidraws
- Doctor Who by kevinwada
- Doctor Who by Gigei
- Second Empire (Dalek web comic) by Mechmaster
- Doctor Who: "The First Question" - 50th Anniversary Trailer by Jordan, a.k.a. LastWhovian. Of this vid, such_heights writes, "48 years, 11 incarnations, one time traveller. The audio edit is amazing, and the vidder has pulled together so much footage and made it feel really cohesive and wonderful."
- flummery released Handlebars, a meticulously-crafted character study of the Tenth Doctor, at Vividcon in 2008 to great acclaim.
- Laura Shapiro made several notable Doctor Who vids, among them They Don't Know (Ten/Rose) and Don't Tell Me Where You've Been (Just Show Me What You Know) (Eleven/River). See Laura's Vids and Laura's Vids on blip.tv.
- such_heights has made many beloved Doctor Who vids, among them Love is Cool, a love letter to the Ponds. (See VID: Love is Cool.)
Below are conventions that are/were either centered around Doctor Who or often have/had significant Doctor Who related guests. See also Category:Doctor Who Conventions
- Gallifrey One, Los Angeles, US, February
- Destiny, Northampton, UK
- Whovention, Sydney, AU
- PanoptiCon, Manchester, UK
- Panopticon West, US
- Cult TV Convention Liverpool, UK, October
- Dimensions, Stockton on Tees, UK, November
- Ascension, Cardiff, UK, November
- United Fan Con, Massachusetts, US, November
- Chicago T.A.R.D.I.S., Chicago, US, November
- Sci-Fi Sea Cruise, various dates and departure locations
- The Doctor Who Festival, London, UK. Official BBC-sponsored event
- Who Con, Australia
The Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, wore a signature long, multi-coloured scarf in many episodes. The Doctor Who Scarf shows photos of the various versions of the scarf used in the series and includes knitting instructions for several versions. Other patterns exist for knitting the scarf as well. In 1976, a promotional version of the scarf was commercially produced and sold to fans.
For a scarf origin story, see Faces of Time #1.In 1984, a fan promoted her small fan club and saw scarves in her future:
One of my many new involvements is a Doctor Who fan club, called, at present, 'FRED' (Fans who Really Enjoy the Doctor) which meets about every third Saturday at my apartment and watches video tapes. If any of you out there are interested in attending, let me know. As a part of 'FRED'... I hope to shortly have the official BBC pattern [for the scarf] and will make scarves from that... Price is $1.50 a foot. All profits will be given to KCET [a local t.v. station] for the Doctor in the name of 'FRED.
The Adipose monster was featured in the New Who, Series Four (featuring the Tenth Doctor) episode, Partners in Crime. Shortly after the episode aired, fans began knitting stuffed toy versions of the monster and sharing the knitting patterns online. One fan, mazzmatazz, received a Cease & Desist email from the BBC for freely sharing the patterns for the Adipose and other Dr. Who related designs.
In 1973 the Radio Times published a set of plans for building a slightly simplified full-sized Dalek from wood, fibreglass, etc. These plans are still available on line, though not from the BBC, while Project Dalek offers updated plans which are closer to the designs seen on TV in different eras, but require more sophisticated techniques. The site also offers plans for scale models etc.
- TARDIS Index File, the Doctor Who Wiki, a reference source for canon information
- Doctor Who series page at Wikipedia (canon resource)
- official Doctor Who section of the BBC's website (canon resource)
- a Doctor Who Timeline (canon resource, includes some novelizations) - date unknown
- Everything You Need to Know About Doctor Who at io9
- Doctor Who fans wait for no one, an article about the airing dates and social media, 4.29.2011
- Doctor Who fandom overview at Crack Van for First-Tenth Doctor era (fandom resource)
- Doctor Who YaWho List was a fannish Yahoo! Group active from Feburary 2001 to October 2019
- Fandom: Doctor Who (on LiveJournal) guide at Newbieguide (fandom resource) - last updated 2010
- Outpost Mâvarin A blogger talks about the early days of cons and fan fiction (specifically Dr. Who and Quantum Leap) via the newly-born internet
- there is much zine chat here at Cookdandbombd
- this issue of Whotopia (issue #10, March 2007) talks about Doctor Who fanzines and webpages
- Timelord: Adventures Through Time and Space; a Doctor Who tabletop role-playing game based on the classic series, originally published by Virgin (1991) but now a free download.
- Second Empire: CGI-illustrated web comic running to 700+ instalments but now complete, the history of the first Dalek civil war. Many of the episodes can be viewed as CGI-animated films.
- Public Call
- Who OTP
- A Teaspoon and an Open Mind. A long running Doctor Who fanfiction archive.
- Doctor Who fanfiction at fanfiction.net
- Doctor Who fanworks at Archive of Our Own
- Prydonian.net (The Doctor/The Master slash archive)
- Outpost Gallifrey was a community focused on discussion and meta with a very large and active forum. It closed in June, 2009.
- Gallifrey Base  is a forum community that began after Outpost Gallifrey ceased operation.
- DWFiction is a dreamwidth community which calls itself "the central clearing house for Doctor Who fanworks on Dreamwidth. All types of canon - including Torchwood, Sarah Jane Adventures, and other spinoffs - are welcome."
- Mad Man with a Box (aka Mad Woman with a Box), a Doctor Who fanlisting (2014-2018?; defunct)
- a comment at 208: A Long and Winding Road
- Wikipedia:Doctor Who missing episodes (Accessed 6 October 2013)
- BBC blog post. 9 Missing Episodes of Doctor Who Discovered, 11 October 2013.
- on dreamwidth
- Ofcom, accessed April 22, 2010
- newgroup alt.drwho.creative - Accessed October 7, 2008.
- Draft Charter - Accessed October 7, 2008.
- alt.drwho.creative archive - Accessed October 7, 2008.
- reference link for An Open Letter to the Doctor Who Fandom
- reference for tumblr post "Rebecca Moore’s Doctor Who Study is Dishonest"
- Wikipedia entry for Class (2016)
- from Whotopia #10, 2007
- omg, amazing Doctor Who fan trailer, accessed January 30, 2012
- The Doctor Who Scarf, accessed April 21, 2010
- from The Propagator v.2 n.3
- Partners in Crime on Wikipedia, accessed April 21, 2010
- Technolama, May 7, 2008 Doctor Who: Partners in Copyright Crime, accessed April 21, 2010
- BBC News Story, accessed April 21, 2010
- Doctor Who's Best Website Runs Out Of Time, accessed April 21, 2010