Doctor Who

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Name: Doctor Who
Abbreviation(s): DW
Creator: Various
Date(s): 1963-1989, 2005-
Medium: Television Series
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
External Links:
screencaps of the opening credits sequences used from 1973-1974 (top row) and from 1974-1980 (bottom row)
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Doctor Who is a UK sci-fi/science fantasy TV show that first aired on BBC One on 23rd November 1963. The original series (aka Classic Who) ran until 1989, followed by the Wilderness Years, a period in which televised Who was no longer being released, and the Who content at the time was within the Doctor Who Expanded Universe. In 2005, the show was then revived as New Who or NuWho.

The central character is an alien adventurer known as The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. They travel through time and space in their ship, the TARDIS (an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space), which is bigger on the inside than the out, and appears in the form of a blue police box from the 1950s.

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 incarnation numerically; for example, Christopher Eccleston's Doctor would be referred to as "The Ninth Doctor" or simply "Nine". (See the Naming the Doctor section of the Doctor Who Fandom Glossary page). The Doctor often travels with one or more companions, the majority of whom are human women.

Each episode finds the Doctor visiting another planet, or space station, or a moment in Earth history. The show often uses a 'monster of the week' format, especially in New Who.

Doctor Who has a nearly 60 year history that includes not only the main show - both classic and new - but also an extended universe of multiple TV spinoffs, books, audio dramas, comics, plays, interactive experiences, and much more that Who fans (aka Whovians) have used as inspiration for their own fanworks. A fan in 2010 said: "Doctor Who has so much canon the BBC has lost some of it." [1]

Doctor Who is actually like 17 different TV shows in a trenchcoat pretending to be a single show and everyone has a different favorite of those 17 shows and that's why the fandom is Like That.[2]

Classic Who

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, known as serials, of varying length within each season or series. The series was also broadcast in many other countries, appearing on PBS and independent television stations 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 is widely available on streaming services and DVD.

The Doctor is accompanied by companions, who travel in the TARDIS, often accompanying the Doctor through multiple stories, though sometimes only staying on for one. Some of the Companions who have traveled with the Classic Doctors are:

  • Susan Foreman - the Doctor's mysterious granddaughter
  • Ian Chesterton - the science teacher at Susan's school
  • Barbara Wright - the history teacher at Susan's school
  • Vicki Pallister - an orphan stranded on the planet Dido, after a spaceship crash
  • Steven Taylor - a space pilot from Earth's future, imprisoned after crashing on the planet Mechanus
  • Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet - a girl from contemporary 1966 Earth, who Steven believes is a descendant of the Huguenot Anne Chaplet
  • Ben Jackson - a sailor in the British Royal Navy in 1966 who helped the Doctor defeat the War Machines
  • Polly Wright - a fashionable young secretary to the professor who develops the technology for WOTAN and the War Machines, who joins forces with the Doctor and Ben to stop WOTAN taking over the world
  • Jamie McCrimmon - a young man who meets the Doctor, Ben, and Polly at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 Scotland, and is invited to join their travels
  • Victoria Waterfield - the orphaned daughter of a Victorian-era scientist who was developing time travel technology that was being exploited by the Daleks
  • Zoe Heriot - a genius scientist who meets the Doctor and Jamie on a space station, which is invaded by Cybermen
  • Liz Shaw - a scientist working at Cambridge who is brought on as a civilian consultant to assist UNIT and the Doctor
  • Jo Grant - an enthusiastic civilian talented at escapology who becomes the Doctor's assistant at UNIT after her uncle pulls some strings to get her placed there
  • Sarah Jane Smith - a feminist reporter who meets the Doctor while posing as her aunt, a notable scientist, to infiltrate a research facility and solve a mystery
  • Harry Sullivan - a surgeon in the Royal Navy, employed by UNIT.
  • Leela - a warrior of the Sevateem, a tribe descended from the survivors of a spaceship crash on a distant planet.
  • Romana - an accomplished and intelligent Time Lady assigned to help the Doctor find the pieces of the Key to Time, having recently graduated from the Academy with a triple first
  • Adric - an orphan from the planet Alzarius, who is both an "artful dodger" and a mathematical genius
  • Nyssa - a scientific genius from the planet Traken, orphaned by the Master, who steals her father Tremas' body and sets in motion the destruction of her planet.
  • Tegan Jovanka - an Australian flight attendant who's aunt is killed by the Master, who initially just wants to reach Heathrow airport for her first day of work
  • Vislor Turlough - a political prisoner from the planet Trion exiled on Earth, where he is manipulated by the Black Guardian into attempting to kill the Doctor
  • Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown - an American botany student who meets the Doctor and Turlough while on vacation in Lanzarote
  • Mel Bush - a computer programmer who appears to testify at the Doctor's trial, as his companion from the future
  • Dorothy "Ace" McShane - a teenager gifted in creating homemade explosives, who is brought by a time storm to Iceworld and stranded there

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 soundtracks for all the missing episodes.[3] Some episodes were later recovered from television broadcasters in other countries, with the most recent discovery in 2013.[4] 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.

For a series of episode reaction posts, see copperbadge's three things about classic who, Archived version[5] from 2010.

sample fan art, back cover of Bafflegab #2, one fan's humorous guide to distinguishing between the Fourth Doctor and the actor who plays him

K9 & Company was an attempt at creating a spin-off series featuring Sarah Jane Smith and K9. In the end, however, only a single pilot episode was ever produced, and was released in 1981.

Fanworks, Tropes and Trends

Fan Clubs

Actor-Specific Fan Clubs


Also see The Shipper's Manifesto for Doctor Who, Archived version and List of Doctor Who Pairing Names

The Wilderness Years

The time period between classic and New Who is known as the Wilderness Years.

A TV movie, sometimes referred to with the abbreviation TVM (The 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 came to fruition. 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. There were also campaigns to revive the series, such as the Doctor Who Day of Action.

Outside of television, the franchise continued with a long-running series of original novels launched by Virgin Books in 1991 called the New Adventures (VNAs), focusing primarily on the Seventh Doctor. A spin-off series, Missing Adventures (VMAs), followed featuring the first six Doctors. In 1996, BBC Books took over the licence and launched the Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDAs), focusing on that incarnation, and Past Doctor Adventures (PDAs), 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.

  • Wartime (Reeltime Pictures) - The only one of these to have been released whilst the Classic series was still airing. Featured UNIT and John Benton.
  • Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans


New Who

LJ icon featuring the Ninth Doctor and one of his catch phrases, design by kyizi

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.)

In 2016, it was confirmed that Steven Moffat would be stepping down, with the tenth season of Doctor Who to be his last; Chris Chibnall, who served as the head writer and co-producer of Torchwood and had written episodes for New Who under both Davies and Moffat, was confirmed as his replacement.[6]

New Who has featured five Doctors and seven actors as well as eleven main companions:

  • 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 Ryan's grandfather who is trying his best to look out for him.
  • Dan Lewis - a food bank volunteer who is kidnapped by an alien to save him from the Flux

The majority of the Doctor's companions have been female, with Rory Williams being the first long-running male companion. Before this, a few male companions had been along for shorter rides, including Captain Jack Harkness, Mickey Smith, and Wilfred Mott.

The Doctor has had several potential love interests in the New series. Rose Tyler and Martha Jones both had established romantic attractions to the Doctor, as did Amy Pond and Clara Oswald. This represented a break from the original series by introducing the possibility of romance between the Doctor and some of their companions; fandom is divided over the merits of this. Some non-companion love interests (i.e. with an established romantic interest in the Doctor, whether or not it's returned) have included Madame de Pompadour, Jack Harkness, and River Song, with River Song actually wedding the Doctor at one point.

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 (after actress Jo Martin) or Ruth!Doctor (after the character's initial given name, Ruth Clayton) 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.[7]

Fanworks, Tropes and Trends


See also: 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 has been a fair amount of RPF created for the 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. Catherine Tate/David Tennant is also a popular RPF pairing, likely due to other productions and sketches the actors have appeared in together, such as Much Ado About Nothing in which they played snarky enemies to lovers couple, Beatrice and Benedick.

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 around the same time and is currently the most popular DW RPF pairing on Ao3. During Twelve's run, the pairing Peter Capaldi/Jenna Coleman also become popular.

Doctor Who Fandom

Doctor Who has one of the oldest media fandoms. Early Doctor Who fandom was characterized by fan clubs, 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).[8] 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.'"[9]

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.

Possibly the first-ever Doctor Who fanfiction archive was created for alt.drwho.creative on January 19, 1998: Panatropic[10] Fanfiction at this time was mostly gen Original Doctors, mirroring the same trend in fan-produced Doctor Who audio and video drama. This archive closed in 2002,

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.

The new series also saw a revival in interest for Classic Who. During this time fics set in the Classic Who era often involved; multi-companion stories, including 'Whatever Happened To "Character"' stories. Many fics were more companion-centric than works written in the Classic era; possibly as a result of increased focus on companions in New Who. Sarah Jane Smith's return to series also aided in this revival, as well as confirming that she had romantic feelings towards the Doctor. New Who series 3 continued this trend, with the return of the Master, reviving interest in Classic Who Masters.

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.
  • Steven Moffat contributed to discussions and posted his theories at rec.arts.drwho (RADW), in the mid-90s.

An Intricate Fandom

A 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.[11]


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 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." [12]

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. Some fans 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 infographic, failed to address 24% of Moffat’s episodes, and outright lied to her audience.[13]

Still, within fandom, the term Moffat Women has become a shorthand for the problematic depiction of female characters during his run.

Australian Fandom

See Australian Fans of Dr. Who 1979-1989: Fanzines 1970's-1080's, Archived version.

Zerinza the Australiasian Doctor Who Fan Club Calendar

Spin-off Fandoms

  • 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.[14]


Before online fandom existed, fiction was primarily circulated through the Fanzine format, often made with a mimeograph machine. Zines first came into prominence in the late 1960s in Star Trek fandom and quickly spread to other active fandoms, including Doctor Who.[15]

"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." [16]

See: How Fanzines Helped Put Doctor Who Fans in Charge of Doctor Who (2013)

See: List of Doctor Who Fanzines or Category:Doctor Who Zines

Additional reading:


Over the years, many memes and inside jokes have arisen:

Fan Works


See Category:Doctor Who Fanfiction.

In May 2021, fans stumbled across a 2014 version of a BBC FAQ that stated that publicly sharing fanfiction, fan plays, or fan films was not permitted. This took place at a time when BBC increased their DMCA takedown notice activity for fan films and podcasts on Youtube,

Fan reactions on Twitter ranged from furious and incredulous, with some taking the moment to mock fanfiction and others to mourn. Both the OTW and AO3 were mentioned by fans and the issue was raised in several Dr Who podcasts. See tweets linked below


See also Category:Doctor Who Art.


See Category:Doctor Who Vids.




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
  • Anglicon, Seattle, WA, US

Fan Crafts

a zine focusing on Doctor Who costuming

The Scarf

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.[19]

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.[20]



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.


  • Adipose - Shortly after their first appearence in the New Who S4 episode, Partners in Crime, [21] 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.[22][23]

Craft communities

Audiovisual fanworks

A series of for-profit interviews on videotape sold by "Pleiades Home Entertainment": "The MYTH MAKER video interview series is dedicated to the numerous fans of this increasingly popular show. Contained on our tapes are in depth profiles of the personalities that have helped establish the popularity of the show."

Fannish Resources

Canon Resource

Fandom Resource





See List of Doctor Who Challenges.