Who (or what) the hell is Doctor Who?

Half my life I’ve been hearing peripheral mentions of Doctor Who. When I was younger, I thought it was a cheap British knockoff of Get Smart or a music show about a disc jockey. The logo they used in the ‘80s accounts for that last suspicion.

Turns out, it’s neither one of those things.

And at this point I really need to ask you to stick with me on this one, because the details of what Doctor Who actually is may induce chronic eye rolling and repeated under-your-breath utterances of the word “whatever.” Hang in there, we’re all in this together.

Doctor Who is a British science fiction series (“programme”) about a time-traveling alien who is very fond of Earth and will do anything to protect it. They call him the Doctor.

He travels around in a spaceship called the TARDIS that looks like a tiny, blue police call box from the outside, but is gigantic on the inside.

Fans of the show are obsessive idiots who refer to themselves as Whovians. To give you an idea of how insane they are, the Wikipedia page for the TARDIS is more than 15,000 words. That’s about 6,000 more words than the entry for electricity.

Just to clarify, we’re talking about the page describing the box he travels in, not the show itself. The page about the Doctor Who series is 16,000 words and has links to dozens of other related pages. And the page about the main character, the Doctor, is about 23,000 words, roughly twice as much information as the Wikipedia entry for Croatia, a nation of four million residents with more than a century of history.

This is either a scene from the show or a Harry Potter skit from SNL.
This is either a scene from the show or a Harry Potter skit from SNL.

Like Star Trek or Charlie’s Angels, the show has had multiple incarnations. The series debuted on the BBC more than fifty years ago. You read that right. As of this writing there have been an unfathomable 813 episodes. Seriously, Who has time for all this?

The original Doctor Who ran for 26 years from 1963 to 1989, while the version that airs new episodes today began in 2005.

I’ve been told that the show attracts science fiction fans as well as children an families. Read between the lines: it’s not very good.

The Doctor isn’t human, though he usually takes a human companion along when he travels, to remind him of morals or something. The Doctor is of a species called Time Lords who can regenerate while when mortally wounded to avoid death.

The role of the Doctor has been filled by many actors over the decades. His changing appearance is conveniently explained by the character’s ability to regenerate. Bollocks, I say.

Twelve of these actors are considered the “main” Doctors. Yes, twelve different actors are the main ones. This, of course, doesn’t include the actors who have played the Doctor in a variety of spin-off series.

The current jackass, I mean, Doctor, is played by actor Peter Capaldi, pictured here. He received a lukewarm welcome at first from the legions of Whovians, but alas, he managed to win them over.

Personally, I think the series jumped the shark with The Deadly Assassin episode in 1976. You know exactly what I’m talking about, right?

The Time Lord’s adventures along with his current companion, Clara, have swerved through a cornucopia of topics that boring squares find to be controversial, including homosexuality, abortion and death.

The show has a long history of dealing with sensitive topics and pushing the boundaries of whatever it is that it does. And with strong support from BBC, the Doctor seems destined to remain as something that people have heard of for many generations to come.