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Dr. Who for dummies


I have never seen this show but have heard that it's pretty good. What is it about, when was it made, how long did it run and such. Thanks
I could answer this, but I shall pass you over to my friend, The Doctor.


Quite simply, this much-loved, and sorely-missed, BBC show had arguably the most flexible format of any drama series in the history of television. It ran for around 700 25-minute episodes from November 1963 - December 1989, with a (so-far) one-off TV movie revival in 1996. The central character was 'the Doctor' ('Doctor Who' was the show's title) who travelled through time and space with a couple of companions in a ship called the TARDIS. This could blend in with the surroundings wherever it landed, and, the Doctor's ship being faulty, it always appeared as a Police Box, a once-common sight on the streets of Britain.

In the beginning, the Doctor was a mysterious old man, played by the late William Hartnell. As adventures and companions came and went, he encountered various monsters and enemies, the best-known being the Daleks. In 1966, the momentous decision was taken to change the show's lead actor by means of a process called 'regeneration'. Hence, Patrick Troughton took over, and from then on the Doctor would regularly 'regenerate' every few years when the incumbent star wanted to move on.

In the beginning, the Doctor himself was a complete mystery but gradually, as the years passed, more and more was revealed about him. Eventually, the viewer learned that he was a Time Lord from Gallifrey, had two hearts, and could regenerate twelve times. Meanwhile, whenever a Doctor left the show, the casting of a replacement was eagerly anticipated, with the announcement usually making the national headlines. For the record, the list to date is: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.

During the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, 'Doctor Who' was one of the BBC's most popular and successful shows, and at its 20th Anniversary in 1983 was riding the crest of a wave. However, after that, things seemed to go wrong. Several Doctors followed each other in what seemed like rapid succession, and it is arguable that the show pandered too much to continuity-obsessed fans, rather than attempting to find new audiences. Given that 'Doctor Who' was made on a comparatively small budget, it became difficult to compete with the high-budget effects-laden shows and movies coming out of the USA.

After 'Doctor Who' ended its 26th season in 1989, it effectively went into limbo. It had been on the air for a very long time, and it seemed that the BBC didn't really know what to do with it any longer. However, over the years, a well-organised and effective fan base had built up, and it was this that kept the show's name alive. In 1996, the Doctor returned in a one-off TV movie, this time played by Paul McGann. It did well in the UK, but not the USA, and options for a series were dropped. However, not long afterwards, the independent company Big Finish were granted a BBC licence to produce new CD audio adventures and these are still regularly made, starring most of the surviving TV Doctors and companions.

In summary, 'Doctor Who' was, and remains, a much-loved TV show that began in an era when the BBC was at its very best. It survived so long because it was so flexible, and the fact that new material continues to be produced is testament to its simple but brilliant format. However, in today's ratings-obsessed and dumbed-down world of television, there seem to be few executives prepared to take the risk of letting us set off on a new series of adventures with the much-travelled Doctor. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that so many youngsters nowadays have no idea what a Dalek is. As a final irony, whilst the BBC is currently gearing up its marketing machine for the 40th Anniversary of 'Doctor Who' in November 2003', several generations of children have now missed out on the opportunity to grow up with 'their' Doctor.

The Doctor

"We are not of this race. We are not of this Earth. We are wanderers in the fourth dimension of space and time." - Doctor Who-The Pilot Episode
If you're going to include everybody then you have to have Peter Cushing, Hugh Grant, Richard E Grant, the other one (forgotten his name), and Joanna Lumley /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Thanks for the info. Is it worth buying the dvd's if only just for a few episodes? Are they planning on releasing the whole lot?
I would say yes to buying the episodes - it is unlikely that the BBC will issue whole seasons together, except for the odd special one (like the 'Key to Time' series, which ran a whole season).

Get them, because they are really well written stories (for the most part), but just be aware that they were made on a shoe string budget - the sets wobbled, and abandoned quarries were the standard alien planet setting.

If you ignore the cheap sets and lousy costumes, and focus on the writing and the story, you should enjoy it.
If you ignore the cheap sets and lousy costumes, and focus on the writing and the story, you should enjoy it.
I think there is not enough of this ignoring these days. It's more the other way around. Modern television and movie science fiction seems to be more about ignoring the bad/cheap scripts while dazzling you with the sets, costumes (or therein lack of), and special effects. /forums/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif
Are they planning on releasing the whole lot?

It is quite doubtful that they will be releasing all of the episodes because a good number of them simply don't exist anymore. For some reason, the BBC decided to destroy all the episodes of the first two Doctors (which were all shot in black and white) and the majority of the ones that survived were retrieved from foreign countries or private collectors. Diehard fans still pray that the whole lot will eventually surface, but it remains doubtful. Ironically, the only remaining bits of some episodes are what censors cut out of them.

However, the BBC does seem committed to releasing all the titles. They are very close to doing so in the VHS format, and started releasing them on DVD a few years ago. From what I've heard, the extras are pretty good. But with the sheer amount of titles, it will take quite awhile for them to release all the intact episodes.

And since Doctor Who is a British programme, their target audience is mainly Britain, so most of the titles available are in PAL format. Before the Key to Time boxed set was released in the US, only five DVDs were available. So, needless to say, if you're planning on collecting the entire series, it will take a little while.
Reply received from the TARDIS:

For some reason, the BBC decided to destroy all the episodes of the first two Doctors

This comment is erroneous on two counts. First of all, not all the Hartnell and Troughton episodes were destroyed. Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, some of Jon Pertwee's episodes WERE junked, though on nothing like the scale of his predecessors. According to the BBC, the reason for this was storage space. In the 1970s, when most of the deletions occurred, the BBC decided that it didn't have room to store copies of every programme it produced. Given the high cost of television production, old tapes were wiped and re-used and, amongst these, were episodes of 'Doctor Who'.

Now, insane though this may now sound, there was a certain logic to it all. Remember that in Britain in the 1970s, the domestic video player was pretty much unheard of, and the argument followed that, in the new era of colour television, no one would want to watch a load of old black and white shows from the 60s. Secondly, the 'Doctor Who' fan base was still in its infancy, and had nothing like the voice and influence it has today. Therefore, the deletions proceeded, and it was into the 1980s before anyone raised the alarm.

In terms of the first two Doctors, the greatest loss was from the Troughton era, with only six complete stories remaining. Hartnell is much better represented, though a complete version of the final episode of 'The Tenth Planet' is still a major omission. Meanwhile though it is hard to believe that some Jon Pertwee episodes were lost, all of them have fortunately been recovered in one form or another. However, I gather that Part One of 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' is so damaged as to not be of broadcast quality.

Happily, lost episodes have reappeared from sources all over the world, including the almost-miraculous return of 'The Tomb of the Cyberman' from Hong Kong ten years ago. Added to this, the remarkable work of the unofficial 'Restoration Team' has done much to restore this old material to its former glory. As proof of the latter, I would recommend the recent DVD of 'The Aztecs' to those who don't already have it. However, I think that any realistic fan would admit that there are some episodes that we just won't see again. The BBC would seem to have tacitly admitted this fact by their release of the reconstructed finale of 'The Tenth Planet' a couple of years ago. I'd dearly like to be proven wrong, but I feel sure that if the hundred or so missing episodes were still out there, we'd know about it by now.

As a final point, we should keep in mind that not every episode of 'Doctor Who' was brilliant, and that there is, perhaps, a level of loss that we can tolerate. When I was a kid, I read Bill Strutton's novelization of 'The Web Planet' and was totally gripped. As for the video, I have only managed to endure it once...

The Doctor

"We are not of this race. We are not of this Earth. We are wanderers in the fourth dimension of space and time." Doctor Who-The Pilot episode
TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It was a phone booth on the outside, usually, but didn't it change for an ep or two in the Tom Baker era?
Wrong Baker - it was Colin, not Tom. And the story was "Attack of the Cybermen". He finally got the chameleon circuit working and then a cyberman blew up the console.

Tom Baker's Doctor was trying to fix it in his last story, "Logopolis". He landed on earth to get the exact measurements of a real police box.
It has been a very long time since I've seen any Dr. Who, but IIRC the doctor tried to fix it and it turned into several amusing shapes for one episode. Like a pipe organ and suff like that. And yes, the Master's tardis seemed to work properly, so it was always diguised.
My favorite Dr WHO was Tom Baker. He would wear those different scarfs each week and give out Jelly Babies.

Yes, I know it did, but still, I seem to recall that The Dr.'s TARDIS changed briefly for an ep or two. My memory is very vague on that point, but it might have been an opportunity they took to explain the malfunction that made it generally stuck as a phone booth.
There was a part of Tom Baker's tenure when the interior of the TARDIS changed. The auxiliary console room had a wood finish instead of the white.
I do remember the outside of the TARDIS changing, too. Maybe a Tom Baker ep, I just can't remember. It just didn't blend in very well. It was a cute touch, but I'm afraid I don't remember the details after all of these decades. /forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif
A reliable friend of mine who is an obsessive "Whovian" told me the wooden console was a "secondary" deck for the Tardis controls.

One of the Sci Fi magazines about a year ago dug up a scoop on the BBC who were still apparently trashing old tapes including episodes of things like Rentaghost (Mr Claypole was an early role model for myself before my age got into double figures).

Yet they still keep crud like the soaps in storage!

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