1. IT WAS CREATED AS A KIDS’ EDUCATIONAL SERIES While it still has plenty of pint-sized fans, the original concept for Doctor Who was specifically an educational program aimed at teaching kids about science and history.
2. THE DOCTOR DIDN’T BECOME A “TIME LORD” UNTIL 1969
The most casual of Doctor Who fans can tell you that The Doctor is a “Time Lord;” an ancient alien species that has the power to travel through time. However, the title wasn’t used until the series’ sixth season episode The War Games.
3. THE DOCTOR MAY BE A DOCTOR AFTER ALL
Is the Doctor really a doctor? According to the Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton), the answer is yes… or at least he thinks so. In the fourth season episode “The Moonbase,” the Doctor’s companion, Polly, asks “are you a medical doctor?” To which the Doctor replies “Yes, I think I was once, Polly. I think I took a degree once in Glasgow. 1888, I think.”
4. THE FIRST DOCTOR’S HEALTH PROBLEMS LED TO THE IDEA OF REGENERATION.
William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor from 1963 to 1966, was having health problems toward the end of his run on the series. To ensure that the show could go on without its original star, and to avoid enraging viewers who had come to love Hartnell, the showrunners decided that, instead, they would make regeneration a part of The Doctor’s mythology.
5. THE DOCTOR’S REGENERATION FEELS LIKE A BAD ACID TRIP.
Years after it was written, an internal BBC memo was uncovered that outlined the change that would take place as the First Doctor became the Second Doctor. “It is as if he had had the L.S.D. drug,” the memo explained, “and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect.”
6. ONE OF THE SHOW’S ORIGINAL CREATORS WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE DALEKS.
Sydney Newman, the BBC’s then-head of drama and one of Doctor Who’s original creators, was very specific about one thing he did not want to see in the series: “bug eyed alien monsters.” Producer Verity Lambert explained to him that the Daleks weren’t “bug eyed monsters,” but were humans who were so advanced that their bodies atrophied and they had to build robotic shells.
7. THE DALEKS ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT INTO THE REVIVAL
When Doctor Who made its triumphant return to television in 2005, it almost happened without the Daleks. The estate of Terry Nation, who created the mutants, had initially attempted to block their return to the new series, saying that it would “ruin the brand of the Daleks.” At one point, when negotiations between the BBC and Nation’s estate seemed to have broken down, the show’s producers even created a new villain. Fortunately, they were able to work it out.
8. DAVID TENNANT BECAME AN ACTOR WITH THE SPECIFIC GOAL OF PLAYING THE DOCTOR
When the Tenth Doctor was just a kid, he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: the Doctor. It was Tom Baker’s version of The Doctor in particular that inspired David Tennant to become an actor. He carried around a Doctor Who doll and wrote Who-inspired essays at school. “Doctor Who was a massive influence,” Tennant told Rolling Stone. “I think it was for everyone in my generation; growing up, it was just part of the cultural furniture in Britain in the seventies and eighties.”
9. PETER CAPALDI WAS A MAJOR FAN, TOO (AND WOULDN’T LEAVE THE BBC ALONE).
Current Doctor Peter Capaldi was obsessed with the series as a kid, too. As a teenager, he created a ton of Doctor Who fan art and even managed to get some of it published. More than 40 years before he was named the Twelfth Doctor, some BBC staffers knew his name, because he used to inundate them with letters requesting production photos and begging to be named president of the show’s fan club. What I get out of this is that there’s still a chance for me to be named the Doctor.
10. THE TENTH DOCTOR MARRIED THE FIFTH DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER, WHO PLAYED THE TENTH DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER.
Confused? In 2011, David Tennant married Georgia Moffett, who played his artificially created daughter, Jenny, in the 2008 episode The Doctor’s Daughter. In real life, Moffett is The Doctor’s daughter; her father is Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.
11. DOCTOR WHO?
The Doctor’s real name remains a mystery to all but a very small number of individuals including The Master, River Song, and Clara Oswald.
12. MOST WATCHED EPISODE
City of Death, featuring the fourth Doctor, scored the highest viewing figures of any Doctor Who episode in the UK, drawing in over sixteen million viewers. The second highest is Voyage of the Damned, starring Kylie Minogue and David Tennant as the eleventh Doctor, which on its original airdate was watched by 13.31 million viewers and, as of November 2013, still has the highest viewership of any episode since the show’s return in 2005.
13. ALIEN DOCTOR
Time Lords look human but they are aliens, and they have some major physical differences: the Doctor has two hearts, a “respiratory bypass system” that allows him to go without air for much longer than a human, and the ability to absorb, withstand, and expel large amounts of certain types of radiation.
14. WHY A POLICE BOX?
The Doctor’s TARDIS has a broken “Chameleon circuit” which is supposed to enable it to disguise itself to blend into any environment. For example, in ancient Rome, it might look like a Roman pillar or statue from the outside. However, in the first-ever episode, An Unearthly Child, we discover that the circuit is broken and the TARDIS is stuck in the shape of a police box.
15. BANNED IN CHINA
Doctor Who is essentially banned in China, because the government doesn’t want to promote anything that could be seen as re-writing history.
16. WARDROBE MALFUNCTION
The Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf was created by accident. The costume maker misunderstood her instructions for the scarf and knitted all the wool she had been given.Tom Baker liked the overly-long scarf and went on to wear it for the show anyway.
17. CODENAME TORCHWOOD
Tapes of the early episodes were codenamed “Torchwood” — an anagram of Doctor Who — to protect them from being stolen. The name was then an obvious choice for the later spin-off series.
18. MISSING EPISODES
In the 1960s and 1970s the BBC would routinely destroy TV tapes rather than archiving them. The transmission tapes of 253 Doctor Who episodes were destroyed, as it was thought they had no future value. To this day, 97 of them are still missing. However, copies are being found and recovered from all over the world.
19. FAMILY TIES
Caitlin Blackwood, who played the young Amelia Pond, is Karen Gillan’s real life cousin. The first time they met was at an on set read-through, as Caitlin was born in Northern Ireland and Karen in Scotland.
20. NAZI DALEKS
The Dalek creator, Terry Nation, based their personality after the Nazis, suggesting their call of ‘Exterminate!’, their obsession with forcible eugenics, and their dedication to total conformity.