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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration: What is Doctor Who?

How to Use This Guide

Explore the resources provided in this guide to acquaint yourself with the world of the science fiction television show Doctor Who. The text, links, videos, suggested readings, and more will give you all the knowledge you need to jump into the world of the Doctor and follow him on his journeys.

The tab detailing the classic series is meant to provide a little bit of background of the show's original episodes and manifestations of the Doctor; however, the real focus of this guide is the new series.


Assembled Cubecraft Tardis/Image by Jessica Danielle Smith, MLIS

The TARDIS is the Doctor's time-travel device. It is also a constant in the ever-changing world of Doctor Who.

It was designed not to draw attention to itself in the places it materializes by changing its outward appearance to blend in with the time period or location in which it's currently located. However, during one trip, the chameleon circuit got stuck in the form of a blue police public call box, and for the most part, it has remained in that form ever since.

"It's bigger on the inside."


This guide is based on guides by Carey Major and Wendy Cole.  It has been adapted with permission and appreciation by Jessica Danielle Smith and Maureen Diana Sasso.

About Doctor Who

The show Doctor Who has been a part of the science fiction landscape since 1963 and has played a huge role in the genre's history. The series tells the story of a Time Lord named the Doctor, a humanoid alien who travels with a companion through time and space in a time machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). Together, the Doctor and his companion have many adventures across galaxies, star systems, and eras—and usually end up saving the world along the way. 

The character of the Doctor has been the focus of not only a British television series but also an American made- for-T.V. movie, science fiction novels, and comic books.

Doctor Who originated as a half-hour, black-and-white show and has, over time, become an hour-long drama in color.

Who is The Doctor?

The Doctor is a time-traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey who has journeyed through space and time for hundreds of years. He has the power to regenerate when near death, changing his appearance—and often his personality traits—in the process.

So far, there have been 11 incarnations of him throughout both the classic and new series, and he has been played by many different actors and been written and played in many different ways. Some actors have been campy, others dark and serious. The show’s direction and feeling have always changed depending on who the Doctor is at any given time. .

Over the years, he has been used as not only a character for entertainment but also as a tool to educate.



Who Are His Companions?

The Doctor always travels through time and space with a companion. Some have been men, others have been women, and one was even a robotic dog named K9.

Each companion of the Doctor plays a different role in his life. Some have been friends, love interests, comic relief, and/or partners, but all have played a part keeping the Doctor grounded and attached to reality. Because the Doctor will, potentially, live forever, he could easily forget the importance of life and connection without his mortal sidekicks.

For a look at the various Doctor Who companions over the years, click here.

The Story so Far

More Story so Far

The Night of the Doctor: A Mini Episode - Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor Prequel - BBC