Sarah, book blogger extraordinaire from Bookworm Blues had mentioned she didn't know who DOCTOR WHO was, and thought she might need a crash course. Since it is Saturday and because the blog remains mostly silent on the weekends (and let's be honest, because I love talking about the Doctor) I thought to make a post obliging. That said, this could be a crash course for anyone who doesn't know of the show.
Crash course. Okay. Here goes. Big breath....
Doctor Who is a BBC program that started back in 1963 as a black and white program about a man called "The Doctor" who has a blue police phone-box that travels in time and space. He is actually a timelord from the planet Gallifrey, and spends his time saving people and planets from evil and spends a lot of time defending earth.
The Doctor has the power (when his life is MORTALLY threatened) and he can't escape his body dying, to "regenerate" and he will take on a completely new body, but he is TECHNICALLY still the same person. This is how they have accounted for replacing the lead role of The Doctor over the years. Up till the current incarnation there have been 11 actors who have played him since 1963.
Back after the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) finished his run, the show went off the air (that was in the late 80's), and stayed that way for a time. In the mid-90's there was a bastardized American Made-For-TV movie which kind of flopped and is to this day the ONLY appearance of Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor.
In 2005, Russel T. Davies petitioned the BBC to allow him to resurrect the property, and with the help of 9th Doctor Christopher Eccelstone the show returned to the air in a new form and was a bit of a hit....after one season Eccelstone left the role and up stepped David Tennant to play the 10th incarnation along with companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper)..and that was when the show went from hit to friggin bananas crazy awesome, and was such a ratings winner that it became (and remains) the flagship show for BBC1.
Tennant spent 4 years in the role. Three full seasons and then a season of specials, he pulled at heart strings I didn't know I had, dealt with evil baddies old and new, but most of all renewed my love with a show that I watched every Saturday when I was a kid and had almost thought was gone forever.
After 4 seasons and a year of specials the show passed from Russel T. Davies hands into writer Steven Moffat's (Coupling, Press Gang) who wrote a fair number of Hugo-winning episodes of Davies-Era Doctor Who (Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, Silence in the Library & Forest Of The Dead). When Moffat took over he cast young actor Matt Smith in the role of the titular character and no matter what regeneration jitters we all went through, I had faith. Smith has blown everyone away with his quirky, mad scientist-ish portrayal of the Doctor, but hasn't lost any of that telltale British charm in the process. The 5th Series was one of the best and it's overall plot arc was pretty outstanding.
So, that catches you all up. We await Christmas Day and the Christmas special, and then the spring when the 6th Series will begin with episodes telling us the whole truth of who River Song is, not to mention an episode penned by Neil Gaiman. Should be plenty of fun.
Now, you may seem daunted, but you don't have to watch 32 seasons of it. If you start with the re-launched show that started in 2005 (it's called Series 1 on DVD) and then watch the first 5 seasons that will catch you up. British season mind you...so only 12 or 13 episodes a piece (and the year of specials there was only 6).
In the interest of eduction, here are some clips that will help set the stage for what to expect:
Note: Watching all these teasers won't spoil anything for you so don't worry, you can watch them, they will give you a feel of how the show progressed. The first season (kind of like Buffy) had a lower budget and it kind of shows, but once the show took off, second season onward the effects, and everything else ramps WAY up!