Intro to Doctor Who

As you can easily see looking at this site, I am a fan of Doctor Who. And I have been for many years. For me it started in the early 1970s when I came across the Jon Pertwee stories on a UHF channel in Boston. I really liked the stories, but didn’t know anything about the background. Jon Pertwee was actually the third person to portray the Doctor, but I didn’t know anything about that. He dressed in evening clothes and a cape, and drove a classic yellow car that he called Bessie. Then one day I tuned in and they had some goofy looking guy in big floppy hat and a long scarf running around and calling himself the Doctor. I was totally put off by that, which delayed my introduction to Doctor #4, Tom Baker.

After moving from Boston to Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1981, I found that my local Public Television station was playing stories of Doctor Who late on Saturday night, and got back into the show. It was very popular on that station, and I have since learned that many of our Public Television stations similarly played Doctor Who. And I quickly learned that many different actors had portrayed the Doctor over the years. But the first two were never shown on our Public Television station because they were black-and-white. I did see them later one, though. And it looked like the show ended in 1989 when the BBC announced an “indefinite hiatus”. Then there was a movie done in 1996 as a co-production between the BBC and the Fox Network. It was intended as a pilot for a revived series which thankfully never happened, because the Fox Network would have made it an American show, and Doctor Who should always be British.

Other Options

But the idea would not die. A company called BBV Productions was founded in 1991 and created videos using the original Doctor Who cast members. A good example is The Airzone Solution, whose cast includes Jon Pertwee (Doctor #3), Peter Davison (Doctor #5), Colin Baker (Doctor #6), Sylvester McCoy (Doctor #7), and Nicola Bryant (companion to Doctors 5 and 6). Another company called Reeltime Pictures was founded in 1984 by Keith Barnfather, a founding member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, and created documentaries about the series, as well as spin-off stories using characters they could license from the authors. You see, in Britain it was apparently normal for the authors to retain the commercial rights to the characters they created, the most important example being the Daleks which were created by Terry Nation and are still owned by his Estate. Reeltime brought in a British actor named Nicholas Briggs to act as host for some of their documentaries. He later became a principal member at Big Finish, which started to created audio dramas of Doctor Who in 1996, and later added dramas from other shows like The Prisoner. Nicholas Briggs has gone on to be the voice of the Daleks. But as you can see fans demanded more Doctor Who, and since the BBC wasn’t giving it to them, other companies stepped in to fill the void.

Meanwhile there were print properties for fans to get their fix. Doctor Who Magazine was started in 1979, and has published continuously ever since. You can get it in the USA, but it is expensive since it is shipped from England, so unless you are a total fan you might skip it. And there have been novelizations of the stories in a series from Target which fans enjoy because the novelizations expand on the story as presented on television and offer additional information.

The Return of Doctor Who

All of this activity eventually caught the attention of the BBC. Following the 1996 movie co-production, which Fox declined to pick up an option on, the BBC attempted to find backers for another movie, without success. As this was going on, BBC Wales approached a successful writer from Wales named Russell T. Davies to see if he would create a new show for them. His response was that he did not want to do a new show, he wanted to bring back Doctor Who, and everything aligned. in 2003 the BBC announced that Doctor Who would be coming back with Davies as the head writer and showrunner. This new series of shows began in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, and became an immediate hit. But because of the 26 year gap between shows, many things had changed. The budgets had gotten a bit larger, the technology had improved, and there was a distinct difference. So now people refer to Classic Who as the series from 1963 to 1989, and Nu Who as the series from 2005 on.

And there may be another breakpoint coming up. In 2015 two of the original BBC Wales production team for Doctor Who, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, left BBC Worldwide to set up their own production company called Bad Wolf Ltd., the name being taken from the 2005 series of Doctor Who. Then in 2017 they set up a new studio in Cardiff called Wolf Studios Wales. and in 2021 they announced two things: first, that Bad Wolf would take over production of Doctor Who beginning in 2023; and second, that Sony Pictures had purchased a majority share of Bad Wolf bringing in more money. Then in late 2022 it was announced that Disney Plus had made a deal with the BBC to get all streaming rights to Doctor Who outside of the UK. For UK residents, the BBC would still be the source for Doctor Who, and all available episodes, over 800, plus other material would be found on what they call the Whoniverse, an online platform that is for UK residents only. Disney Plus would get streaming rights to the 3 David Tennant specials in 2023, and then everything going forward from there. Davies has said that this will provide a lot of cash to help improve the show further, which is all to the good, but I hope they don’t screw it up.

Davies has said that he thinks Doctor Who should be another big sprawling property like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and has plans for additional spin-offs from Doctor Who. It seems pretty clear right now that one of them will probably be series around UNIT, a kind of military organization the show has had going back to the 1960s. And he has done this before, such as with Torchwood, which was reasonably successful.

Getting Doctor Who


If you are in the UK, it is simple: Whoniverse is your one-stop shopping for all Doctor Who streaming. Outside of the UK, it is bit more complicated. Starting from the 2023 specials and going forward, Disney Plus has the rights in every country of the rest of the world. I would imagine their global reach is pretty inclusive. But what about everything that went before? I think this may depend on where you live, and I cannot tell you anything about other countries. In the US, the Classic Who series from 1963 to 1989 can be streamed from BritBox, and the Nu Who series prior to 2023 can be viewed on Max. Tubi.TV is a free streaming service that has a lot of the Classic shows. Apple TV Plus also has most of the new stuff and some of the Classic stuff. And you can purchase episodes at the usual places like Amazon Prime Video and Google Play


The BBC has been licensing BluRay box sets of all of the shows up through the end of 2022. What will happen going forward with Disney in the mix is anyone’s guess. The Classic Who shows from 1963 to 1989 have been coming out as one year at a time sets, with each year being a single series. They are not all done yet, they have been coming out at the rate of about 2 a year. But they are good value, since they not only have all of the shows but a lot of extras. I have been buying them as they have been released. Generally thy are released first in the UK, and hit the US about 6 months later. For the NuWho from 2005-2022, you can get sets of the entire run of a given doctor (often 3 years worth), which is even a better value.


There are other sources of Doctor Who content on the Internet such as Web sites, discussion boards, and Usenet News Groups. You can find them using the usual search engine strategies


This has been a general introduction to a revered classic program, and has only scratched the surface. I plan to dive into some topics in more detail, looking at the Classic show in particular since I think fewer people know much about them. And I will start by looking at how the program actually started in 1963, and how those early shows set the pattern for what is being produced today.

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