"There's no clearer demonstration of Doctor Who's extraordinary cultural impact than the fact that The Doctor's time machine is cleverly disguised as an artifact now only recognized as a time machine."
- Steven Moffat, writer and show runner

     He's known around the world as Doctor Who, although that's not his name. He calls himself The Doctor, but that's not his name either. He sometimes calls himself John Smith, but that's just an alias. He does have a name, but we'll never know it. He is more apt to call himself a madman with a screwdriver and a box anyway.

     Many years ago, back on his home planet of Gallifrey, he borrowed - well, stole, actually - a time and space machine known as a TARDIS and flew away. The TARDIS was built to blend in wherever it went, but when the Doctor landed it in Britain in 1963, it disguised itself as a police telephone box, got stuck that way, and he never got around to fixing it.

     He has many friends, The Doctor does, and many enemies too. He is loved and despised everywhere he goes. He is a hero without super powers, the most dangerous man in the Universe, and despite those many friends, often the loneliest too.

     If mortally wounded, The Doctor has the power to "regenerate", replacing every molecule in his body with new ones, which results in a new face, a new body, and a new personality. But he is still the same man.

     He's hundreds of years old. He's your best hope for survival. He's the man who fights the monsters.

     He is The Doctor.

Pictured above: Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor from the original series.

"Crossing into established events is strictly forbidden. Except for cheap tricks."
- The Tenth Doctor

      Okay, some basic info without all the drama:  Doctor Who is about an humanoid alien who travels in time and space, often with human and/or alien companions. In his travels, he sometimes - okay, almost always - runs into some trouble that he must battle his way out of, often using only his wits. He also saves the world, a lot.

     Oh, and the next time we see him, she'll be a woman.

Pictured right: Peter Davison as The Fifth Doctor from the original series.

"What a long strange trip it's been."
- The Grateful Dead

     For a series that has such a long history, Doctor Who came by that history in piecemeal fashion. It started out in 1963 as a weekly television series in serial form, with episodes lasting 25 minutes and usually ending in a cliffhanger. Doctor Who was long on imagination and often short on time, money and special effects, but it was smart, fun, quirky and extremely popular with the British public. Over the course of the show, seven different actors portrayed The Doctor, starting with William Hartnell, then followed, in order, by Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. All good things come to end, though, and in 1989, Doctor Who went off the air after 26 years. A few years later, a Doctor Who TV movie starring actor Paul McGann as The Doctor aired in the hope that it would lead to a revival of the series. It didn't.

     In 2005, writer Russell T Davies, best known at the time for the show Queer As Folk, launched a new Doctor Who series. Each episode now ran approximately 45 minutes and told complete stories with the former trademark cliffhangers only occurring when a story ran over two or more episodes. Davies, who loved the original series, made the brilliant decision that this new show would not be a rebooted or reimagined Doctor Who, but rather a continuation of the original series. Thus, the entire history of the show up to that point was now official back story, and the new Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, was merely the latest in the line of Doctors that went back to 1963. Following Eccleston's one season with the show, David Tennant took over the role, followed a few years later by Matt Smith.

     At the time of this writing, the show just finished it tenth "new" season with its twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. There will be a Christmas special in December, which will introduce Jody Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, the first female Doctor of the series.

     Oh, yeah, there was also the year 2016. What was so special about 2016, you say?

     That's where I came in. - John "Jay" Brennan, creator of The Secret Vortex

"What the hell kind of show is this?"
- My thoughts when accidentally tuning into the end of an episode on Sci-Fi,
a decade before before I was a fan.

     In the final months of 2016, I wanted to make sure I got my money's worth from my Amazon Prime account, so I searched for a free series to stream. I settled rather randomly on the "new" Doctor Who series.

     I was aware of the original series. This is not to say I actually watched the original series, but it was one of those cultural things that you just knew about even if you've never watched an episode. The most I ever got to see of the actual show was a few minutes of episodes here and there on PBS featuring Tom Baker as The Doctor. I was also aware that Peter Cushing starred in two different Doctor Who movies in the '60s, where he fought these villains known as The Daleks. Little bits of Doctor Who were just part of the cultural air.

Pictured above: Christopher Eccleston as The Ninth Doctor.

    I was also aware of the new series, which, in America, started airing on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2005. Over the course of a few years, I caught bits and pieces of random episodes, but since those bit and pieces usually confused the hell out of me, I didn't stick around to watch more than a few minutes. All I remembered about them were Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, neither of whom I had known before, and then David Tennant, whom I only knew from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I recall sometimes seeing other women as The Doctor's sidekicks (Freema Agyeman and/or Catherine Tate, obviously) and wondering what happened to Billie Piper, or as I thought of her, "that pretty blond Doctor Who girl".

     Again, when I say I was aware of the new series, I mean that I was aware it was on TV because I had occasionally stumbled across it, but I assumed, ridiculously now that I know better, that it had been on the air since 1963 and was now in its forty-whateverth season.

    Some years later, possibly late 2015 or early 2016, I spent a pleasant afternoon doing some mundane but important writing activity while BBC America (I think) offered an afternoon marathon of Doctor Who episodes old and new, which I tuned into out of curiosity. I enjoyed all the episodes (I guess I was starting to "get" Doctor Who), but I must admit I wasn't watching very closely. What I remember most about that day is how unperturbed I was at seeing Matt Smith and then Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. I had never seen either one before, but I casually accepted them as The Doctor. However, I still didn't realize that each Doctor was still the Doctor. The concept of regeneration eluded me. I had the idea that there were a bunch of Doctors, like Doctors On Call, and when one Doctor retired or was unavailable, another Doctor took his place, and was either granted a new companion or just got custody of Billie Piper.

Pictured above: David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.

     So the above is all I knew about the show before taking the plunge in October 2016. I started with the first episode, "Rose", which starred Christopher Eccleston in his one season as The Doctor. By the middle of that first episode, I got an inkling that I was going to enjoy this ride. "Rose" was fun, goofy, creepy, action-filled, and it had killer manikins and that pretty blond Doctor Who girl Billie Piper.

     In the first three episodes of the new series, The Doctor and companion Rose Tyler (Piper) fought The Autons, those killer manikins I mentioned above, then traveled billions of years into the future where, from a safe space platform, they watched the now-abandoned planet Earth consumed by the Sun. Having seen that, the pair went back in time to meet Charles Dickens (how's that for a second date, Rose?). How could I not love a show that offered all that  in just the first three episodes alone? So I continued watching the series on Amazon, two or three (sometimes four!) episodes per night...

Pictured above: Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor.

     ...and I didn't stop until "The Husbands of River Song", the last available episode at that time. I later caught the 2016 Christmas special "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", which got me all caught up and ready for the upcoming tenth season. Somewhere between Season One and Season Two, I realized that I hadn't had this much fun watching a TV series since I similarly stumbled upon Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the late '90s (she also saved the world a lot!) I loved Doctor Who, all of it. I loved Christopher Eccleston's intense Doctor and I loved Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. I was blown away by David Tennant - my favorite Doctor - and immediately fell in love with Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyemen. Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) made me laugh, as did Matt Smith's Doctor a season later. I adored Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and wished that everybody in the world could have had a pal as steadfast, loyal and true as Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). Almost needless to say, I loved Peter Capaldi's Doctor as well as his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

     No TV show is perfect (except possibly Firefly), so a couple of episodes of the new Doctor Who are not so good. Some episodes have a great story but iffy special effects or somewhat "rubbish" monsters. Some have amazing special effects, excellent monsters, but lack a good story. The majority of episodes, however, are a lot of fun, and a small handful rank with the best television episodes of all time.

Pictured above: Peter Capaldi as The Twelfth Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald.

     I had marathoned the entire new series over a period of two months, and then, although I could stream the episodes any time I wanted, I set about buying each individual season over on disc just in case Amazon ever lost the rights to the episodes. Later, I got to sample episodes of the into the original series, getting a handle on each Doctor from those years, and adding several episodes to my video collection. Of course, I couldn't ignore the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, which I found enjoyable.

     As of the time of this writing (early 2018), I am working my way through every available Classic Doctor Who episode, courtesy of BritBox.

     I am a Whovian.

     Now it's your turn.

     So grab your sonic screwdriver, bring your Timey-Wimey device that goes "ding!" when there's "stuff", whip up some fish fingers and custard and check out The Secret Vortex's Doctor Who sections!

Next: The Doctors (Timeline 1963 - 1989, 1996 and 2013)

Doctor Who Main Page

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"You know, Doctor - sometimes you astound me."
"Only sometimes, dear boy?"

 - Ian Chesterton and The First Doctor