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Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series that initially aired from 1963 to 1989, before being revived for its current run beginning in 2005. The show chronicles the adventures of a nameless time-travelling humanoid alien simply referred to as “The Doctor”, thought to be the only remaining survivor of a species known as “The Time Lords.” The Doctor, along with different human companions, travels through time and space in a ship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which appears to people as a vintage blue police box. Because of the decades-long history of the show, Doctor Who has gathered a cult following, both online and off.
The first Doctor Who episode “An Unearthly Child” premiered on the BBC television service on November 23rd, 1963. The original series ran until 1989, during which eight different actors portrayed the Doctor, each providing their own twist on the the regenerating humanoid. During the first two seasons, 106 episodes were lost due to broadcasters wiping tapes clean after every use. There is an ongoing effort by the BBC and fans to locate copies of these episodes, which aired between 1967 and 1978. As of August 2011, many of the episodes are still lost.
In 1996, English actor Paul McGann was cast to play the role of the eighth Doctor in a direct-to-TV film. Although McGann appeared in only one film, his character’s adventures have since been extensively portrayed in spin-off media. In 2005, after nearly a decade of hiatus, the TV show was revived for a new series with English actor Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor. After its successful run from March to June 2005, the show was immediately renewed for a sequel series starring Scottish actor David Tennant as the tenth Doctor from 2006 to 2009, who was subsequently replaced by Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor in September 2012.
The Twelfth Doctor
On June 1st, 2013, Matt Smith announced that he would be ending his tenure as the eleventh Doctor, with his character regenerating into a new iteration in the upcoming Christmas special. In the following weeks, Twitter became awash with rumors of possible replacement candidates amidst a steady build-up of anticipation for the announcement of Smith’s successor, some of the more intriguing candidates being Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), David Harewood (Homeland) and Dame Helen Mirren (The Queen), the latter two of which would be the first black and first female actress to portray the lead role, if cast as the twelfth Doctor.
By 2006, the BBC series had been recognized the television’s longest running science fiction show by the Guinness Book of World Records. The success of the series has prompted the BBC to produce several novels (shown below, left), comic books (shown below, center), stage plays, an animated series and a spin-off series set in the Doctor Who universe (otherwise known as the “Whoniverse”). The most notable spin-off series are The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood (shown below, right) and K-9.
Over the course of its original run, Doctor Who won two awards: a Royal Television Society award in 1974 for Best Graphics and a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award in 1975 for Best Children’s Drama Script. The current incarnation has won 125 awards including several BAFTAa, BBC Awards, Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, and National Television Awards, and all three actors portraying the Doctor received awards for their performances.
The BBC maintains several active social networking sites for Doctor Who, where they interact with fans and hold special contests. As of August 2012, the Facebook page has more than 2.5 million likes, the @DoctorWho Twitter account has 213,319 followers and the Tumblr has more than 100,000 followers.
The series’ popularity has garnered numerous hardcore fans known as “Whovians”, who have created a number of fansites dedicated to the show. Among the largest are Doctor Who Online, Doctor Who TV and DoctorWho.com. Many fans also congregate on the /r/DoctorWho subreddit and on Tumblr under the tags “#doctor who” and “#the doctor.” Many sites also focus on the canon, including the Tardis Index File and Whoniverse.net.
There are a number of toys and action figures based on the main characters and villains, including the Daleks and Cybermen. In 2011, BBC Worldwide announced the first annual Doctor Who convention, which took place at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on March 24th-25th. The convention featured several notable guests, including Matt Smith and writer Steven Moffatt.Cosplayers will also often wear Doctor Who-inspired outfits to sci-fi or comic book conventions. Doctor Who cosplayers have a dedicated LiveJournal community and Tumblr to share their photos. In July 2012, BBC America provided official cosplay guides for a variety of male and female characters from the show.
Many Whovians have created fanfictions inspired by the show on sites like Fanfiction.net and A Teaspoon And An Open Mind. In addition, there are more than 217,000 fan art submissions on DeviantArt and more than 162,000 photos tagged “Doctor Who” on Flickr.
“Don’t Blink!” / Weeping Angels
“Don’t Blink!” is a phrase based on the villains known as Weeping Angels, which originally appeared in the episode “Blink” aired on June 9th, 2007. The Weeping Angels can only move when they are not being looked at, forcing viewers to resist the urge to blink. In the episode, the Doctor explains this in a video to the protagonist, repeating the phrase “Don’t Blink!” multiple times. The phrase is commonly used in the context of creepypasta to instill fear.
Another line associated with the Weeping Angels is “The Angels have the Phonebox”, which Whovians often use to identify themselves, similarl to the Redditor catchphrase “The narwhal bacons at midnight”.
Doctor Whoof (or Doctor Whooves) is a background character with short brown hair and an hourglass cutie mark from the animated television show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, that has often been compared to the tenth Doctor portrayed by actor David Tennant. At first, his personality was entirely a fan construct, but in Season 2 of the show, several references were made to his fanon personality. The character is often featured as the subject in fan-created comics and artwork.
Bow Ties are Cool
“Bow Ties are Cool” is a phrase frequently spoken by the eleventh Doctor (played by Matt Smith), who often wears a bow-tie and is frequently ridiculed for it by his companions. The phrase has also been applied to some of his other fashion accessories, including Fezzes, Stetsons, Spacesuits and Tailcoats. Online, it is used to poke fun at eccentric behavior or taste.
Tennantface is a photoshop meme that originated on Tumblr in 2010 after several people began photoshopping the Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s face on to various images. In September 2011, nearly a year after it started, several fans showed Tennant a blown-up version of the face to which he responded, "That’s just creepy.”
The Silence, introduced in the April 23rd, 2011 episode “The Impossible Astronaut” are a race of aliens bearing a striking resemblance to Slender Man. They have the power of being able to erase themselves from people’s memories in order to move without being seen, much in the manner of Slender Man. Many fans consider The Silence to be an homage to the mythical being, as discussed on Tardis Index File, Slender Nation and the Minecraft Forums.
Daleks are one of the main antagonists of the show, first appearing in the 1963 episode “The Daleks”. They are alien mutants who feel nothing but hate, strongly believe that they are the most superior race in the universe and that all non-Daleks have to be “exterminated”. They are often the subject of image macros including the caption “Exterminate!”.
Over time, Doctor Who has generated several notable catchphrases. They are frequently used in image captions, as well as by fans of the show in day-to-day speech and in forum posts. Below are the most notable examples:
- “Geronimo!” -Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
- “Come along, Pond!” -Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
- “Allons-y!” -Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)
- “Fantastic!” – 9th Doctor (sometimes used ironically – Christopher Eccleston)
- “Funny little human brains. How do you get around in those things?” – Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
- “Would you like a Jelly Baby?” – Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)
- “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” – Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
- “Spoilers” – River Song (Alex Kingston)
- “Hello sweetie” – River Song (Alex Kingston)
- “You will be deleted!” – The Cybermen
- “Silence will fall” – The Silence
Search interest for Doctor Who has remained high since the 2005 reboot, generally peaking before the start of each new season.