Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS. Along with a series of companions, he faces a variety of foes while working to save civilisations, help people and right wrongs.
The programme is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and as the “most successful” science fiction series of all time, in terms of its overall broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, iTunes traffic, and “illegal downloads”. It has been recognised for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects during its original run, and pioneering use of electronic music (originally produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). The show is a significant part of British popular culture in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere it has become a cult television favourite. The show has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. It has received recognition from critics and the public as one of the finest British television programmes, including the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006, and five consecutive wins at the National Television Awards from 2005 to 2010, in the Drama category while under Russell T Davies’ reign as show runner. In 2011 Matt Smith became the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for portraying the Doctor, but lost to Daniel Rigby.
The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. After an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production with a backdoor pilot in the form of a 1996 television film, the programme was relaunched in 2005, produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff. The first series was produced by the BBC; series two and three had some development money contributed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which was credited as a co-producer.Doctor Who also spawned spin-offs in multiple media, including the current television programmes Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, the standalone K-9, and a single 1981 pilot episode of K-9 and Company.
The Doctor has been principally played by eleven actors. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show as regeneration, whereby the character of the Doctor takes on a new body and, to some extent, new personality. Although each portrayal is different, and on occasion the various incarnations have even met one another, they are all meant to be aspects of the same character. The Doctor is currently portrayed by Matt Smith, who took up the role after David Tennant’s final appearance in an episode broadcast on 1 January 2010. A fifth series of the relaunched programme began on 3 April 2010, in which the Eleventh Doctor is accompanied by Amy Pond, portrayed by Karen Gillan, who was joined later in the series by boyfriend (later husband) Rory Williams, played by Arthur Darvill. The show’s sixth series, began on 23 April 2011, with Darvill now appearing as a regular Doctor Who companion with Gillan. The series ran for seven episodes before a three month hiatus, returning in September for the remaining six.