<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/#!/intnorbertcon>Vinnie Bartilucci, Newsarama Columnist</a></i> <p>The Doctor, as he is known, is nine-hundred-and-change years old, a member of a race of beings known as the Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. His race was dedicated to the passive observation of history, a practice that The Doctor simply couldn't. So he stole a ship, (more on that in a bit) and set off on a walkabout through time and space. <p>Over the course of his adventures, he's made many friends, just as many enemies, and saved the universe so many times, there are no races in the universe with sufficient fingers to count them all. <p>The BBC has been presenting his adventures since 1963, with brief forays into film, at least one stage show, hundreds of novels and comic adventures, and a couple radio plays. And this weekend, it'll all start up again. <p>This primer will hopefully help you see what the fuss is all about, and catch you up before Season 6 part 2 starts up Saturday August 27, 2011! <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
The Doctor's time machine, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space) is an amazing machine, which takes him anywhere he wants to go in the universe. Usually. <p>The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental, which means that the interior of the ship is not technically within the confines of its outer hull. This anomaly is easily observable, and is usually the first thing noticed when new people enter the craft. <p>For the last few decades, the aforementioned outer hull has resembled a British police call box. The Chameleon circuit, an automatic camouflage system designed to allow the capsule to blend into the local environment, worked perfectly when it landed on Earth in the early sixties. And then promptly stopped working. With only a few exceptions, it's been trapped in the form of a Police Box ever since. <p>In this season's episode The Doctor's Wife, we learned conclusively what had been suspected all along; The TARDIS is sentient, female, and had more than a small role in its own liberation.
Over the years, The Doctor has shared his adventures with scores of companions, from various races and time periods. They share his wonder of the universe, give him someone to impress, and serve as the avatar of the viewer More often than not we imagine ourselves traveling with The Doctor than we do imagining we were him. After all, he's so much better at it than we could be. <p>There's been much discussion about the idea that The Doctor's companions become like living weapons, willing to destroy, or lay down their lives to follow in his footsteps. But rather than that being something done on purpose, it's an example of his strength of character. He inspires those around him to do the right thing, to fight evil, and to make the world a better place.
The Doctor has been given many names over his life as well. In school, he was known as Theta Sigma, though that may have been some sort of student ID number which grew into an appellation. His friend Drax still referred to him as Thete centuries later. <p>The Doctor is, of course, not his real name; it's a title, a <i>nom de l'aventure</i>, if you will. Many Time Lords take such titles, usually ones who decide to go off and Get Involved, as he did. We've met The Master, The Rani, The Monk, and at least heard about The Corsair. <P>The Daleks refer to him in their own language as The Oncoming Storm, a fitting title for an enemy who has laid waste to their plans more times than Twinkies have laid waste to diets. <P>On many worlds he's visited, the word Doctor has been taken to mean healer, or even savior. On others, it's synonymous with Warrior. <P>He has also been known as The Defender of Time, John Smith, and Captain Troy Handsome of International Rescue.
When William Hartnell, the first actor to play The Doctor, chose to leave the series, the writers came up with a unique plot twist The Doctor's race can regenerate. At times of catastrophic injury, they have the ability to completely replace the cells of their body, phoenix-like, and emerge a new person. This gave the show carte blanche to replace the lead whenever they needed to. <p>Back in the days of the fourth Doctor Tom Baker, one adventure revealed that a Time Lord was allowed only twelve regenerations, a total of thirteen bodies. At the time that number seemed years off. Matt Smith is now the eleventh actor to play The Doctor, and that thirteen number seems far too close now. But with the Time Lords no longer around, there's every likelihood that those structures no longer apply, or as former showrunner Russell T. Davies put it, "I'm sure someone will wave the Amulet of Zog and sort it out."
The <b>Doctor Who</b> production team has always been well-versed in pinching a penny. In the earlier years of the show that could mean scads of stock footage, Chroma-Key special effects, and aliens with bubble-wrap for skin. It also meant that a great deal of alien planets looked like a stone quarry in northern England. <p>In recent years, the show is largely filmed in Wales, and many sets and locations are recycled. But they've gotten so good at redressing that unless you were explicitly told, you'd never know that the Oval Office became an acid storage room a few episodes later, or that the Croatian town of Trogir stood in for both Venice and France.
Anagrams, acronyms and wordplay have taken a bigger role in recent adventures of the series. When the first new series was being filmed, the film cans were labeled with a fake production name to throw the information-desperate off the scent. The name chosen was Torchwood, an anagram of <b>Doctor Who</b>. The name eventually became a series of its own, the first spin-off of the series. <p>The Face of Boe gave The Doctor the cryptic advice, You are not alone. Some time later, he met Professor Yana, (Note the initials) who was revealed to be The Doctor's oldest enemy, The Master. He would travel to Earth and take the name of Mister Saxon, which is an anagram of Master No. Six)
<b>Doctor Who</b> will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013. Even during the dark years when the show was off the air in the 90's, it was never out of the public mindset. Fan-run companies like BBV and Big Finish produced quasi-spinoffs like PROBE, and eventually fully-authorized new adventures. Publishers like Virgin books started producing new adventures, including Paul Cornell's Human Nature, which was eventually adapted by the author into an actual televised adventure starring David Tennant. <p>Much like comic writers in America, an inordinate number of people involved in the new Who series got into television expressly because of <b>Doctor Who</b>. Showrunner Steven Moffat famously wrote to the BBC at the age of eight and offered his services as a producer for the show. Apparently, the BBC is rather slow in replying to its correspondence.
<p>The monsters of <b>Doctor Who</b> are legendary in their ability to fascinate and terrify its young audience simultaneously. While in America we refer to the experience of watching a scary show or movie from between our fingers, British children took refuge behind the living room sofa, providing only a small monster target as their heads poked out, up to the eyes so they could watch the show in bunkered safety. <p>There's not a person interviewed who doesn't swear blind that was their viewing position of choice. The Museum of the Moving Image in London had an exhibition about the show that they called Behind the Sofa. The British newspaper the Daily Telegraph gets it exactly right: <p>The cliché about <b>Doctor Who</b> that it had us "hiding behind the sofa" is more telling in its tone than its questionable factuality. It connotes nostalgia, and a pleasurable mixture of fright and fascination but above all it connotes domesticity. It united fear and soft furnishings in the British mind
Russell T. Davies grew to fame in England with the creation of <i>Queer as Folk</i>, a drama that dealt with homosexuality in a more frank and open way than ever seen before on British TV. Even then his love for the classic sci fi show was seen one of the characters was a rabid <b>Doctor Who</b> fan. <p>When he got to bring <b>Doctor Who</b> back, he made a point of featuring homosexual characters in the show. Not in any in your face way, but simply write characters who happened to be gay, and have it be as unimportant to the plot as the color of their skin or their choice of footwear. By not constantly making these characters angels or martyrs, it made their appearance truly inclusive it didn't MATTER that they were gay, they simply were. <p>Captain Jack Harkness, The Cassini Sisters, and this season's government agent Canton Everett Delaware are all wonderful characters whose sexual preferences are wholly unimportant, and by so doing, drives home to a young audience that what you like and how you were born doesn't have any effect on who you are as a person.
This weekend sees the second half of the sixth season start up with an adventure that features The Doctor accidentally saving Hitler's life, Rory Williams deliberately attempting to knock his little moustache off with his knuckles, and the continuation of a promise to find Amelia Pond's daughter, who, at the time he made the promise, was standing next to Amelia as a grown woman. <p>Confused? Interested? A mad mix of both? Good! See you on Saturday.