The TARDIS returns!

We’re celebrating the return of Doctor Who (Sundays on BBC AMERICA) with a rundown of what makes Doctor Who the world’s longest-running sci-fi series and a unique, ever-evolving program with generations of fans. You can explore the universe with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors in our first article here. Whether you’re a passionate fan or a total beginner, BBC’s new DVD collections, featuring some of the most popular Doctors, will inspire you to join this epic adventure through space and time.

In 2010, the Tenth Doctor regenerated into the Eleventh, played by Matt Smith. Then 27 years old, Smith became the youngest person ever to play the Doctor. The quirky Time Lord’s favorite accessory? A bow tie — as he said himself many times, “Bow ties are cool.” (The occasional fez was a close second.)

Smith’s run saw the first married couple to live on the TARDIS, the regular appearances of fan-favorite characters like the Paternoster Gang, and the show’s 50th anniversary celebration. It was an action-packed run, with lots of exciting events to take in, and plenty of new things to learn about the Doctor and the Doctor’s world.

Now that you know the basics — the TARDIS, the sonic, regeneration — it’s time to travel with the Eleventh Doctor and see what else the show has to offer.

The Doctor’s Friends 

The Doctor almost always travels with someone. Whether they’re called companions, assistants, or friends, they’re the Doctor’s fellow travelers through space and time. They often offer a human touchstone for difficult decisions, give the audience someone to relate to, and (perhaps most important of all) give the Doctor someone to impress.

Often, the Doctor travels with only one person. Once in a while, though, the TARDIS will be home to multiple extra travelers. This dynamic means not only lots of friends for the Doctor, but also the opportunity to watch the relationships of these characters grow as they face new challenges.

After traveling alone with the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond brought her fiancé, Rory Williams, on board. The betrothed couple brought a whole different vibe to the series, as well as allowing for new perspectives on the different alien worlds and historical times visited. Plus, story arcs focused not only on the Doctor’s interaction with his friends, but also on their relationship with each other. Amy and Rory, it’s safe to say, had a distinctly unique married life!

New viewers enjoying adventures with the Thirteenth Doctor’s three friends may see a bit of that same chemistry in Mrs. and Mr. Pond: a human couple with a life of their own, who walk hand-in-hand right into the Doctor’s adventures. At the close of “Vampires of Venice,” Amy made no secret of how much she loved having a full house as she traveled through space and time.

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Familiar Faces from History

Doctor Who was created in part to get kids excited about history, and that love of our past hasn’t changed. To that end, the Doctor often travels back in time to meet some of Earth’s historical greats. It’s always exciting when that happens, too, because the Doctor makes no secret of being a fan.

In the modern series, the Doctor has met Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, and William Shakespeare, to name just a few. This season, Rosa Parks joins the ever-growing list of historical figures to cross paths with the Doctor. 

The encounters are rarely just a chance to fly in and shake hands, though; aliens love to play with the course of human history, and these famous figures seem to find themselves in the midst of their monstrous schemes.

Historical episodes aren’t just a chance to learn about the past, either. As the Doctor and friends spend time with these historical greats, the audience gets to learn more about them as people. In “Vincent and the Doctor,” Amy gets to know fellow redhead Vincent van Gogh. At the end of the episode, she and the Eleventh Doctor take Vincent to a modern museum to show him just how much he means to future generations — a rare opportunity for any artist.

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Holiday Specials

For Doctor Who fans in the 21st century, gathering around the television and watching a brand-new adventure in time and space has become something of a Holiday tradition. Starting with “The Christmas Invasion,” every season of Doctor Who has an additional long-form episode that airs around the holidays, usually stand-alone in nature and with a festive or magical theme.

Pretty much anything goes in these episodes. Past holiday specials have had the Doctor meeting Santa, wandering into a superhero story, and traveling to a Narnia-esque world. They’re also a prime spot for celebrity cameos with stars like Nick Frost, Ian McKellen, and Richard E. Grant making appearances.

Holiday episodes have also become the venue of choice for regenerations, so you can often expect an emotional, action-packed finale for one Doctor and an intriguing welcome for the next one.

The Eleventh Doctor’s first Holiday special, “A Christmas Carol,” was just what it sounds like: a re-telling of the classic Charles Dickens story. Since this is Doctor Who, of course, there’s an alien spin on the concept. The Doctor encounters Scrooge-y Kazran Sardick (played by Michael Gambon) and, using Dickens’s tale as an outline, travels through Sardick’s childhood to alter events and make him kinder.

Since it’s the Holidays, the Doctor also can’t resist making an on-brand entrance.

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Home Is Where the Hearts Are

The Doctor travels all through space and time, seeing the sights and putting things right. Fortunately for us, there’s always been a soft spot in those two hearts for Earth.

Humans are the Doctor’s favorite race in the entire universe. If you were to ask why, you’d get a different answer for every Doctor but it always comes down to the same sentiment: the Doctor loves Earth and will always be here to protect us.

The Time Lord is so invested in the planet that UNIT — the UNified Intelligence Taskforce — even has the Doctor on their payroll as a consultant. The Doctor is also de facto President of Earth in global states of emergency. Plenty of other organizations, both human and alien, recognize the Doctor as Earth’s greatest and staunchest defender, and for good reason.

In “The Eleventh Hour,” the first episode of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, an alien known as Patient Zero finds out just how ready the Doctor is to defend Earth. It only takes a little bit of sorting through their database to see how the Time Lord, time and time again, has deflected multiple alien threats. Earth is defended, and the Doctor only has one word of advice for the monster: run!

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 A Whole Universe to Explore

Doctor Who is a unique television show thanks to its longevity. Just as new friends and foes join the fray each episode, familiar faces from the past are bound to pop in every once in a while. Whether it’s the Doctor’s companions from days gone by or even previous Doctors coming in to lend a hand, the show’s vast and varied history is accessible and ever-“wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.”

In fact, Doctor Who has been around so long that it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. “The Day of the Doctor” was a global event, uniting the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors with John Hurt’s War Doctor. The stakes were high, and the Doctors were ready, joining forces for one of the show’s biggest adventures ever.

At the end of the episode, another Doctor came back for a cameo: Tom Baker, who famously played the Fourth Doctor from 1974-1981. Just who and what The Curator is… well, you can decide for yourself. But his appearance in “Day of the Doctor” was a reminder of the show’s rich history and a lovely moment for new and long-time fans alike to share.

That’s one of the most wonderful things about Doctor Who as a show: there will always be something that’s new to you! 

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Although there are exciting changes to the show’s format in Series 11, some things will always ring true. The Doctor will always have friends to help save the universe, get excited over meeting famous people from history, and protect Earth from whatever else is out there. Doctor Who will always be accessible to new fans at any point in its long history, and you can count on sharing the adventure through space and time with family and friends.

Next up, we wrap up our look at the first ten seasons of Doctor Who in the 21st century with the era of the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi!

To own the Doctor Who DVD Collections click here and enter code 5OFFWHO11 for $5 off The Matt Smith Collection on Amazon

To continue to explore the world of Doctor Who visit DoctorWho.TV

Watch new episodes of Doctor Who Sundays at 8pm on BBC AMERICA      

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