As one of our most famous sci-fi franchises, Doctor Who has quite the history. BBC’s iconic program has followed the Doctor’s exploits since 1963 when we were first introduced to the Time Lord from Gallifrey. Over the years, Doctor Who had its ups and downs, amassing 26 seasons before it was canceled in 1989. Despite the cancellation, a cult following had already formed. And, in 2005, Doctor Who came back stronger than ever!
With Doctor Who‘s latest season about to debut, we’ve gathered a list of incredible facts about the beloved show. From its beginning to the present day, Doctor Who‘s rich life is one worth remembering. Actors may come and go, but the Doctor is always with us.
So check out these 30 little-known facts about the wonderful universe of Doctor Who! Allons-y!
Doctor Who was originally conceived as a children’s educational show.
When the series was first created by Sydney Newman at the BBC, it was made to entertain and educate children about science and history, using time travel to navigate the different eras.
The BBC lost 103 early episodes of the series.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the BBC destroyed or wiped many episodes, mostly from the First and Second Doctors’ collections. Both the BBC and fans of the series have tried recovering the episodes over the years, with some success. At the very least, there are audio recordings of every episode, some made from home recordings during broadcasts when the episodes aired.
The Doctor’s regeneration is based on a bad acid trip.
Yep. BBC found a memo years later that described the Doctor’s “metaphysical change” when the show transitioned between the First and Second Doctor. The memo read: “It is as if he had had the L.S.D. drug, and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect.”
Regeneration became a concept due to William Hartnell’s health problems.
Only on a sci-fi show like Doctor Who can you get away with never killing off the main character, but continually switching up actors (and now actresses). When William Hartnell (the First Doctor) was having health problems near the end of his tenure on the show, the showrunners came up with regeneration to continue the show and avoid angering Hartnell’s fans.
David Tennant predicted his own future.
David Tennant has cited Doctor Who as a major reason for his decision to become an actor. When he was 13, Tennant wrote an essay in school called “Intergalactic Overdose” wherein he was convinced that he’d some day play the Doctor on TV. And he was right!
“Time Lords” weren’t a thing until 1969.
We all know that the Doctor is a Time Lord, but that term wasn’t actually coined until season six of the original series, in 1969. Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, wasn’t mentioned by name for another four and a half years, in 1973.
The Weeping Angels aren’t props.
They sure look it, don’t they? But the Weeping Angels are, in fact, actresses wearing some seriously creepy (and skillful) makeup and statuesque costumes.
The Doctor could have been very, very dark.
In an early draft of the first Doctor Who script, it’s implied that he’s planning on killing companions Ian and Barbara so that his secret won’t be given away. This dark version of our favorite Time Lord didn’t make the final cut.
The Tenth Doctor married the Fifth Doctor’s daughter, and she also played the Tenth Doctor’s daughter.
Yeah, the family tree is funny. Basically, David Tennant is married to Georgia Moffett, who played his daughter in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who called “The Doctor’s Daughter.” Moffett also happens to be the real-life daughter of Peter Davison, who of course played the role of the Fifth Doctor.
Torchwood was originally used as a codename for Doctor Who.
That’s because it’s an anagram. ‘Torchwood’ was used to label the show’s tapes so that there wouldn’t be any leaks. When Russell T. Davies was given the opportunity for a Doctor Who spin-off, he was so fond of the old Torchwood anagram that it stuck.
Douglas Adams wrote for Doctor Who in the ‘70s.
After he sent the script for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio program to the BBC, Douglas Adams was hired as a writer for Doctor Who. He wrote the episodes “The Pirate Planet” and “City of Death.”
The Doctor is *probably* a medical doctor, too.
According to the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, the Doctor is pretty sure he has a medical degree. In the fourth season episode “The Moonbase,” when asked by his companion if he is a medical doctor, the Doctor replies, “Yes, I think I was once, Polly. I think I took a degree once in Glasgow. 1888 I think.”
Ridley Scott was originally going to design the Daleks.
Imagine what that could have looked like! However, Scott left the BBC before he could design them, and the task fell to Raymond Cusick—hence, the Daleks we now have today.
The Daleks were based on Nazis.
Not only is their one and only catchphrase “exterminate!”, the Doctor’s worst foes are also obsessed with conformity and the preservation of ‘true’ Daleks. Even their physical design emulates the salute, with the Dalek zapper sticking out at an angle.
It took the BBC six years to trademark the TARDIS.
The BBC finally tried to trademark the Doctor’s handy time machine in 1996 but was met with resistance by the police, as the TARDIS is basically a police box. The BBC won the case six years later, in 2002.
Nailing down the Eleventh Doctor’s outfit was a long process.
Before settling on the classic tweed and bow tie that we love (and never forget the fez), Matt Smith and the costume department went through several different potential looks for the Eleventh Doctor. There was a more polished businessman look, and even a sort of pirate-like look with a waistcoat!
The Doctor has been married three times (that we know of).
The Doctor has been married to Queen Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, and River Song. Of course, those aren’t the only romances the Doctor has ever had…
Tom Baker’s iconic scarf was an accident.
The Fourth Doctor’s scarf was always a key part of his outift—long, colorful, and eye-catching. The knitter who was hired to make it, Begonia Pope, hadn’t been told how long the scarf should be, so she just used up all the wool she was given. The scarf ended up being 20 feet long; though it was trimmed down from there, it still retained a good amount of its ridiculous length.
The TARDIS’ noise was made on the cheap.
Every Doctor Who fan knows what the TARDIS sounds like when she takes off and lands. That sound was created by rubbing piano strings with a key!
The BBC’s first female producer worked on Doctor Who.
Verity Lambert was Doctor Who’s first producer. She was also the youngest producer in the BBC’s drama department, and the first female producer the company had ever hired!
Doctor Who has even shaped the English language.
Both ‘TARDIS’ and ‘Dalek’ have been used so much that both words now appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.
One episode featured both a future Doctor and a future companion.
The 2008 Doctor Who episode “Fires of Pompeii” featured both Karen Gillan (who later played Amy Pond) and Peter Capaldi (who later played the Twelfth Doctor) in one-off roles.
The show’s creator did NOT like the Daleks.
Sydney Newman was adamant that he did not want “bug-eyed monsters” in the show, and thus hated the Daleks initially. Later, he admitted that he was wrong to wish them gone.
Sylvester McCoy played two Doctors in the same scene.
Because Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor) refused to return for his regeneration scene, Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) had to play both. He stood in for Baker and morphed into his own version of the Doctor. Fans of the show are not fans of that particular ‘death’ scene.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Bill Nighy both turned down the role of the Doctor.
Nighy was once offered the role but turned it down due to the baggage it came with. Cumberbatch was offered the role once David Tennant left, but turned it down for similar reasons. Instead, we got Matt Smith—which turned out to be pretty great!
Stephen Fry wrote a script for Doctor Who.
Fry’s script was written for the second series of the revived show, with Tennant’s Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose. The script was based on a medieval poem about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Unfortunately, it was deemed too complicated and pushed back, and Fry never had time to make changes to it.
Matt Smith is the youngest Doctor ever.
Smith began playing the Eleventh Doctor at the age of 27, which makes him the youngest actor to play the part. Williams Hartnell and Peter Capaldi tie for oldest at 55 (although Capaldi was a few months younger than Hartnell was when he started).
Michael Jackson was almost the Doctor.
When Michael Jackson was reaching the heights of his fame in the late ’80s, Paramount Pictures proposed a Doctor Who movie with Jackson playing the iconic role. However, that idea never came to fruition.
Peter Capaldi was a Doctor Who super-fan—and he wouldn’t leave the producers alone!
Capaldi Worte letter after letter to the BBC as a teenage super-fan of the show, and wrote yet another when he was not given presidency of the show’s fan club. Sarah Newman, the producer’s secretary, said of Capaldi at the time: ‘I think he’s the end and I wish the Daleks or someone would exterminate him.’ Little did any of them know, he’d be playing the Doctor one day!
The show’s creator wanted a female Doctor.
When the show was struggling with ratings back in the 1980s, before its cancellation, Sydney Newman wrote a letter to the BBC. He suggested introducing a female incarnation of the Doctor: a Time Lady. His advice was ignored, and the series was eventually canceled…but now, in its modern form, Doctor Who has finally followed Newman’s advice!
Like this story? Share it far and wide with your fellow Whovians!