Doctor Who: 48 facts

Here are 48 facts about the time-travelling show...


1. Doctor Who first hit TV screens at teatime on 23 November 1963 on BBC1


2. The opening episode was An Unearthly Child, a reference to the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, who attended school on Earth and astounded teachers with her alien intelligence

3.The original series ran from 1963 to 1989

 4. It returned on 26 March 2005 with the episode Rose, starring Billie Piper as the eponymous Ms Tyler and Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor. RT celebrated with a special gatefold cover that opened to reveal the interior of the Tardis 

5. The original theme tune was composed by Ron Grainer and given its innovative spine-tingling arrangement by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

6. The original broadcast of the first episode of Dr Who was eclipsed by the assassination of JFK the previous day, so the BBC showed it again ahead of the second episode the following Saturday

7. Rated on the BBC’s scale of viewer satisfaction, the first episode of Doctor Who received an audience reaction index of 63, smack in the middle of the averages for television drama (62) and children’s programmes (64)

8. The first mention of “Dr Who” in Radio Times was a brief “Coming Next Week” piece in the issue dated 16-22 November 1963

 9. The series claimed its first RT front cover for episode one of the historical adventure Marco Polo in the issue dated 22-28 February 1964

10. 1966 episode The Smugglers is the only Doctor Who production to feature absolutely no incidental music

11. The Wheel in Space (a 1968 six-part Cyberman story) was the only story to be made in all four of the BBC’s London studio sites: Lime Grove, Riverside, TV Centre and Ealing Film Studios

12. The Daleks debuted in the second Doctor Who story and propelled the series into the ratings stratosphere, with the last four episodes hovering around the ten million mark

13. You know him as the Doctor but did you know he was also a doctor? In a sickbay in 1967 story The Moonbase, the Time Lord was asked, “Listen, are you really a medical doctor?” to which he replied, “Yes, I think I was once, Polly. I think I took a degree once in Glasgow. 1888 I think. Lister.” 

14. The first colour episode of Doctor Who was part one of Spearhead from Space, starring third Doctor Jon Pertwee, which aired on 3 January 1970

15. These days, it’s viewers – and River Song – who guard against spoilers but when Radio Times previewed Spearhead from Space in its 1969 Christmas edition, producer Barry Letts complained that the article was too revealing – as well as introducing new Doctor Jon Pertwee, it gave away most of the plot of the first Auton invasion…

16. The letters page of a February/March 1974 edition of Radio Times featured some correspondence from a 15-year-old schoolboy in response to the magazine’s Dr Who special. “The Dalek construction plans will no doubt have inspired many a school to build their own Daleks,” suggested the young man. “Who knows, the country could be invaded by an army of school Daleks!” The youngster’s name? Peter Capaldi. Best known to many as spin doctor Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, Capaldi is also familiar to Who fans as Caecilius in 2008 episode The Fires of Pompeii

17. Inspired by The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the 30 April-6 May 2005 cover of Radio Times was voted the greatest magazine cover of all time by the Periodical Publishers Association

18. William Hartnell is officially the first Doctor but, controversially, in 1976 episode The Brain of Morbius we saw many other faces on a screen, intended to be even earlier selves of the Doctor. They were posed by the production team: producer Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Robert Holmes, writer Robert Banks Stewart, directors Christopher Barry and Douglas Camfield, production manager George Gallacio and production assistant Graeme Harper (who went on to direct several Who episodes between 2006 and 2009)

19. In 1977, at the end of season 14 of Doctor Who, came the first full-length documentary about the series, Whose Doctor Who. Fronted by Melvyn Bragg, it aired comments from viewers – and psychologists – and loads of archive clips

20. On 28 September 2011 it was announced that behind-the-scenes companion series Doctor Who Confidential was to be axed. A campaign attempting to save the show quickly sprang up, featuring Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and collecting over 50,000 signatures in an online petition. There’s been no indication yet that it’s changed BBC execs’ minds

21. In 1983, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison were brought together for 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. William Hartnell had died eight years earlier, so Richard Hurndall was drafted in to play the first Doctor, while previously unseen footage of fourth Doctor Tom Baker was used after he declined to take part

22. In March 2005, just a month before David Tennant was announced as the new Doctor, a Radio Times cover featuring the actor as Casanova proclaimed “Doctor Who! Our sneak preview of the biggest event of the TV year!” A coincidence, of course, but in hindsight rather striking…

23. Doctor Who was awarded the 2006 Bafta for best drama series

24. Doctor Who spin-offs have included Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9 and a pilot episode of K-9 and Company

25. In 2008, the Daleks finally met their match, knocked off the top spot in an RT poll of Doctor Who’s scariest foes by terrifying new monsters The Weeping Angels

26. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the Doctor Who ratings crisis of the late 1980s prompted series co-creator Sydney Newman to urge the BBC to recast the role of the Doctor as a female “Time Lady”

27. Matt Smith is officially the eleventh Doctor but the role has also been played on stage by Trevor Martin and, in films Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, by Peter Cushing

28. In the big-screen versions, Cushing’s character is not a Time Lord but a human scientist from Earth, actually named Dr Who

29. Asteroid 3325, a small main belt asteroid discovered in 1984, is named Tardis after the Doctor’s time/space machine

30. Tardis is an acronym of Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space (there’s a debate among fans as to whether that fourth word should be pluralised)

31. The Tardis was originally able to take almost any form required but, due to a faulty chameleon circuit, it got stuck as a 1960s police call box

32. The design and shape of the blue Mackenzie Trench-style police box has become so associated with the Tardis that it is now more recognisable as that than its original inspiration.  In 1996, the BBC applied to trademark the design. The Metropolitan Police filed an objection but the Patent Office could find no evidence that the Met had ever registered the design and ruled in favour of the BBC

33. The wheezing sound emitted by the Tardis when it travels was originally created by Brian Hodgson at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by recording the sound of a set of house keys being dragged along the strings of an old piano and adding echo and reverb effects 

34. In November 2003, Radio Times created a special 40th anniversary gatefold cover featuring all the surviving Doctors 

35. In 2006, the World Cup Final and the Daleks v Cybermen episode of Doctor Who fell in the same week, prompting two striking Radio Times covers 

36. Doctor Who monsters have twice invaded the Royal Albert Hall for special Proms. One included a pre-recorded segment featuring David Tennant’s Doctor (Music of the Spheres) and in the second Matt Smith was among the audience, interacting with one lucky young fan

37. Aged 26 when he started, Matt Smith is the youngest ever actor to play the Doctor – three years younger than Peter Davison when he was cast in the role in 1981

38. This April 2010 cover was the first starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan but was also notable for introducing us to a brand-new Tardis interior 

39. Doctor Who is the world’s longest running sci-fi series ever, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The 2011 Christmas special will be episode 779

40. You know you’ve arrived when you make an appearance on The Simpsons and the Doctor’s had four, all in his fourth incarnation, but with Tom Baker’s voice provided by another actor

41. As if The Simpsons wasn’t enough, the Doctor and a number of his adversaries were seen up in lights as part of the 2007 Blackpool Illuminations. Complementary sub-fact: two actors who’ve played the Doctor have switched on the Illuminations – Tom Baker in 1975 and David Tennant in 2007

42. The word Tardis appears as an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

43. The 2005 cover of the Christmas issue of the magazine featured the Tardis inside a snowglobe. It was only the 11th time the hallowed seasonal issue had been dedicated to a specific show  

44. The revived series of Doctor Who has been shown in around 50 countries, ranging from Australia to Vietnam

45. New Zealand was the first country outside the UK to show the series, starting in 1964

46. During the late 1960s, Latin America knew the show as Doctor Misterio

47In November 2011, Harry Potter director David Yates revealed that a Doctor Who film is in its very early stages. It’s the latest in a long line of rumours of a new big-screen adventure for the Time Lord


48. The 2011 Christmas episode is called the Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. Watch the trailer here…