Why It’s the Perfect Time to Start Watching

Doctor Who is a science fiction television series that first beamed into the homes of unsuspecting Brits in November 1963. The title character, The Doctor, is a mysterious alien from a distant planet who travels anywhere and everywhere in time and space via the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space), which takes the form of an old British Police Box. The show’s initial run lasted until 1989, with multiple actors making the part their own thanks to an ingenious idea that allowed the character to regenerate into a new form to stave off death. An unsuccessful American made-for-TV movie was released in 1996, but the show wouldn’t return properly until 2005, and it has been going strong ever since.

If all that sounds like a bit too much to wrap your head around, don’t worry. The series is designed in such a way that new viewers can pop in for most episodes with no working knowledge of what came before and still follow along. The show has everything you could want from a piece of entertainment because the show can be anything. From quiet, intimate stories about characters finding each other across time and space to terrifying horror stories that make you want to watch between your fingers (via The Guardian), and all the way to proper, epic space opera — Doctor Who has all the bases covered. With that in mind, we’re exploring why now (regardless of when you read this) is the perfect time to start watching.

Update December 29, 2023: Following the recent celebration of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary and the exciting introduction of the Fifteenth Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa, this story was updated by Valerie Parker.

The Ever-Changing World of Doctor Who

The Doctor can travel anywhere their two hearts desire in time and space in the TARDIS, which can travel back and forth in time and hops across galaxies with ease. This means that the writers of the series are free to explore any interest that strikes their fancy. If there’s a time in history they’re fond of, the Doctor can go there. If they have some bonkers sci-fi idea they’re dying to explore, the Doctor allows them to do so. Therefore, there is a limitless supply of stories ensuring that the series will never run out of gas.

Related: Doctor Who Season 14: Release Date, Plot, Cast, and Everything Else We Know

The show’s longevity can also be tied back to the series ever-expanding mythology, including the ingenious invention of the idea of regeneration. It allows the lead actor to move on to another project while keeping the character of The Doctor and the series as a whole intact. Whenever the actor playing The Doctor expresses their interest in moving on, the writers can simply write their iterations’ death into the series and recast with a new and different actor as The Doctor. This also allows for drastic changes in the character itself, from accent, appearance, and even gender. Fifteen different actors have inhabited the lead role to date, all of whom made the part their own, keeping the series fresh for new viewers.

Bigger Than Ever Thanks To Streaming

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary specials
Disney +

Doctor Who has had fans worldwide since the series premiered in 1963. However, it was often quite difficult to keep up with the series. During the 1970s and 1980s, it could take more than a year before a new Doctor Who story was broadcast in the United States, and figuring out when it was going to air on the local PBS station wasn’t easy. When the series returned in 2005, American broadcasts were still sporadic and difficult to catch, with lengthy delays between the UK premiere and its US airing. That changed when BBC America acquired the US rights in 2010 (right as Matt Smith was stepping into the role of The Doctor) and began airing on the same day as in the UK, only a few hours later.

Doctor Who became readily available to American viewers, and Matt Smith’s second season included a big push in America, with the two-part opening episode of the season taking place in America during 1969 and centered on the Moon Landing. Doctor Who was “coming to America” and got a big marketing push, which landed around the time that Netflix got the streaming rights to the series. This made older episodes readily available to viewers to catch up on, and this period was likely the most successful in Doctor Who’s tenure. However, in 2016, Netflix lost the streaming rights to Doctor Who, and as more audiences cut the chord, it made it difficult to watch the series unless you had a cable subscription that included BBC.

Max (then titled HBO Max) was the exclusive streaming home for Doctor Who when the service launched in 2019, making it the easiest Doctor Who to be available in over three years. It will now be even easier to hop in the TARDIS thanks to a recent distribution deal with Disney+. While the BBC America distribution was huge for Whovians, it still didn’t have the kind of major visibility it needed to bring in new viewers as the network could be tricky to find and their promotion was poor. With one of the largest streaming platforms and the largest media company in the world hosting new episodes, Doctor Who will be much easier to find and enjoy, opening the series up to a much wider audience.

A Returning Hero

russell t davies ncuti gatwa doctor who

2022 offered a major surprise for Whovians when it was announced that celebrated writer Russel T. Davies, the man responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to screens in 2005 after a 20-year absence, would be returning to the role of Showrunner and Executive Producer, along with much of the original team behind the 2005 return.

Related: Ncuti Gatwa: A Look at the Career of the New Doctor Who

Prior to Doctor Who, Davies created the groundbreaking and celebrated series Queer as Folk, and he built on that foundation to create even more television that pushed boundaries and shattered taboos. During his time away, he won praise for shows like the bleak, dystopian series Years and Years, and the heartbreaking look at the AIDS crisis during the 1980s, with It’s A Sin. As a writer who continues to challenge himself and get even stronger as he goes, having him at the helm once again means fans new and old are in for some extraordinary television.

Into the Whoniverse

Whoniverse Doctor Who
BBC Studios/Bad Wolf

Many of the longest science fiction franchises have managed to stand the test of time by creating larger universes through various spinoffs or sequel projects, and by utilizing various types of media. Some of the greatest examples of this idea would, of course, be the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Marvel Cinematic Universes. Doctor Who has embraced this concept for decades through its use of comics, books, and audio adventures, as well as various television series, and with the new partnership between the BBC and Disney+ (who recently became the US home of all-new Doctor Who programming), it looks likely there will be an expansion with the introduction of the idea of a “Whoniverse”.

The first official attempt at a Doctor Who spin-off was a series called K-9 and Company in 1981. It starred the Doctor’s brilliant robotic dog, K-9, and his former traveling companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith. Sadly, the series was unsuccessful, and only one episode aired. However, Sarah Jane and K-9 were so popular that a second attempt at a spinoff starring the two was attempted after Doctor Who was revived in 2005, and a series aimed at a younger audience called The Sarah Jane Adventures aired on the BBC for 5 seasons until the untimely death of Sarah Jane actress Elizabeth Sladen.

Around the same time, an adult-oriented series called Torchwood also hit the airwaves. It centered around the fan-favorite character of Captain Jack (John Barrowman), a flamboyant time traveler from Earth’s future who became immortal during his adventures with The Doctor. Torchwood included 2 full series and 2 special series, with no clear idea if it will ever return. In 2016, a short-lived young adult series set in an iconic high school from Doctor Who called Class got one season.

The writer responsible for bringing Doctor Who back in 2005, Russell T. Davies, stated in an interview that Doctor Who needed its own universe like Marvel. When he returned to take over the series again in 2022, he made it very clear that more spin-offs were in the works and fans of the show could look forward to more adventures in the Whoniverse going forward. Though no specific plans have been announced, the recent introduction of the idea of Bi-Generation (where The Doctor split in two when their life appeared over) and Davies statements that this means all past Doctors now exist somewhere in the universe have lead many to believe that past Doctor’s may resurface beyond the world of the audio drama, and perhaps make future appearances in television specials. It’s an exciting prospect, and if you’re someone who loves to get lost in a fictional world, then now is the time to jump in since the world of Who is expanding.

Introducing A New Era

Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor in Doctor Who

The beauty of Doctor Who is that even with 60 years of lore built up, the series remains easily accessible for those newly introduced to it. However, new viewers may still find the prospect of joining a decades-old series daunting, assuming that they will be left confused. This makes now the perfect time for new viewers to jump into the series. If one were to count from the 2005 return, the upcoming 2024 season of Doctor Who should be the 14th. However, Davies has been referring to it as “Season 1”, stressing that it is a new era of the show under the BBC and Disney+ partnership and sharing that Disney will give the new series a hard publicity push.

Davies’s return at this time lends well to this new push, and his experience rebooting Doctor Who with the 2005 series shows that he has the skill to make the world of The Doctor accessible to new viewers, while also pleasing existing fans of the series by including series Easter Eggs and introducing new mythology. The Christmas 2023 episode was the first full episode with Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and used Davies’ signature style introduced in 2005’s season 1 premiere, “Rose,” in which he used the introduction of a new human companion to The Doctor as an easy entry point for the audience.

“The Church on Ruby Road” featured a new Doctor, a new companion, Ruby Sunday, and a new mystery in the form of a mysterious new character named Mrs. Flood, who has some mysterious prior knowledge of The Doctor and the TARDIS. All of the quintessential elements that make Doctor Who the captivating program it’s been for the past 6 decades. So, if you’ve been looking for the right time to jump into Doctor Who, there’s no better time.

Doctor Who seasons 1 through 13 are streaming on Max, with the 2023 Specials streaming on Disney+.


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