Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Doctor Who

We give you what you need to know to dive into the popular shows everyone's talking about.

by | November 22, 2013 | Comments

Welcome to the Weekly Binge, where we take a closer look at the shows that are worth your time. And by that we mean a lot of your time — we focus on the shows that obliterate those nights and weekends that would otherwise be spent on more “productive” pursuits (and when we say “productive,” we mean “less interesting”). So let’s yell, “Geronimo!” and dive headlong into the “fantastic” world that is Doctor Who. Allons-y!


Doctor Who

Doctor Who

What’s the premise? The series chronicles the adventures of the “Doctor,” an alien called a Time Lord, a race that looks just like humans (the Doctor says it’s the other way around — we look just like Time Lords). The Doctor uses a vehicle called the TARDIS, short for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. And did we mention he stole it? Or maybe it stole him? Anyway, it looks like a 1960s era London police box, and it’s much bigger on the inside than on the outside. The Doctor typically has a human “companion” that travels with him, often (but not always) of the younger, female variety. The companion serves as a sort of proxy for the viewing audience, allowing the Doctor to describe the people, places and things they encounter.

Lastly, Time Lords can regenerate new bodies in case of severe injury or disease. This nifty trick allowed for the show’s creators to recast the role early on without having to re-imagine the whole series. And it means that even though we’re currently on the 11th Doctor — and about to get a 12th — the shows are all within the same continuity (unlike the James Bond movies). Nearly all of the Time Lords were destroyed in the Great Time War, so the Doctor is the only one that he knows of, and he’s basically appointed himself humanity’s protector.

What’s it like? It’s difficult to sum up a show that’s been around for 50 years, but one of the constant elements is that the Doctor relies on his wits to get him out of most scrapes. He’s not carrying a weapon and he’s not relying on technobabble; more often than not, he’s simply outsmarting his foes. He can be charming, sweet, and generous, but he also has a dark side that rears its ugly head from time to time.

The seasons — or series, as they’re called in the UK — can look wildly different, depending on which one you’re watching. The really old ones can look cheap, but the writing is still pretty great, and while the series has evolved and become slicker, it has kept its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. The show has usually relied on solid storytelling much more than shock-and-awe special effects. Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica fans will probably find the show pretty accessible, and if you liked Farscape or Babylon 5, you’ll probably be right at home here.

Where can I see it? In the United States, the series runs on BBC America. The 50th Anniversary Special is coming up on 11/23. Then we’ll get a Christmas special, as well as a new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in the next series, which starts in early 2014. Past episodes are available on Netflix and Hulu Plus, and DVDs and Blu-Ray are available as well.

How long will it take? That depends on how far back in time you would like to travel. The current incarnation of the series (from 2005 until present) clocks in at seven seasons of about 13 episodes each, plus specials, which will take about three to four weeks of concerted effort to get through. If you want to watch the entire series all the way back to the First Doctor, it will take you an additional two to three weeks. Not everything from the original series is available, so you catch a little break there.

What do the critics think? The Doctor seems to operate mostly off the critics’ radar. But the fifth season is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer. It wasn’t until David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor that the series garnered critical attention, and his departure and Matt Smith’s arrival made the critics sit up and take notice. Perhaps the arrival of Peter Capaldi next season will activate the Tomatometer once again.

Why should I watch this? After 50 years, the show is more popular than ever. You may have heard some of the speculation about who would replace Matt Smith as the current Doctor. Thanks to the gift of regeneration, the show exhibits no signs of slowing down. In the last few years we’ve seen classic baddies like the Daleks and the Cybermen, and we’ve meet creepy new foes like the Weeping Angels and the Silents. A string of beloved Doctors and companions inspires generation after (re)generation of loyal fans, and have created an expanding universe of Whovians.

What’s my next step? Jump right in this weekend with the 50th Anniversary celebrations! And then jump to whatever point in the Doctor’s timeline you want. It’s all wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, so begin wherever you like! But our recommendation would be to watch the 50th Anniversary Special, and then pick up the 2005 series featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. That series is written with new viewers in mind, and it also introduces Rose Tyler, a lot of viewers’ favorite of the newer companions. The next series saw David Tennant as the Doctor, and his tenure really saw Doctor Who capture a broader audience then ever before.

What do you like about Doctor Who? How would you explain it to a newbie? Did the series end on a satisfying note for you? Get in on the conversation here.

Tag Cloud

art house technology HBO Go Paramount Plus facebook Pacific Islander YA Vudu godzilla cancelled HFPA National Geographic SXSW scene in color series LGBT Podcast biopic Disney streaming service italian AMC Plus interviews AMC summer TV preview Warner Bros. adenture Heroines Britbox The CW new york police drama game show Hear Us Out Polls and Games Reality directors Ovation news young adult venice TCA mob Trivia broadcast Amazon Prime Video Amazon Prime FX on Hulu canceled PBS 2015 rt labs critics edition hidden camera MGM 2020 suspense theme song japan TCA Awards trailers Sundance TV live action Biopics mockumentary slashers king arthur space Grammys Columbia Pictures Opinion CNN BET Awards Apple TV Plus black comedy binge X-Men TCA 2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Sci-Fi Crackle chucky Peacock OneApp indie aapi golden globe awards summer preview hollywood cancelled television Image Comics obi wan Paramount Pictures Travel Channel CBS All Access trophy heist movie revenge diversity Pride Month singing competition Thanksgiving sequels Schedule ratings Logo scary movies Lifetime Christmas movies wonder woman festival french BBC Countdown zero dark thirty Trailer Bravo Christmas cars IMDb TV The Purge south america festivals comic books American Society of Cinematographers Pixar stand-up comedy critic resources Food Network rotten movies we love rom-coms Endgame Captain marvel Disney+ Disney Plus obituary Superheroe Creative Arts Emmys crossover Fantasy Wes Anderson SundanceTV remakes international Spike biography adventure Marathons streaming movies Epix Holiday TCM NBC children's TV First Reviews classics slasher E3 Pirates FX movies worst movies BAFTA Cosplay Universal popular Best Picture 24 frames animated romance genre Film Stephen King TBS Marvel Studios target scene in color The Walking Dead cancelled TV shows fast and furious Red Carpet emmy awards harry potter New York Comic Con Box Office television australia Mary Poppins Returns Nickelodeon A&E Drama South by Southwest Film Festival teaser unscripted Syfy target Marvel Funimation Sony Pictures Exclusive Video Focus Features Fargo 79th Golden Globes Awards child's play football video Prime Video king kong 71st Emmy Awards scene in color film series comic halloween tv YouTube HBO Max TCA Winter 2020 cartoon ABC Family PaleyFest quibi Ghostbusters Kids & Family Country Star Wars Celebration mutant DC Universe versus CMT kaiju high school docuseries sitcom nbcuniversal NBA psycho richard e. Grant sequel San Diego Comic-Con WGN Tokyo Olympics black Spring TV Set visit Trophy Talk deadpool Year in Review ghosts OWN fresh spinoff 90s IFC latino cults Photos Teen anthology robots comiccon Awards Toys HBO doctor who dc A24 reboot documentaries ABC james bond boxing Brie Larson game of thrones Sony Best Actress nature christmas movies award winner monster movies PlayStation The Academy Western breaking bad dreamworks basketball spider-verse Comic-Con@Home 2021 Premiere Dates First Look 2017 IFC Films NYCC Nat Geo marvel cinematic universe joker 73rd Emmy Awards thriller BET DC streaming service blaxploitation MCU Winter TV anime Masterpiece Fall TV new star wars movies TV renewals women stoner Showtime casting Tags: Comedy golden globes 2019 Emmy Nominations streaming Mystery BBC One CBS Winners mcc concert free movies a nightmare on elm street laika worst boxoffice scary Turner Classic Movies Valentine's Day The Arrangement supernatural Best Actor canceled TV shows President Lucasfilm Binge Guide hist Pop TV kids Infographic sag awards Tarantino halloween miniseries franchise marvel comics pirates of the caribbean LGBTQ Pop disaster Certified Fresh Adult Swim Geeked Week new zealand composers See It Skip It crime thriller stop motion witnail Star Trek MTV cops ViacomCBS USA Network Television Academy comic book movies feel good Rocketman 21st Century Fox Universal Pictures Emmys The Witch Video Games screen actors guild Horror Mary poppins dogs Amazon GIFs ITV 99% 20th Century Fox jamie lee curtis Shondaland Netflix spain tv talk posters spy thriller rotten dramedy comic book movie gangster MSNBC Animation BBC America spanish language Music 2018 debate series hispanic Elton John Black Mirror twilight Starz 1990s SDCC Spectrum Originals rt archives Summer Extras sports Dark Horse Comics die hard vs. cinemax TV Land strong female leads GLAAD Instagram Live blockbusters spanish Comedy Central medical drama travel green book Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2016 Family Mary Tyler Moore streamig FXX Walt Disney Pictures Academy Awards 007 ABC Signature Cartoon Network war historical drama live event comics japanese ESPN Mudbound TV One Baby Yoda Cannes Lifetime Women's History Month Discovery Channel Sneak Peek natural history Acorn TV Crunchyroll elevated horror 72 Emmy Awards indiana jones science fiction Indigenous social media DC Comics political drama DirecTV toy story superman GoT dragons sopranos SXSW 2022 Musicals Superheroes Tubi Legendary Comedy Hallmark Christmas movies Tomatazos Star Wars Anna Paquin 2021 lord of the rings CW Seed psychological thriller Hollywood Foreign Press Association Holidays Pet Sematary parents Fox News batman Broadway true crime Best Director Native independent Avengers dexter finale superhero cooking blockbuster what to watch Martial Arts leaderboard Writers Guild of America politics YouTube Red Calendar best 45 hispanic heritage month Classic Film vampires documentary Rom-Com discovery period drama Ellie Kemper 93rd Oscars Sundance Now werewolf TLC Black History Month Esquire Election TIFF TNT TruTV Mindy Kaling Quiz screenings crime asian-american Action Disney Super Bowl Freeform serial killer satire Television Critics Association crime drama Amazon Studios olympics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards cancelled TV series films Disney Plus Apple zombie WarnerMedia know your critic VOD cats Film Festival prank APB Hallmark RT History Song of Ice and Fire The Walt Disney Company talk show ID Sundance 94th Oscars spider-man Watching Series summer TV Paramount Network VH1 FOX renewed TV shows Oscars mission: impossible rt labs VICE Oscar Rocky toronto critics movie dceu criterion Marvel Television reviews Turner Paramount universal monsters justice league telelvision nfl History romantic comedy Tumblr Best and Worst Character Guide Interview based on movie TV Awards Tour foreign Comic Book Rock adaptation Musical video on demand book comedies Lionsgate zombies scorecard archives Chernobyl docudrama book adaptation dark razzies Shudder Arrowverse Hulu Comics on TV Disney Channel action-comedy jurassic park scene in color TV movies Alien Fox Searchlight Nominations kong saw Reality Competition royal family legend Netflix Christmas movies transformers name the review RT21 all-time YouTube Premium USA aliens Apple TV+ DGA E! El Rey 4/20 Neflix