I just started to watch Doctor Who, and the episode was said to be the 1st season.

The actor playing the Doctor is this guy:

The 9th Doctor in front of the Tardis

I discovered people in other questions on the site said something about a 2005 reboot. Is this the first one, or is there an older series?

  • 18
    You may want to read the Wikipedia page on Doctor Who. Also see this question.
    – user1027
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 15:58
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    for reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_who
    – Xantec
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 16:41
  • Kromey has a very good answer however I would also recommend watching SFDebris retrospective on Dr. Who. He is doing a recap of the major episodes of the "classic" Dr. Who. I would recommend starting with Dr. Who 101 as it will basically answers your question perfectly and gives you a few good jumping in points for the series as a whole. Commented May 18, 2011 at 21:19
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    Wow, I'm absolutely shocked that a question this basic and easily answerable with a simple google search got 10 upvotes... Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 13:14
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    Is this a general reference question? Meta discussion
    – user56
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 20:56

3 Answers 3


That actor is Christopher Eccleston; he played the ninth Doctor Who, and was the first Doctor of the recent relaunch (I wouldn't call it a reboot, since they are generally continuing where the older series left off, although plenty certainly do) of the series. David Tennant and Matt Smith follow him.

In general terms, there are two Doctor Who series. The "old one" started with William Hartnell in the lead role in 1963, which he held for 3 years before the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, took over. There's a very important facet of the series you must know: The Doctor is capable of surviving what would certainly kill most other beings, but in doing so his "old" body dies and he regenerates a new one (there's a funny line when David Tennant first appears where he runs his tongue over his teeth and says "New teeth. I'll never get used to that."). So you have, in total, 11 different and distinct Doctors over the years, each played by a different actor.

The "new series" picks up with what you apparently just watched, with Eccleston as the Doctor fighting an army of violent plastic mannequins. As someone new to the show, I do agree strongly with others that you watch this new series first; they take good care to explain everything from the old series you need to know, so while there are a few treats for fans of the old show (e.g. K-9 and Sarah Jane), you're not missing out on anything essential.

As for catching up on the old series, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Aside from the sheer volume of it (33 years!), it's as campy as old sci-fi gets, with the aliens being guys in bubble-wrap sleeping bags leaving cellophane "slime" trails. Of course, if you like campy old sci-fi, the original Doctor Who is the best of the best!

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    Some of the greatest and yet worst effects! The story matters, not the effects. I do enjoy the sheer exuberance of the Doctor in all the series'. To me that is the best part. Especially in the new reboot.
    – geoffc
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 20:55
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    @geoffc Me too. Especially Tom Baker, still my all-time favorite Doctor, and his iconic scarf (knitted for him by Lady Nostradamus herself!). I think that's why I liked Eccleston so much -- his giant goofy grin, especially as stuff started to hit the fan, reminds me so much of Baker's!
    – Kromey
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 21:04
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    Keep in mind that many of the old episodes were produced for under $5k each (per half hour episode) in to the mid 70s. The original Star Trek episodes cost $180k (per hour episode) each back in '66. This is why running happens in every episode. With an L-shaped corridor segment, one can film a bunch of pieces of running without them all looking identical.
    – Tangurena
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 0:47
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    One of the SFX technicians on Classic Who put it like this: "It was made on a shoestring budget. That is, we were given six pieces of shoestring and told to make twelve aliens out of them."
    – Ross Smith
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 1:08
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    I distinctly remember watching the very first episode of the 2005 series and thinking, "Stiff actors in plastic costumes! THIS is what 'Doctor Who' is all about!" And then I watched the second episode and thought, "Whoah... they actually got a BUDGET this time around!" Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 14:00

If you included all the series from the beginning, Doctor Who would have just finished its 32nd one, and "Season 1" would be number 24. You can watch only some of the older episodes (many were lost or destroyed or you have to go hunting for a VHS tape), and they were pretty much the same kind of story as the new ones, but without all the CGI and more puppets. :-) The Doctors in order are:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Peter Troughton
  3. John Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker (my favorite)
  5. Peter Davison (often mistakenly written Davidson)
  6. Colin Baker (no relation to Tom)
  7. Sylvester McCoy
  8. Paul McGann
  9. Christopher Eccleston
  10. David Tennant
  11. Matt Smith

The Doctor is on #11, but he only gets 13 lives total. (His enemy, the Master, managed to override that though.)

And, although it is 33 years that the show was actually on television, as of this year it will be 48 years old.

Disagreeing with what others have said, I recommend watching at least some of the old ones.

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    Also, don't forget Peter Cushing. There were a couple of Doctor Who movies in the 60's where he played the good doctor. It's hard to say how canon they were, but they certainly had Daleks and the Tardis and the like. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 3:54
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    @ColinCoghill Yes, I have the DVDs of those were more like adaptations of the actual episodes to make them longer. Then I probably would have included Rowan Atkinson, who played the eighth doctor in the parody episode "The Curse of Fatal Death". Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 22:44
  • 13 lives? RTD blew that by changing it to 507 in SJA. Muppet. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 13:58
  • The Peter Cushing movies aren't canon, as he's a human in those. As for the lost episodes, it's mostly the Second Doctor that you'll end up watching recreations from stills and surviving audio. The First Doctor serial, "Marco Polo" is also mostly lost, but was the most-photographed serial, for some reason, so the recreation isn't as bad as the Second Doctor serials. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 0:20
  • The 507 was later described as a throwaway joke line, not meant to over-ride the 13 lives (12 regenerations) thing. However, the show has also shown several occasions where this is broken - eg in "The Five Doctors" (1983 episode), the Master is given a whole new "set" of regenerations by the High Council of the Time Lords. It appears to be a social/societal construct (perhaps meant to prevent one Time Lord becoming too powerful) rather than a defining biological characteristic.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:07

Doctor Who originally ran for 26 seasons, from 1963 to 1989. I would definitely recommend watching as much of it as you can: sure, it may be 'campy', but if you expect cutting-edge CGI in the 1960s, you'll be disappointed.

Doctor Who had a very small budget, and so the writers and producers had to rely on strong stories rather than impressive visuals. For the limited resources it had, Doctor Who was a brilliant example of how to put together an engaging, well-written sci-fi tale.

I think the stories of the original series are superior to those of the later series by far: they're more intelligently-written, better-paced and don't rely on explosions and sad music.

'Classic' Who stories take place over about four episodes (though some of the earlier ones vary in their episode number, and the 1969 story 'The War Games' is ten episodes long), and each episode is twenty-five minutes long. Modern Who stories take place over one episode, which is longer at forty-five minutes, though some stories are two episodes long.

For a television programme that originally ran for twenty-six seasons, it would be a mistake to disregard the original run of Doctor Who.

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