Thanks to Netflix Streaming, I've been watching some random classic Doctor Who stories. One thing that strikes me as different between the modern Who and old Who was that in modern Who, they do an awful lot of running. It's become a sort of running gag that they've referenced in-universe. In the classic Who I've seen, he tends to drive around quite a bit instead. In addition, The Doctor in modern Who is incredibly reliant on his sonic screwdriver, which I often don't see at all in classic Who stories.

Did the Doctor running and the sonic screwdriver get introduced over time in classic Who, or were they both added as part of the modern Who revival?


7 Answers 7


You must be watching a lot of the Third Doctor. He was the only one who did any significant amount of driving - he was stranded on Earth with a disabled TARDIS for much of his time.

The sonic screwdriver was introduced by the Fourth Doctor, but it wasn't really used much after that until the reboot. In fact, even during his run it wasn't used nearly as much as it is now - it occasionally came out to fix things, but it certainly didn't have the multi-functional cure-all role it has today.

He was also the first one who did a very large amount of running. It seemed like there were whole episodes that were nothing but running: when the writers were trying to stretch out a story into four or six parts, often at least one of them was just running, mainly down corridors (actually, the same corridor over and over...). I seem to recall that Genesis of the Daleks was a particular offender here.

The increased amount may have had something to do with the fact that Tom Baker was quite a bit younger than the three preceding actors when he took the role - and was certainly followed by Peter Davison, who was even younger and did just as much running.

  • 1
    In fact the doctors have all been getting younger: docs.google.com/spreadsheet/…
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 12:22
  • 8
    One quibble: the sonic screwdriver wasn’t introduced by the Fourth Doctor; but the Second. First used by the Doctor in "Fury of the Deep" (Clip: youtu.be/fvhbGGkhKe4), first broadcast in 1968 — six years before Tom Baker took the role. As far as I know, it continued to be used until the Fifth Doctor serial “The Visitation”, when it was written out of the series because it was too useful a plot device. (And for good measure, here’s a clip of that, too: youtu.be/v=AJUnbDe02J0).
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 17:49
  • Someone pointed out why the Sonic Screwdriver, while a good idea, may simply be too efficient at doing what it does: youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ywtklrmgyxc | Why there are no Sonic Screwdrivers in Action Movies. Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 5:35
  • @ThaddeusHowze quite. Wasn’t that the motivation behind making the sonic useless against wood?
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 11:40
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    As noted on special features of The Ark in Space DVD, Dr. Who has always been run on a shoestring budget. ("They'd give us a pair of shoestrings and say they wanted an army of aliens from them. So we did.") Running down the same corridor over and over was a very cheap way of extending the episode/story without looking too much like they were just trying to drag it out. No budget => lotsa running! Special features on one of the reboot's season's addressed the sonic screwdriver as well, admitting that it is a too-easy Deus Ex Machina. Hence it being disabled/lost/useless more frequently now.
    – Kromey
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:50

Yes, as long as Doctor Who has existed there has been lots of running, usually "up and down lots of corridors" as can be seen in this spoof by Lenny Henry in 1985.

  • 4
    LOL - nice reference.
    – Bert F
    Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 23:26
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    And, of course, "lots of corridors" were actually the same corridor filmed from different angles. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:32

The first doctor, William Hartnell, didn't ran as much as nowadays doctors. I'm guessing it's because he was an aged (55) and sick (arteriosclerosis) man, and because it was more expensive to shoot outdoor scenes back than.

In general, you can say that the show was much s-l-o-w-e-r (and that's an understatement).

  • That makes perfect sense. Thanks for the info.
    – Bert F
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 2:31

Given the nature of the Doctor, in that he doesn't believe in violence, he does tend to run away from things because the only retaliation he has is to concoct an absurd plan that relies on knowledge that he has of the enemy. While gathering said knowledge he's gotta run away or get killed before he has a chance to come up with a plan.


The budget for producing Dr Who episodes was always tiny. This meant that they had to fill time up quite frequently. Making an L-shaped corridor allowed for several minutes of "action" to be filmed by filming the running from both ends of the set, and doubling it again by optically flipping left and right. If my memory is correct, each half hour episode of the Tom Baker era ran $3,000 to $5,000 each.


The 10th/11th Doctor explained that he had been running ever since he was at the academy. He 'ran' from his initiation process while the Master had looked.

  • Sorry, while the Master had what? I don't follow. Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 10:37
  • When the Master looked in the Vortex and began to hear the Drums, as recounted in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_of_Drums and in the End of Time story
    – MichaelF
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 9:46
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    That's more of a metaphorical "running" (fleeing) - this question is about actual running.
    – jonrsharpe
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 9:19

Most of the doctors have been running and also jumping from explosions behind them, up until the twelfth doctor, the seventh, tenth, eleventh, and the ninth doctors all jumped from explosions behind them.

  • This doesn't really answer the question, you're talking about something unrelated. Please be aware that this is an objective Q&A site, not a discussion forum - answers should focus on what was actually asked.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 9:56
  • Oh sorry I thought I did answer it properly Commented May 27, 2019 at 9:57
  • I disagree, this does mostly answer the question, it suggests that running was prevalent in the Old Who and that it wasn't something new introduced with the reboot, although it doesn't address the Sonic Screwdriver
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 10:01
  • Yes that's what I meant thank you edlothiad and yes I haven't addressed the sonic screwdriver Commented May 27, 2019 at 10:05
  • Also I'm not too sure about the sonic screwdriver part Commented May 27, 2019 at 10:05

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