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The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels through time and space using a craft called the TARDIS, usually with a companion (or two), averting any crisis he comes across using science, technology, and wit.As a Time Lord, he has the ability to regenerate, to change his appearance when near death. This mechanism has allowed the show to change lead actor every few years while retaining the same main character.Although the series is called Doctor Who, this is not the character's name: he is only ever referred to as The Doctor and his real name has never been revealed. (You may see the usage of Dr. Who in the cast credits of the original series: this is a longstanding error that the BBC corrected in the 1980s; it was repeated in the 2005 series with Christopher Eccleston being credited as "Doctor Who" but was corrected when David Tennant took over.)
TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It is a spacecraft/time machine which the Doctor stole from a repair shop on his home planet of Gallifrey. Because the Doctor stole the TARDIS, he does not fully know how to control the semi-sentient control system, causing the time travelling capabilities to sometimes go off course.
Although it seems too small and cramped for a multi-person spacecraft/time machine, the interior occupies space in another dimension meaning it is bigger on the inside. The exterior became stuck after a component of its cloaking device, the chameleon circuit, was damaged in the first epsiode (Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (#1.1) 1963) while assuming the shape of a police box to blend in with 1960s Earth. One other thing: the TARDIS is alive, though it cannot communicate with the Doctor in traditional manner, which has been a plot point on a few occasions dating back to 1964, and continuing into the current series. Also if the TARDIS was to land in a place like modern day London it may disguise itself as a modern phone booth. the doctor could fix the chameleon circuit if he wanted to but he likes it as a police box.
It is a continuation of the original Doctor Who and the 1996 TV Movie Doctor Who. Intimate knowledge of the Doctor's past adventures and incarnations is optional and is not needed to understand the current incarnation of the show, however several characters and past doctors are reintroduced and referenced throughout the show's run. A passing familiarity with the eight Doctors who came before doesn't hurt, and the series itself provides the occasional overview of past Doctors.
When a Time Lord is mortally wounded or hurt, they are able to use a process called regeneration. Regeneration is a process in which all the cells in the body are replaced with new ones. The result is a completely new appearance. Since the brain cells are revived, a change in personality usually occurs. Even though the Doctor has changed several times, he still retains the same memories of his previous selves and remains a force for good, even though his priorities sometimes change.According to the 1976 storyline "The Deadly Assassin" (and since reaffirmed several times in the 1963-89 series and 1996 TV movie), a Time Lord can only regenerate 12 times, for a total of 13 incarnations. However, the 2013 Christmas Special "The Time of the Doctor" changed this so that the Doctor now has 12 more regenerations.
Both the first episode of series 1 (Rose) and the first episode of series 5 onwards (The Eleventh Hour) were designed with the purpose of introducing new viewers to the show. These are two of many "jumping in points" created over the years for new viewers, as there are almost no carryover story lines from previous series, and in both instances the whole cast and show runner complete change, creating what is essentially a new show with a new tone.One can also start from the VERY beginning: the 1963 serial "An Unearthly Child."The first serial of season 7 "Spearhead from Space" of the original series, also acted as a jumping on point. This was the first story for the Third Doctor, and it is also the first time Doctor Who was aired in color.
The 2009 specials (which more accurately should be called the 2008-2010 specials) were a series of 5 special episodes produced in lieu of a regular 13-episode season in 2009. Russell T Davies, the producer and head writer, had decided to leave, and David Tennant, the Doctor, had decided to leave and had also committed to a season of performing Shakespeare during the regular season's production window. In order to facilitate the transition between Davies and incoming producer Steven Moffat, it was decided to do a set of specials rather than attempt to cram in a season. The specials were created to tie up loose threads from the previous 4 years, in order to create a clean start for viewers who wanted to watch the show and not have 4 years of history to sit through.Officially, the specials are considered an extension of Series 4 (which is why they are sometimes called the Season 4 Specials). They should be viewed in the order of broadcast: The Next Doctor (1) Planet of the Dead (2) The Waters of Mars (3)The End of Time, Part 1 (4)The End of Time, Part 2 (5). The End of Time is generally considered one story. Of these the only "optional" special is The Next Doctor, although reference to it is made in the fifth season.
In the middle of the Time War, The Doctor died while attempting to save a pilot about to crash into the planet Karn. Revived by The Sisterhood and only having 4 minutes to live, he had the choice of an elixir to force the regeneration into anything he wanted. Having been convinced that he was needed to end the Time War, he chose to be The Doctor no more and become a warrior.Regenerating into "The War Doctor" (and looking like a young John Hurt), he set out to end the war once and for all.
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