Doctor Who holds the record for the longest-running science fiction TV series of all time, so evidently they're doing something right. This weekend, BBC America hopes to draw a wide U.S. audience into the same thrilling, quirky, sexy, dorky, nerdy-cool cultural phenomenon that the series has become after 47 years in the British imagination. The new season premieres April 23 (9/8C).
Starting life as a low-budget '60s children's show with sets and effects that made the original Star Trek series look like Inception, Doctor Who may have found the key to a long run by mastering the twice-a-decade reboot long before all the cool franchises were doing it.
The main character, known only as the Doctor, belongs to an alien species that can "regenerate" one's body when the old one wears out. Every few years he reappears in the form of a fresh and not-yet-typecast actor who would apply his own take to the character—enabling the Doctor, and the show, to change with the march of decades.
The Doctor resumed his adventures in 2005 after 15 years without new episodes. The current production team spent their childhoods with the original show and their grown-up years with the postmodern fantasy of series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. They crafted a show that blended slick dialogue and serious characterization with the original's sense of humor and sci-fi wonder, giving it a stylish charm that makes you sort of forgive the sensational plotlines, silly-looking aliens, and the annual season-ending deus ex machina. It's regularly among the top-rated shows in the United Kingdom.
Nine centuries old and counting, The Doctor is now in his eleventh incarnation (28-year-old Matt Smith, born right before the original show's 20th season), ...1