Doctor Who 50th anniversary: 50 'Doctor Who' facts

Our resident 'Doctor Who' fan has collected 50 facts in honour of the 50th anniversary of the show

Neela Debnath
Tuesday 19 November 2013 18:57 GMT
David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, standing alongside his companion Rose Tyler played by Biller Piper
David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, standing alongside his companion Rose Tyler played by Biller Piper (BBC)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Think you know everything there is to know about Doctor Who? Think again, here is a round up of some of the lesser known facts about the series.

1. The character of the Doctor was partly inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Similarities have been noted between the Doctor and Arthur Conan-Doyle’s detective. In fact both Tom Baker and Matt Smith’s Doctors dressed up as Sherlock Holmes.

2. The first ever serial An Unearthly Child was re-shot due to technical and performance issues. Back at in this era television was essentially filmed live with little room for re-takes which meant that mistakes were often left in. Watching old episodes, you can tell when the actors forget or stumble over their lines. On the plus side, episodes were completed swiftly.

3. The first episode An Unearthly Child was shown later than advertised because the news about the Kennedy assassination from the day before overran. Doctor Who was first shown the day after JFK’s assassination.

4. The Kennedy assassination is referenced in Rose – the first episode of the new series in 2005. An image is shown of the Doctor standing in the crowd before the assassination.

5. The first Doctor was initially not very likeable but eventually thawed over time and became more and more friendly. Watching An Unearthly Child he seems very cold and it is his granddaughter Susan who is the kooky and eccentric character.

6. There are around 97 Doctor Who tapes still missing, many from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras. Most recently several ‘lost episodes’ were recovered from a television station in Nigeria.

7. Patrick Troughton was the first Doctor to wear a bow tie. Current Doctor Matt Smith has said that Troughton is his favourite Doctor and one of his favourite stories is Tomb of the Cybermen.

8. The third Doctor’s era was in colour from 1970, Spearhead from Space was the first serial to be shot in colour and saw Jon Pertwee’s incarnation battle the Autons for the first time.

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9. Jon Pertwee’s Doctor spent the most time grounded on Earth after the Time Lords stopped his Tardis from working as punishment for stealing the Tardis.

Jon Pertwee played the third Doctor and here poses with a Dalek
Jon Pertwee played the third Doctor and here poses with a Dalek (Getty Images)

10. Tom Baker played the Doctor for seven years, making him the actor to play the character for the longest.

11. The Doctor’s scarf is ridiculously long because the person who knitted it used too much wool but Tom Baker liked it so much he decided to wear it.

12. Tom Baker was briefly married to co-star Lalla Ward, who played his companion and Time Lady Romana. Ward is now married to God Delusion author Richard Dawkins.

13. Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world, even beating Star Trek

14. The Doctor has met numerous historical figures from William Shakespeare to Henry VIII to Vincent Van Gogh

15. The rebooted series has proved so popular that it led to the birth of two spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The latter show saw the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Katy Manning as Jo Grant.

16. Both Colin Baker and Peter Capaldi appeared as different characters on Doctor Who before winning the role of the Doctor

17. During the Eighties when Doctor Who fell out of favour with the BBC, the show was put on haitus for 18 months. To raise awareness, a charity song was released called Doctor in Distress, the proceeds were donated to cancer research.

18. Daleks can fly, so stairs pose no threat to them.

19. The Doctor said in an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures that he can regenerate an infinite number of times – not just 12 times. However, the problem of regeneration seems to have resurfaced again, prompting suggestions that Doctor Who head Steven Moffat is going to try and resolve this issue soon.

20. The Weeping Angels are based on the children’s game What’s the time, Mr Wolf?

The scariest creature in the universe: The Weeping Angels (BBC)

21. Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan and Lalla Ward appeared on Doctor Who in different roles before taking on the role of the companion.

22. Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

23. Paul McGann’s Doctor was the first to kiss his companion, the moment has led to a modern tradition of the Doctor now kissing all of his companions.

24. The 1996 movie was supposed to be a ‘backdoor’ pilot but sadly failed and it would take another nine years before Doctor Who returned.

25. Christopher Eccleston chose to keep his Northern accent and wear a leather jacket in order to present a grittier incarnation of the Doctor and break away from the traditional, cravat-wearing Doctor.

26. David Tennant is married to Georgia Moffett, the pair met on Doctor Who when she was playing his daughter Jenny. To add to the Doctor Who coincides, Moffett is the daughter of Peter Davison who played the fifth Doctor.

27. Many actors and actresses have graced Doctor Who before going on to have huge careers, two such stars as Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. Mulligan starred as Sally Sparrow in Blink which introduced the Weeping Angels to the world. She is now an A-lister, most recently playing the female lead in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish production of The Great Gatsby. Meanwhile Garfield played Frank, a man down on his luck in New York during the Great Depression in Daleks in Manhattan. He is now Spider-Man, as well as having credits in The Social Network and The Other Boleyn Girl. Both he and Mulligan starred together in Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley.

Andrew Garfield in 'Daleks in Manhattan'
Andrew Garfield in 'Daleks in Manhattan' (BBC)

28. Matt Smith is the youngest actor to have played the Doctor at the tender age of 26. Before him Peter Davison was the youngest incarnation, taking on the role aged 29.

29. Before becoming the Doctor, Matt Smith starred alongside Billie Piper in Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Ruby in the Smoke.

30. Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series was one of the chief script writers on Doctor Who in the Seventies.

31. Social activist and all round moral compass, Mary Whitehouse lambasted Doctor Who for being too violent in the Seventies when Tom Baker was the Doctor.

32. Doctor-in-waiting Peter Capaldi was a fan of Doctor Who as child. He even wrote in to the BBC aged 15.

33. Peter Capaldi is the same age as William Hartnell when he took on the role of the Doctor at 55.

34. While Doctor Who was off the air, current showrunner Steven Moffat wrote a comic relief special called Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death. It saw Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson and Joanna Lumley, among other taking on the role of the Doctor.

35. Torchwood is an anagram of ‘Doctor Who’, it was used as a code name for auditions in order to keep Doctor Who firmly under wraps.

36. While the fourth Doctor preferred Jelly Babies and liquorice allsorts, the eleventh Doctor’s dish of choice is fish fingers and custard together. Yummy.

37. Singer Kylie Minogue and Catherine Jenkins have appeared on Doctor Who Christmas specials. Jenkins even sang as part of her role, the atmospheric piece was called Abigail's Song (Silence is all you Know).

Kylie Minogue as Astrid Perth in 'Doctor Who'
Kylie Minogue as Astrid Perth in 'Doctor Who' (BBC)

38. Rory Williams is the companion to have died the most number of times and come back from the dead. However, Clara Oswald may have recently trumped him as the Impossible Girl.

39. The Doctor ended up dropping Sarah Jane off in Aberdeen instead of Croydon – much to her chagrin.

40. The Doctor did have a family and children and grandchildren but lost it all when Gallifrey was destroyed.

41. While Amy Pond’s short skirts may have raised eyebrows in 2010, Tom Baker’s companion Leela was raising a fair few more eyebrows in her leather bikini - she was a warrior of the savage Sevateem tribe.

42. Celebrity fans of the show include Charlie Brooker, Jonathan Ross and Professor Brian Cox.

43. The fifth Doctor wore a piece of celery on his lapel because he was allergic to a certain gas in the Praxis Range. Once the celery turned purple he would eat it and it would save him.

44. Colin Baker has said that he did not like his ‘clown’ outfit and that he had suggested something more like the costume Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor wore. Sadly he was overruled and the patchwork costume won.

45. The Doctor has an aversion to guns since William Hartnell’s era – in The Gunfighters he expresses his disgust towards them.

46. The idea of regeneration following health concerns for William Hartnell. The decision was to inadvertantly ensure the longevity of the show.

William Hartnell (centre) as the first Doctor
William Hartnell (centre) as the first Doctor (Getty Images)

47. The Daleks are the Doctor’s greatest foe. He has faced and defeated them more times than any other villain on the show.

48. The Daleks made their debut in the show second serial entitled The Daleks

49. There were two Doctor Who films made in the Sixties, starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor. They were called Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

50. Bernard Cribbins who has most recently played Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott starred in the second of the Cushing films.

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