What Makes Doctor Who Special

As I write this we’re only 3 days away from the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who. A new season with a new Doctor and a new man in charge of produc­tion. Fanboy that I am I’ve been wait­ing for this impa­tiently since Christ­mas. So I thought this was an ideal time to look at what makes Doctor Who so special.

Longevity and Reach

There have been 30 seasons of Doctor Who over a period of 47 years (with the 31st season about to start). That makes it the longest running science fiction show in the world. And it is a world wide phenom­e­non. While it’s never achieved more than cult status here in the United States, the series is broad­cast in over 40 coun­tries around the world.

By acci­dent or design the core concepts of the show allow almost endless rein­ven­tion. Of settings, plots and even the central char­ac­ter. This has allowed Doctor Who to revi­tal­ize itself and come back fresh for gener­a­tion after gener­a­tion. There’s really no other show that has the range Doctor Who has.


During its first run Doctor Who received very little crit­i­cal recog­ni­tion and even fewer awards. While it held a place in people’s hearts it was gener­ally regarded as a kids show. However since it’s return it has won BAFTAs, National Tele­vi­sion Awards, Hugos and the Saturn Awards.

As the style of the show changed so has people’s percep­tion. It is now recog­nized as a family show and it’s become more accept­able to acknowl­edge enjoy­ing it.

But What Makes It Special?

While all I’ve writ­ten is factu­ally accu­rate, it completely fails to explain what actu­ally makes Doctor Who special. And I think that’s because a dry list of statis­tics and facts just can’t convey the emotions that Doctor Who is so good at evok­ing. Who isn’t like any other science fiction show ever. 

Its philos­o­phy is radi­cally differ­ent to US sci-fi. The Doctor is not exactly a paci­fist but he doesn’t like violence and looks for other solu­tions, while most US shows are primar­ily mili­tary in their approach to the genre (Star Trek, Star­gate, Battlestar Galac­tica).

Nor does it have the pessimism and dark­ness which is a hall­mark of British SF shows (Survivors, Blake’s 7, Doomwatch, Sapphire & Steel). On the contrary even in his most weary incar­na­tion Christo­pher Eccle­ston’s Doctor is capa­ble of incred­i­ble joy and excite­ment. Some­thing that prob­a­bly stems from its roots as a children’s show.

Doctor Who is about adven­ture and excite­ment and aliens and monsters but above all else it’s about sheer unadul­ter­ated joie de vivre.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?