Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show of all time—and no wonder. With an ever-changing cast of characters, run by producers who are as big fans as we are, it’s been kept new and exciting every year.
We love Doctor for all sorts of reasons. So for today, its 48-year anniversary (excluding the few years it was off the air post-1989), we’re giving you 48 reasons why we love this show.
1. The opening theme song.
2. The TARDIS. The Doctor loves his time machine so much, he’s practically married to it.
3. It’s a gateway drug to British television. In fact, it’s some of the first British TV that many fans ever get to see. We hope fans continue to explore more Brit sci-fi, like the classic Blake’s 7 and Thunderbirds, and the more recent Being Human and Spaced (well, not sci-fi, but certainly geek culture).
5. The Girl in the Fireplace. The episode, from the Tenth Doctor, was so powerful that the plot was recycled for the Eleventh Doctor. After all, it’s about a little girl who grows up while waiting for the Doctor, only to have a crush on him when he does appear.
6. The Ood. At first they were frightening. Then they were sad. Then they were frightening again.
7. It’s about a guy who can travel anywhere in space and time. Seriously, what can be more awesome than that?
8. Romantic tension. Rose’s affection for the Tenth Doctor was rather obvious, and we knew he cared for her. But we never knew just how much until we learned that he burned out a sun in order to say goodbye to her.
9. Martha Jones’ snarky remark about Rose: “Oh, she was a blonde. What a surprise.”
10. The Fifth Doctor’s celery stick. It’s not any man who can wear a vegetable.
11. The Doctor’s different personalities. William Hartnell was crotchety. Patrick Troughton was outwardly foolish but secretly shrewd. This current Doctor, the Eleventh, is manic and funny, but he isn’t afraid to make some tough decisions. We fans don’t merely look forward to next week’s episode, we also look forward to next year’s star.
12. The Doctor Who parody, “Curse of the Fatal Death,” starring British stalwarts Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, Joanna Lumley and Julia Sawalha.
13. The Sixth Doctor, who managed to be surly.
14. Long-running plots: Bad wolf. The trial of the Time Lord. Who is River Song? Cracks in the universe. The Key to Time. These are the names of plot threads that played out over a season or more, and they make us feel like we’re a part of something larger … something that the Doctor must feel.
15. Genesis of the Daleks. If you could go back in time and kill your enemies, even before they had a chance to live, would you? The Doctor’s answer: no. But he had to think realllllly hard about it.
16. Doctor Who’s wonderful wiki, The TARDIS Index File. (See the episode “Castrovalva” for the origin of the name “Index File.”)
17. Hotness. While she was playing Jo, the Third Doctor’s companion, actress Katy Maning posed naked on a Dalek. Fans of the Fourth Doctor might remember Leela’s leather vest. Current Whovians are besotted with Amy Pond’s pouty lips. And let’s not forgot just how adorable David Tennant is when he looks confused.
18. Earthshock. The Doctor’s companion Adric died trying to divert a Cyberman ship from crashing into the Earth. He almost saves the planet, but a Cyberman damages the controls of the ship. His last words, before the ship plummets from space: “Now I’ll never know if I was right.”
19. Meeting historical characters. Vincent Van Gogh is all well and good, but we particularly loved seeing writer Agatha Christie, because we happen to know she disappeared to frame her husband for murder, and not because of a vespiform, as seen in the episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp.”
20. River Song’s luscious pronunciation of the word “Sweetie.”
21. The Eighth Doctor. Played by Paul McGann, he only appeared in one episode, a one-off in 1996. But he’s put in quite a few appearances in the terrific yet overlooked audio drama series by Big Finish.
22. Midnight. For god’s sakes, somebody should have given Lesley Sharp an award for her perfect performance as the tragically overcome traveler, Sky Silvestri.
23. Tom Baker’s scarves.
24. Dramatic tension. Learning the Doctor was the reason the Pandorica was built. Hearing the silence in the library. Saying goodbye to your companions, starting with locking your granddaughter out of the TARDIS. Some days, we don’t envy being the Doctor.
25. Human Nature/The Family of Blood. What if the Doctor were actually human? In this poignant, romantic and painful two-parter, we learn the answer.
26. His companions. The Doctor’s friends come and go. We wish some of them would have stayed a little longer. A shout-out to Jamie McCrimmon, Donna Noble and Tegan Jovanka.
27. The 9th Doctor’s leather jacket. Every previous Doctor could have been at home plowing through books in a dusty library or lecturing at a university. The 9th Doctor was the first Doctor who could have been at home on the streets of Earth in the 21st century.
28. The Third Doctor’s velvet jacket. Groovy.
29. Blink. Don’t do it. Because if you do, the Weeping Angels will get you. This chilling enemy is made all the more horrific if you live in a city like London or New York, where the statues are always watching you.
30. The Last Great Time War. This unseen-yet-occasionally discussed event was played out in Big Finish audio dramas, comic books and Doctor Who Magazine issues. In it, the Eight and Ninth Doctors destroyed all of the Daleks, who had destroyed all of the Time Lords, leaving him (he believes) the last of his people in all of space and time.
31. Matt Smith’s bowtie and fez. Fezzes are cool.
32. The raspy hysteria of the Daleks when they shout, “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!”
33. Other villains that make us hide behind the sofa.
34. Low-budget special effects The underbudgeted show had to suffer through bad rubber masks and weird electronic music for too many years, but in some way, it’s endearing.
35. Pyramids of Mars. The episode isn’t as creepy as it was when it first aired in 1975, but actor Gabriel Woolf, who played Sutekh the Destroyer, never fails to chill.
36. Spin-off shows. Okay, K-9 and Company wasn’t that successful. But younger fans have a lot to love in The Sarah Jane Adventures, and more mature fans have even more to love in Torchwood.
37. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. A nanogene cloud meets a lost little boy during the Blitz in World War II, and the results are not pretty. In fact, the only thing pretty about this episode is Captain Jack Harkness, in his first appearance.
38. The Master. He was always evil when played by Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley, but he was never so chaotically evil as when played by John Simm.
39. Rory Williams’ steadfast devotion. Amy Pond is called “the girl who waited.” But Rory waited even longer for Amy.
40. Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. One of the founders of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce), the very British character was seen with Doctors Two, Three, Four, Five, and Seven, as well as in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Nicholas Courtney’s death put an end to the character, whose passing was mentioned in The Wedding of River Song.
41. Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.
42. Castrovalva. The first episode of Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor paid homage to MC Escher’s reality-twisting artwork. Even better: thanks to his new regeneration, the Fifth Doctor was deeply confused. Hanging out in Castrovalva didn’t improve things for him.
43. Adventure. Frankly, you can’t get more adventurous than the characters of Captain Jack Harkness and River Song. He got a well-deserved spin-off. Where’s her series? (Ooo, or have her guest star on Torchwood!)
44. Episodes with multiple Doctors. The Three Doctors. (One, Two and Three) The Five Doctors. (One, Two, Three, Five and sometimes Four) The Two Doctors (Two and Six). Whenever the Doctors meet, they seem to dislike each other immensely. However, David Tennant and Peter Davison hit it off eventually in the Children in Need special, “Time Crash.”
45. Putting Hitler in the closet.
46. The Fourth Doctor’s irreverent fondness for jelly babies (Think gummy bears, but denser and more sugary.)
47. Regeneration. When the First Doctor, played by the William Hartnell, left the show for health reasons, producer Verity Lambert conceived of a unique way to keep the show running: give the character a new life. Later known as “regeneration,” it was retconned into the lore of the Doctor that each Time Lord gets twelve regenerations. Because of this, we’ve seen multiple incarnations of the Master, Rassilon and Romanadvoratrelundar as well.
48. An Unearthly Child. The episode that started it all, it featured a mysterious time traveler, his granddaughter and two people they take to the Stone Age, where its denizens have forgotten how to use fire. Happy anniversary, Doctor.