For more than 50 years, audiences have been travelling through space and time with a mysterious alien known only as The Doctor. Using a time machine disguised as a blue police box, he has battled alien warriors in Medieval England, negotiated peace with Martians, and prevented the end of the universe. The Doctor belongs to an alien race called the Time Lords, whose bodies regenerate into new forms when they die. This has allowed different actors to play the role of The Doctor over the generations — and for the first time this year, the role will played by a woman. The series is one of the most iconic science fiction TV shows ever made. But what does it tell us about the real world?
The TARDIS is both a time machine and a spaceship; it can travel to any time or place in the universe in just a few seconds. Over the years, The Doctor has explored countless planets, both real and fictional. Some episodes have also featured human colonies in space, many years in the future — something that society is currently contemplating more and more.
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“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but… it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff,” says The Doctor. This is why Time Lords can jump through history and into the future. Many episodes explore the ethics of time travel, how the past can shape the present, and the fact that — for The Doctor’s human companions — time is often running out.
‘Back to the Future Day’ arrives at last
Today is 21 October 2015: the date to which Marty McFly travels in Back to the Future II. Were the film’s predictions correct? Or is trying to guess the future a fool’s game?
‘Why I believe history is never boring’
Television dramas, video games and novels: every historian has a different story about what brought the adventures of the past alive to them, as they embark on their quest for the truth.
‘Be great, be grateful’ says sick teenager
In a moving speech, terminally-ill Jake Bailey told his classmates to be ‘micro-ambitious’ and focus only on short-term goals. Is it time to abandon grand visions and start living for now?
From the warrior Sontarons, to the peaceful Ood, to the evil Daleks, Doctor Who has no shortage of alien races. Of all the species in the universe, The Doctor has a clear favourite: humans. And in the real world, humanity’s search for alien life is increasing. Will we ever find aliens? And if we do, how should we treat them?
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ExoMars ready to resume search for alien life
European ministers will decide this week whether to invest £350m in a project to put a rover on Mars. ExoMars will search for life on the red planet — so what if life is actually discovered?
Winston Churchill: alien life is out there
A newly-found article shows the man who led Britain to victory in the second world war arguing life may exist on other planets. Most scientists agree. So what are the chances they are right?
More often than not, The Doctor has chosen a female companion with whom to travel the universe. In recent series, these have all been strong, capable, feminist characters. But now the show’s relationship with gender is about to get even more complicated, as Jodie Whittaker takes on the role; the first time a woman has played it. Does gender still matter in the 21st century? Should it?
Gender row erupts over hunt for next Doctor
After three seasons in one of the biggest roles on television, Peter Capaldi says he will leave Doctor Who at Christmas. Fans are already speculating about his replacement. Time for a woman?
‘Why I believe the future is gender-free’
A campaign to remove gender from British passports and driving licences has been backed by a Tory MP. And public support is gathering. Is the UK leading the way to a post-gender future?
Women should run the world, claims historian
Despite women’s liberation and the global rise of feminism, there is still a clear gender imbalance in politics. What should we make of claims that women would be better leaders than men?
The Doctor is incredibly intelligent. Having lived for thousands of years, the various Doctors have acquired an incredible amount of knowledge about the universe. The Doctor is always several steps ahead of everyone else, and is notable among superhero-like characters for relying more on wit than weapons, and avoiding violence whenever possible. How important is being clever?
Time Lord at 50: ‘a triumph for brains and hope’
Doctor Who’s chaotic Time Lord has been saving humanity from cruelty and despotism for 50 years. Does his mixture of brains and benevolence make him the ultimate superhero?
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Clean water for everyone; higher crop yields; energy produced by nothing more than the human body. A TEDx conference on Saturday will bring together some of the world’s most inventive teens.