Doctor Who

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?

Space

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.

Time

“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.

Aliens

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?

Gender

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?

Knowledge

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?