“Doctor Who” may turn 50 years old on November 23, but the series is just getting started, if the millions of fans who tuned in to watch the first trailer for the upcoming anniversary special are to be believed. But for a new Whovian (that’s the name of the Doctor Who fanbase, natch), 50 years of history and continuity might seem like an overwhelming prospect.
Good news, then! The “50 Year Trailer” provides you with everything you need to know about “Doctor Who” and the upcoming special, “The Day of the Doctor,” to jump right in. With our handy breakdown, you’ll be wearing a long scarf and saying, “Fezzes are cool!” in no time. (Those are both “Doctor Who” references, by the way.)
There Are 11 Doctors
This is about to get slightly confusing, but the important thing you need to remember is that the Doctor is like a sci-fi version of James Bond. There have been multiple actors, 11 in total, playing the same character for 50 years. The first was William Hartnell, way back in 1963; the most recent is Matt Smith (you get to see them basically in order in the trailer). The confusing part? Each time an actor wants to leave the show, he “dies” and “regenerates” as the new actor. The actors play the Doctor slightly differently, even if they’re playing the same guy. Think of Bond again, how Sean Connery tackles different aspects of the character than, say, Daniel Craig, and you’ll get the gist.
He Travels In A Box Called The TARDIS
Glimpsed briefly behind Hartnell at the top of the trailer, Doctor Who’s time-traveling/space-traveling device is called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It’s a semi-sentient, infinitely large spaceship that looks on the outside like a blue police box. Oh, and a police box is like a telephone booth but used to call the police. So there you go.
He’s Made A Lot Of Enemies
One of the big draws of “Who” is the recurring villains, the worst of which are the Daleks, tin cans powered by hate who want nothing more than to destroy everything in the universe. You can hear them saying their distinctive catch phrase, “Exterminate!,” at about 10 seconds in, but the trailer is chock-full of other baddies, from the Borg-like Cybermen to the evil anti-Doctor, the Master.
He Has Friends
Unlike the villains, who are all over the place, there are really only two prominently featured “friends” of the Doctor in the trailer. The first is Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith on the show multiple times, and even starred in her own spin-off before dying of cancer in 2011. The other is Jenna-Louise Coleman, who plays current “companion” Clara Oswald. The companion provides a window for the audience to see the fantastic things the Doctor does, as well as keeping him grounded and more human.
He’s Not Human
As the Doctor says in the trailer, he’s been running for over 900 years. That’s because the Doctor is actually a nearly immortal alien from a planet called Gallifrey. Gallifrey was a planet ruled by Time Lords, time and space travelers like the Doctor. The planet was destroyed in the “Time War,” an epic battle between the Daleks and the Time Lords that we’ve never actually seen on-screen. We do know that during the battle, the Doctor had to do something terrible that left him the last Time Lord in existence, something that’s fueled his loneliness and need for a companion with whom to travel. Also, he has two hearts. Just FYI.
His “Weapon” Is A Sonic Screwdriver
Like the Doctor says in the trailer, he “fought for peace in a universe at war,” which means that generally speaking, he doesn’t use weapons. However, as seen throughout the trailer, he does carry a “sonic screwdriver,” which allows him to interact with mechanical things on the go. It’s essentially a hacking device. On the flip side, and something that has powered a number of story lines, the Doctor has been known to manipulate whole races into going ahead and killing themselves. It’s Disney rules, basically: The Doctor doesn’t kill, but if the villain falls off a cliff and dies while fighting him, what could he possibly do?
He Likes Snacks
Least essential fact possible, but it shows up a bunch in the trailer: Each Doctor has his own favorite snack, distinct outfit, and catchphrase. Matt Smith’s Doctor likes fish fingers and custard (yeah, gross) and has two catchphrases: “Geronimo” and “[Blank] is cool!” (When he starts wearing fezzes, he says, “I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool!”) Tom Baker, one of the most popular old-school Doctors, glimpsed briefly frozen in the trailer as he’s falling down, wears a multicolored striped scarf and eats Jelly Babies (jelly beans). So now you know!
He’s The Doctor
His name is the Doctor. He’s not called Doctor Who. If you don’t want a horde of angry Whovians to jump down your throat, this is probably the most important fact we can stress in this whole article.
But You Really Don’t Need To Know Anything
The most crucial fact about “Doctor Who”? The show is designed so that every episode is new-viewer-friendly, sometimes to a fault. There’s continuity, and fan shout-outs to be sure, but each episode is made for families to watch together, so every episode gets you up to speed before throwing you into the thick of it. But whatever you do, don’t ever watch the show, or you’ll be owning your own sonic in no time.
“The Day of the Doctor,” the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special, airs worldwide (on BBC America in the United States) on November 23.