Back in 1963, the BBC launched a quirky sci-fi show designed to teach children history lessons in the guise of time travel stories. It was called Doctor Who, and focused on the sometimes nail-biting, sometimes hilarious adventures of the titular character known enigmatically as “the Doctor.” Along with his granddaughter Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian and Barbara, the Doctor sent his time machine, the TARDIS — a police call box that is bigger on the inside — careening through all of space and time. Nearly 60 years later, over a dozen actors have played the Doctor, with a few new versions of the eponymous, gentle-hearted Time Lord coming in 2023.
And now, for American families who have been Who-curious, there’s some very big news. Starting in 2023, Doctor Who will stream on Disney+. That’s right the longest-running sci-fi show ever, will stop being hard for US fans to watch, and suddenly, be streaming right alongside Marvel and Star Wars. And, compared to those brands, Doctor Who has always been slightly more kid-friendly. Most of the versions of the Doctor’s exploits are great for kids aged 7 and up, partly because the Doctor, unlike so many other superheroes, is overtly anti-violence, pro-science, and always willing to fight for the downtrodden, in whatever corner of the galaxy, or history, anyone might need help.
As former Doctor Who showrunner and producer Steven Moffat once said: “When they made this particular hero they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an X-Wing, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help and they didn’t give him a superpower or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. And that’s extraordinary. There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”
Although the original version of Doctor Who ran from 1963 to 1989, the show experienced a huge revival starting in 2005 when Christopher Eccelston took over the role as the 9th Doctor. From there, David Tennant's 10th Doctor catapulted the franchise into the mainstream starting in 2006, while Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, and Jodie Whittaker’s Doctors have carried the torch all the way to 2022.
As the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker just had her final episode on the BBC, “The Power of the Doctor,” in which she regenerated (transformed) into a new version of David Tennant’s previous Doctor. For early aughts fans of Doctor Who, it was a surprise and jolt of very recent nostalgia. In Fall 2023, David Tennant will star in three Who specials, before handing over the keys to the TARDIS to Ncuti Gatwa, who will become the incumbent new Doctor at the end of 2023. The new episodes will also be overseen by Russel T Davies, who previously was the showrunner of Doctor Who from 2005 to 2010.
Disney and the BBC have revealed that while the series will air on the BBC in Ireland and the UK, it will now air globally, exclusively on Disney+. For Americans who have never really had the opportunity to watch Doctor Who on BBC America, or any of the other places it has been streaming in the past 15 years, this is amazing news. Doctor Who is making a comeback in a big way, and for some young fans, the wibbly wobbly timey wimey adventures will be brand new.