Doctor Who is a show about a time traveling antihero. It has evolved as much as it has not since it first aired in 1963, coincidentally coinciding with the assassination of president Kennedy. Not unlike Star Trek, it took two pilots to have the show accepted, but unlike Trek, Who’s first pilot was all but a disaster in its production. Its creation was a group effort of BBC drama head Syndey Newman, producer Verity Lambert, and writers C.E. Webber, David Wilson, and Anthony Coburn. Writer Terry Nation later played a key role in its first season, particularly with the introduction of the evil race of the Daleks. Perhaps not too surprisingly, Lambert, a woman, was not significantly credited as one of the creators of the show until more recently. Delia Derbyshire was also largely glazed over for decades as co-creator of Who’s subtly haunting and mysterious theme music, which has not changed much since 1963.
Still, even if the core of an altruistic alien seen through the eyes of others is still there, the show has significantly changed over time based on that core. “Doctor Who?” was indeed the first question, with the technically eponymous time traveler asking why the teacher he kidnapped called him “Doctor,” and with the events of The Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special, it was more a question of why everyone is suddenly calling him that.
The most important aspect of Doctor Who is ultimately change. The First Doctor started as a mysterious time traveler that stole a TARDIS (time traveling ship in the shape of a police box), and intentionally kidnapped two out of three of his first companions. Yet, he slowly became a loveably irascible grandfather figure. It was even revealed that the Doctor was wrong, and the TARDIS herself probably stole the Doctor! And now, the Doctor has saved the universe from oblivion with his usually willing companions multiple times, and has a face that has changed almost as much.
*The War Doctor as well as the Last Great Time War were not written as part of this era until after 2005
Strax Field Report on the Doctor:
Tongue in cheek, in-universe description of the First through Eleventh Doctors (including The War Doctor)
Rotten Tomatoes (scores since 2005)
S1 – 67%
S2 – 100%
S3 – 100%
S4 – 100%
S4 (2009 Specials) – N/A
S5 – 100%
S6 – N/A
S7 – N/A
S8 – 91%
S9 – 90%
S10 – 91%
S11 – 96%