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Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a Time Lord - a time travelling, humanoid alien known as the Doctor. He explores the universe in his 'TARDIS', a sentient, telepathic time-and-space-travel machine that flies through the time vortex. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, a common sight in Britain in 1963, when the series first aired. Along with a succession of companions, the Doctor faces a variety of foes while working to save civilisations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs.
The Classic Series
Doctor Who originally ran for 26 seasons on BBC One, from 23 November 1963 until 6 December 1989. During the original run, each weekly episode formed part of a story (or "serial") - usually of four to six parts in earlier years and three to four in later years. Notable exceptions were: The Daleks' Master Plan, which aired in 12 episodes (plus an earlier one-episode teaser; "Mission to the Unknown", featuring none of the regular cast; almost an entire series of 7-episode serials (series 7); the 10-episode serial The War Games; and The Trial of a Time Lord, which ran for 14 episodes (albeit divided into three production codes and four narrative segments) during Series 23. Occasionally serials were loosely connected by a storyline, such as Series 8 being devoted to the Doctor battling a rogue Time Lord called The Master, Series 16's quest for The Key to Time, Series 18's journey through E-Space and the theme of entropy, and Series 20's Black Guardian Trilogy.
The New Series
In 2005, the BBC relaunched Doctor Who after a 16-year absence from episodic television, with Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Mal Young as executive producers, Phil Collinson as producer, and Christopher Eccleston taking the lead role of the Ninth Doctor.
The revival adheres to the original continuity. The new series is formatted to a 16:9 widescreen display ratio, and a standard episode length of 45 minutes. For the first time since the 1965–66 season each episode has an individual title, although most stories do not span more than one episode. The show also returned to its traditional Saturday evening slot.
Since the departure of Christopher Eccleston from the new series, The Doctor has also been portrayed by David Tennant, who was cast before the first series aired, and is currently portrayed by Matt Smith.