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 who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior appears as a blue police box from 1963 London, when the series first aired. Along with a succession of companions, he faces a variety of foes while working to save civilisations, help people, and right wrongs.
The programme is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and as the "most successful" science fiction series of all time. It has been recognised for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects during its original run, and pioneering use of electronic music. The show is a significant part of British popular culture in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere it has become a cult television favourite. The show has influenced generations of British television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. It has received recognition from critics and the public as one of the finest British television programmes, including the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2006, and five consecutive wins at the National Television Awards from 2005 to 2010. In 2011 Matt Smith became the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for portraying the Doctor.
The programme originally ran from 1963 to 1989. After an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production with a backdoor pilot in the form of a 1996 television film, the programme was relaunched in 2005, produced in-house by BBC Wales in Cardiff. Doctor Who also spawned spin-offs in multiple media, including Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9, P.R.O.B.E. (video series), and a single pilot episode of K-9 and Company in 1981.
The Doctor has been principally played by eleven actors. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show as regeneration, whereby the character of the Doctor takes on a new body and, to some extent, new personality. Although each portrayal is different, and on occasion the various incarnations have even met one another, they are all meant to be aspects of the same character. The Doctor is currently portrayed by Matt Smith, who took up the role after David Tennant's final appearance in an episode broadcast on 1 January 2010.
A fifth series of the relaunched programme was first broadcast in 2010, in which the Eleventh Doctor is accompanied by Amy Pond, portrayed by Karen Gillan, who is joined later in the series by fiancé (later husband) Rory Williams, played by Arthur Darvill. This was followed by a sixth series in 2011, with Darvill now appearing as a regular companion. A seventh series has been commissioned.