Knock knock. Who’s there? Doctor … What, still? Again? Once more, with a bow tie on? Since 1963, this personage has been with us. Ten times he has regenerated. In 1989, his show went momentarily off the air, for 15 years. He has outlasted cancellations and cultural mutations, inadequate budgets, poor scheduling, shifting leagues of writers and producers, Krotons, Autons, and space wars across the universe. He has beaten the Daleks, his ancestral enemies—trundling pepperpots who have one arm in the form of a toilet plunger and the other an egg whisk, skeleton-raying their victims and crying “Exterminate!” in a verminous, panicky rasp. And now, arguably, he’s fitter and happier than ever, a prancing miracle of longevity. The premiere of his latest season, in April, was BBC America’s most-watched show ever. Rumors come and go (oh, those rumors) of a guest appearance by Lady Gaga, or of a big-screen adaptation starring, perhaps, Johnny Depp. U.S. fandom is at a frothing height. Could they possibly have known what they were doing, the middle-class middle-England mid-management middlebrows of the BBC, when they sanctioned the creation of the character known as Doctor Who?
If you’re not already acquainted, the Doctor is 950 years old, and he comes from the planet Gallifrey. Although humanoid in form, he has two hearts and almost-celestial intelligence. He is a Time Lord—something between a cosmic guardian and a private investigator—and he travels the spaceways in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), a time machine that, owing to a dodgy chameleon circuit, is stalled in the shape of a 1950s London phone booth. He can do almost anything. Alien invasions of Earth, for example, are punctually thwarted, and in the new season he also plays a bit of soccer and makes friends with Vincent van Gogh.