The rebooted version of Doctor Who, affectionately and sometimes derisively called “New Who,” is 15 years old. That’s a supremely bonkers thing to think about. It always felt like an unthinkable notion for “the New series” to even approach the monumental season count of the original series. And, no, with 12 series in 15 years, it’s got a ways to go until it reaches the 26 seasons from 1963-1989. Still, after 15 years, this version of Doctor Who is old enough to have its own fascinating milestones, unrelated to the old show.
So, because I am a numbers dork in addition to a Whovian, I’ve decided to give you some breakdowns of statistics on the show between 2005 and 2020. All of these episodes are currently streaming on HBO Max.
Including Christmas and gap-year specials, there have been 165 episodes of Doctor Who since 2005. That averages to 11 episodes per year or 13.75 episodes if we’re just counting series. Either way, not a particularly high average, but it is British TV after all.
- 60 episodes during the Russell T. Davies tenure.
- 84 episodes during the Steven Moffat years.
- 21 episodes of the Chris Chibnall era to date.
In the entire 15 years of the series there have only been 36 total credited writers. That’s very low, but when you realize how much the showrunners wrote themselves, it seems even crazier.
Davies wrote or co-wrote 31 episodes himself (at least going by on-screen credit). Chibnall wrote five episodes under Davies or Moffat and is up to 14 already in his own tenure, for a total of 19. And Moffat takes the prize for writing the most Doctor Who of any single writer; he wrote six episodes under Davies and a whopping 42 either alone or with a co-writer during his own tenure for a total of 48.
98 episodes of rebooted Doctor Who have been written by three men.
There have been five full time Doctors during the New Who. Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, and Jodie Whittaker. Eccleston infamously only did the first series; Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi each did three complete series; and Whittaker has just wrapped up her second, with a third confirmed. Two surprise/alternate Doctors (John Hurt and Jo Martin) have also appeared.
As far as episode counts, Eccleston has his 13 episodes, Tennant appeared in 48 (including “The Day of the Doctor”), Smith appeared in 44, Capaldi in 40, and Whittaker in 21 to date.
When it comes to Companions, the Doctors’ “friends” or “fam,” there have been quite a few more. Only talking full-time traveling companions, there have been 11, usually in groups of one or two, but three in the current configuration. The hair-splitting companions in addition to the full-timers (these are people like Captain Jack Harkness, River Song, Adam from series 1, Mickey Smith), or one-offers from specials, give us an additional eight.
Of the companions, the one with the longest tenure is Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) who was the full-time companion for 34 episodes, appeared briefly in two more, and was a different time-splintered version of herself in an additional two. That’s 38 appearances.
The companion with the most appearances after their exit is Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Though she was the main companion for 27 episodes, she made brief or full guest appearances in a further seven, plus one as “The Moment.”
The full-time companion with the fewest appearances, sadly, is Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), who was only in 13 episodes.
The Doctor has a wide array of baddies, both brand new and holdovers from the classic series. A lot of these aliens would appear in the background or briefly in cutaway, so I’m not going to count those. But, if we’re talking about main-antagonist episodes, the breakdown is as follows:
- The Daleks – 13 stories. By far the most prolific returners, which is very fitting since the hateful mutant tanks are the Doctor’s first foe from the ’60s. The Daleks have appeared at least once in every series of the show, with the exception of series 12, though they’ll be in the Christmas special. Also there is no dedicated Dalek story in series 6 or 10, but they do appear.
- The Cybermen – 11 stories. Arguably Doctor Who‘s second most iconic monsters. The Cybermen first appeared in New Who’s second series and, save a couple of minor appearances, remained dormant until the seventh series. Since then? Almost every series has had major Cyberman arcs.
- The Master – 9 stories. Unlike the Daleks or Cybermen, the Master doesn’t show up as frequently but when they do, it matters. From John Simm’s shocking debut in series three to Michelle Gomez’s softly sadistic take to Sacha Dhawan’s glassy-eyed rage, the Master always means business.
The Weeping Angels, Silence, and Judoon are tied for three stories apiece. The Slitheen, Ice Warriors, Autons, Zygons, and checks notes Tim Shaw all have two stories. Interestingly, the Sontarans and Silurians each have one story as main antagonist, but members of those species—Strax and Madame Vastra, respectively—became recurring allies to the Doctor and returned frequently.
This one took me a while to calculate; I mean, it’s a show about traveling in space and time. There’s bound to be a lot of back and forth. I wanted to see how many stories dealt with future, past, and present-day stories. In the course of it, I also found out which stories took place in an alternate universe or alternate/aborted timeline in addition to how often they go to alien planets. It’s less than you’d think.
And I’m not talking about stories where they start in the present, go to the future, and then come back to the present. That still just counts as “future” for the purposes of this count. So let’s dive in!
- Present Day – 43 stories. From the start, Russell T. Davies wanted to make Doctor Who relatable to people watching at home. All of series one, for instance, took place on or around Earth, just in different time periods. This largely continued. As we got to know our companions, the Doctor would spend time defending their home.
- Future – 44 stories. Was somewhat shocked to learn the Doctor and friends have gone to the future just slightly more than they’ve been in the present. For this, I also included any time they travel to another planet where a time period is not specifically mentioned.
- Past – 35 stories. Another staple of the series, Earth’s history and sometimes specific historical figures factor in quite often. Just not as often as the other two. Most series have two or three historical stories; series seven, however, including Christmas specials, has seven.
- Alternate – 10 stories. Whether it’s an alternate dimension, a pocket universe, or a time paradox that eventually gets undone, 10 different stories focus on things happening outside of our normal space and time.
In addition to these more straight-forward adventures, four stories legitimately use past and future equally in the same story. Two (“The Day of the Doctor” and “Listen”) go all over the damn place and don’t fit into any one.
And finally, Alien Planets. Forty-one stories in Doctor Who have visited at least one alien planet since 2005. And yes, I’m counting Mars as an alien planet. There are aliens on it, right?
It’s a much more even mix of baddies, companions, and destinations than I expected. Hell, even the Doctors all have roughly the same number of adventures. It’s really just a testament to the staying power of this show that it’s been able to do so much and go so far.
Here’s to 15 (at least) more!
Featured Image: BBC