Doctor Who has been on and off the air for nearly fifty years. It's one of if not THE most popular show ever to come out of the UK. And it's a show where absolutely ANYTHING can happen. But with a show which has run for so long and has such a huge history, it can be a daunting task for someone new to the show to get on board with everything so to speak. So, here I am to help you out. I myself only started watching the show regularly a few seasons ago. I'd heard of the show and seen bits of it here and there, but was always worried that I would be lost trying to figure everything out. I've watched a couple of the current seasons and went back and watched some of what came before. Plus I've done a little research in between. So, now, I think I'm ready to help out those who are in the position I was in. And personally, I think it'll be worth your time to give the show a try. Doesn't matter if you're from Britain, America, etc. There's usually something for everyone. So, here are some quick points to help you along the way of figuring out the basics of the show.
1. The doctor is a time traveler
The doctor is what they call the main character. That's all we know in terms of a name for him. That and he is a time traveler. He bounces around from modern day to the past, the future, whatever. And not just Earth's either. He can go to other planets, solar systems, etc. and see their past, present, or future too.
2. The Tardis
It looks like an old styled British police box, but it's not. It's classically referred to as "bigger on the inside" by the doctor and others. The best way to describe the inside of the TARDIS might be as a pocket dimension, but it's a machine, but it's also pretty much alive. And it's how the doctor gets from place to place. The doctor actually stole the TARDIS from a museum at some point.
3. The doctor is OLD
The doctor is not actually human. He's a member of an alien race known only as time lords. He looks human though. Or as he would put it, we look like time lords. Being a time lord, there are some big differences between the doctor and you and me. He has two hearts for example. And he doesn't seem to age really. In fact, it's pretty hard for him to die from anything which brings us to the next point....
4. He can be played by different actors, because...
When the doctor is on his way out the door so to speak and about to die, he doesn't do like the rest of us mere mortal humans. He regenerates. What this means is that the doctor and his essence do not die, but his appearance, manorisms, and even some personality traits change. It has been theorized that this is simply a different side to the doctor, each version being another aspect of his personality. He retains all the memories of his previous incarnations. Yet, it becomes a bit hazy as to what actually becomes of the previous incarnation during regeneration. Anyway, this was a neat trick somebody came up with way back at the beginning years of the series when the first actor playing the doctor wanted to leave the show and they had to find a way to replace him. It was brilliant and they stuck with it. In the story, it seems that the doctor is supposed to have a total of thirteen different incarnations and currently he is on number eleven. So, all kinds of cool stuff can come from that.
5. The doctor aint no dummy
Though he can be prone to childish behavior and more than a little silly, the doctor is very very clever and he's been around so long, he's had plenty of time to learn all kinds of stuff that just leaves the rest of us scratching our heads. And he's used those super smarts to save not only the human race, but countless others, even saving the entire universe on more than one occasion.
6. He doesn't do it alone
For obvious show appeal and because it's not as much fun being brilliant when nobody's around to see you do it, the doctor usually travels with at least one friend (usually human) who is referred to as his "companions". Over the years, the doctor has had many companions and each of them have had a somewhat different relationship with the doctor.
7. He did a bad bad thing.... sorta
That race I mentioned earlier that the doctor is a part of, the time lords? Well, he kinda had to kill them all. They were getting a little too naughty, wanted to rule over or even destroy pretty much everybody and there was only one way to stop them. It's something the doctor clearly feels bad about and is occasionally refrenced in the show.
8. This is like a live action anime
If you like the Japanese anime, I think you'll like this. This is just a personal opinion. But it's what I thought of when I first started watching the show, because in a lot of the animes you have the really bad a$$ hero who acts really dumb and silly randomly, but can still turn on the coolness at any moment, tear into the bad guys, fix whatever's gone wrong, and save the day. That's how this show plays out pretty much all the time. We've got cool science stuff, robots, time travel, comedy, love stories, tragedy, twisted versions of real historical events.... Just all kinds of stuff going on. If you happen to be a fan of Japanese anime or this stuff just sounds cool to you, I highly suggest checking out the first episode of series five (it's a way higher number if you take into consideration all the seasons starting from back in the sixties, but they brought the show back on air several years back with a new numbering, while still adhering to the originaly storyline and continuity). The episode is called "The Eleventh Hour" and is the official introduction of the eleventh incarnation of the doctor, played by Matt Smith. It's a really good jumping on point too. In fact, that's where I started watching regularly from.