A Look at Episode Structure

This post is going to take a look at the story structure of a typical episode of Doctor Who. Every television series has a structure all its own that helps to add to the overall character of the show that typically involve a main “A” storyline, along with two “B” and “C,” minor story lines.

doctor who intro

Each episode of Doctor who begins with a cold open that jumps right into the main, “A,” storyline. This story line contains the events that the Doctor and his companions face surrounding a dangerous alien species that is threatening a peaceful or defenseless species (most often humans). Normally, the cold open follows the Doctor and/or his companions preparing for battle or getting into trouble. For example, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship begins with the Doctor recruiting Queen Nefertiti of Egypt and a lesser known poacher from Africa named Riddell, along with the Ponds, of course, in order to investigate an unknown spaceship headed to Earth. Immediately after revealing the basis of the episode, the show’s theme song and opening credits play. This storyline progresses throughout the entire episode as they learn that the ship is a Silurian ship (Silurians are a peaceful species who were using the ship as a sort of arc to transport their species, as well as the dinosaurs, to a new world) that was commandeered by a black market trader who wants to profit from the dinosaurs on board and eventually have to defeat him.

dinosaurs 1

The “B” and “C” storlyines of the show typically focus on relationships between characters. For example, in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, both minor storyline focuses on the Pond/Doctor family. For exanmple, the Doctor accidentally brought Rory’s dad along for the adventure. The Doctor keeps objecting his presence, but Brian “Pond” eventually proves his worth as he discovers a way to fly the ship out of the danger of Earth’s oncoming missiles. The family dynamic is also focused on in the “C” story line, when Amy is repeatedly worrying that the Doctor is trying to replace her and Rory with other companions such as Nefertiti and Riddell. The other minor storyline of the episode. She confronts him by describing how his time between visits is getting longer and longer. In the end, however, he assures her not to worry.

dinosaurs 2

All three story lines are present throughout the episode and are resolved in the end. For the most part, the majority of Doctor Who episodes follow this same basic structure.

Time and Relative Dimension in Space

When it comes to Doctor Who, the first character a person thinks of would be, of course, the Doctor. However, since he is ever changing, he is surprisingly not the most recognized symbol of the show. This title belongs to the Doctor’s mode of transportation: the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).

tardis still

The Doctor has probably the most memorable looking spaceship in the world. According to him, all T.A.R.D.I.S’s have a cloaking device (fittingly called a “Chameleon Circuit”) that examines the time and location of every landing spot and, from this information, chooses the most perfect form of disguise, all within milliseconds prior to landing in said time and space. Then why is the Doctor’s T.A.R.D.I.S. always a 1963, Police Public Call Box? The only excuse that he offers is that the cloaking devices froze after he landed in London in 1963 (the first episode?). However, it is well known that the Doctor is a proper genius, so fans are convinced that he is simply in love with the design.

The interior of Eleven's T.A.R.D.I.S.

The interior of Eleven’s T.A.R.D.I.S.

One interesting aspect of the T.A.R.D.I.S. is that, thanks to Time Lord technology, it is bigger on the inside. This leads to multiple gags throughout the show, as every person who enters its doors for the first time feels the need to point out this fact. According to the Doctor, this is his favorite part of the experience, although sometimes he says it first in order to save time. Little moments like this help to create the T.A.R.D.I.S. as its own character. It is a constant protector of the Doctor and his companions, and, in doing so, it never quite seems to be simply a piece of alien technology. The T.A.R.D.I.S. is with the Doctor on every adventure, and with every companion. In fact, it is the only constant in the show because, although the interior can change drastically with each new Doctor, the outside never changes more than ever-so-slightly.

Eleven with the human embodiment of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Eleven with the human embodiment of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Because of the T.A.R.D.I.S.’s importance to the show, and to the Doctor, I was really pleased when the writers brought the T.A.R.D.I.S. to life in the form of a person. Long story short, the soul of the T.A.R.D.I.S. was accidentally removed and placed within a person. I really liked seeing the Doctor’s relationship with her match my expectations. Apart, they are both quirky, together, they are even more so. Also, I loved how the episode told the backstory of how the two originally came together. The Doctor repeatedly states in the show that he stole the T.A.R.D.I.S.. However, in this episode, the T.A.R.D.I.S. claims that she stole the Doctor. By characterizing the T.A.R.D.I.S. in human form, the machine’s importance and relevance to the show becomes ever more apparent, and I think that it was a good idea to give voice to this fact. Sadly, at the episode’s end, the T.A.R.D.I.S. is returned to normal, meaning she will never be able to talk to the Doctor again, but it is heartwarming to know that he can still talk to her and that they will be together throughout all of time and space.

Episode Review: Asylum of the Daleks

Until today, I had never seen an episode of the newest season of Doctor Who because it’s not available online. Luckily, however, part one of the seventh series is available on DVD and I was able to begin catching up. So, this post is going to be a review of the very first episode: Asylum of the Daleks.

dalek asylum

First things first, I thought that the show was a little confusing at first. When we see Amy and Rory for the first time, we learn that they are separated and just got a divorce. What was lacking, though, is an explanation Of course, this comes into play later where we do find out, but to start things off it was a little confusing. In addition, the whole plot was introduced in a rather rushed manner. Perhaps it just appeared this was because it was the first episode of the season and I was expecting a little more of a recap of the previous season (truthfully, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the final episode of the sixth season, so perhaps that’s at least part of the reason as to why I was confused). For example, the danger with the Daleks began so quickly that there was little to no interaction between the Doctor, Amy, and Rory before they were immediately thrust into a fight for their lives.  To me, it was just a little jarring going straight into an action packed episode after such a long break.

Oswin Oswald

Oswin Oswald

Another confusing aspect of the episode for me was the appearance of Oswin Oswald. However, this has nothing to do with the structure of the episode itself rather than the fact that I have seen pictures for episodes throughout the season. To put it simply, I knew before watching the show that the actress that played the character becomes a companion merely a few episodes later, but under a different name: Clara. The entire episode I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering off towards questions of her identity. This only worsened after the surprise twist at the end of the episode that Oswin was actually a Dalek herself (although she was originally human… long story…). I thought that the twist was really clever and surprising, but it just led to more confusion on my part. How does she come bacl? Who is she? Etc. All in all, I thought that the episode was good, but was disappointed in how rushed it seemed.

“Special” Effects

Ever since the show’s beginnings, Doctor Who has been notorious for visual effects that were less than stellar due to the show’s relatively low , especially in regards to the shows aliens. A notable example of this is the Doctor’s arch enemies, the Daleks. Early on in the series, the the show’s creators had to resort to using anything and everything as part of the Dalek’s bodies. The most interesting addition to the Dalek’s outer shell was the use of a plunger as the Dalek’s probing arm. Nowadays, of course, the plunger is no longer present. Effects such as these can be a turnoff for new viewers because they are rather distracting. For example, A Cyberman can hardly be considered a major threat to the shows characters when it is so obvious that they are comprised of actors in suits. Of course, die-hard fans of the series can see past these flaws, but new viewers may not understand the limitations of a smaller budget. When one thinks of a sci-fi genre show or movie, good effects are assumed a necessity.


Luckily, the effects of the show have gotten better in recent years thanks to a vastly improved budget. For example, in the seventh series, one episode featured dinosaurs that surprisingly looked realistic. In addition, as previously mentioned, the Daleks are much more formidable in the newer seasons of Doctor Who (although they are still bound to the basic concept of the original series, which admittedly doesn’t scream danger). Hopefully, with such new improvements, the show will be able to reach out to a wider range of viewers who were previously too put off by the show’s effects to pay attention to the quirky yet deep storyline that long time viewers have fallen in love with. in addition, more viewers may mean more money for episodes in the future, where the show can continue to grow in the area of special effects.

Doctor, Doctor, Doctor

One of the major plot point of the Doctor Who  series is the fact that the Doctor can regenerate, meaning that, when inches away from death, the Doctor essentially becomes a whole new person, with a new body and personality (although memories and strong personality traits such as quirkiness remain). In the world of the show, this process means that the Doctor can live another day to have more adventures and save more civilizations. In the real world, however, this means that, when an actor leaves, the show can go on. To this date, there have been a grand total of eleven Doctors. Personality, I have only seen the most recent three, so I am going to take a moment to talk about them each briefly here.

Nine - Christopher Eccleston

Nine – Christopher Eccleston

Most people seem to forget about Nine, since he was only around for a single season, which saddens me greatly. Sure, he wasn’t as attractive or funny as his successors, but Christopher Eccleston, who portrayed the character, performed well despite that he was given the tough job of being the first Doctor to appear in the new revamped series. His sterner, slightly more serious image was caused by the offscreen destruction of his home and entire race (which occurred before the first episode). He paved the way for the next Doctors to come.

Ten - David Tennant

Ten – David Tennant

David Tennant is arguably one of the most loved Doctors in the show’s history. His portrayal of Ten brought the quirkiness factor up to an extreme, but didn’t leave the character lacking in emotional depth either. In the new series, Ten currently holds the record for most companions. Tennants ability to create an on screen chemistry with each and everyone brings the character out of his slight stupor and more into being himself. However, he also expertly executes dramatic scene where the Doctor is still shown to be haunted greatly by his past, where he was apparently the cause of all of the before mentioned chaos and destruction. He portrays a perfect balance between the Doctor’s inner child and his emotionally scarred adult self.

Eleven - Matt SmithBehind: The Previous Ten Doctors

Eleven – Matt Smith
Behind: The Previous Ten Doctors

If any one ever thought of Ten as being quirky, then they are sure in for a surprise with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. My favorite Doctor, by far, Smith completely amps up the comedy of the show. Viewers truly never know just what he’s going to do next, which adds to the mystery of the character. It can be easy to forget that he is, indeed, an alien. With Matt Smith, however, this fact is ever apparent. This doesn’t take away from the story, however, as Smith has made leaps and bounds in delving deep into the Doctor’s subconscious; his doubts concerning his own actions, and those of everyone else. Smith adds yet another layer to an already deeply layered character.

Captain Jack (Harkness, not Sparrow)

captain jack harkness

Over the course of Doctor Who, many Doctors have come and gone. But, the Doctor isn’t the only person who changes: each Doctor has several companions throughout their runs that come and go as well, and more often. For example, the Tenth Doctor alone more than five different companions: one for each season that he was a part of. ONce these companions leave, they are often gone for good, only to seldom reappear for an episode or two here and there. Captain Jack Harkness, however, is a special case. Jack first appeared in the first season of the revamped show, which began airing in 2005, with the Ninth Doctor as a con artist from the distant future. He was only a companion for a few episodes, however, before, assumed dead, he was left behind. In 2006, Jack appeared as the main character of a spin-off show known as Torchwood.

 Aimed at an older audience than its Doctor Who counterpart, Torchwood focuses on the adventures of Captain Jack (Pirates of the Caribbean anyone?) as he joins the Torchwood Institute, an Earth institute dedicated to researching and combatting alien lifeforms. Due to a mishap during his time on Doctor Who, Captain Jack becomes immortal, which, of course, helps in his adventures. The thing that I like about the show is that you don’t have to watch Torchwood in order to follow Doctor Who, or vice versa. Instead, if you do follow both shows, a lot of subtle details appear that you will be able to understand. For example, even before the Jack and the Doctor reunite (at this time the Doctor has changed from the Ninth to the Tenth), there are a lot of nods to Torchwood by the characters of Doctor Who, through events that occur throughout the show. In addition, Jack uses his immortality, which so often comes in handy in Torchwood, to help the Doctor as well.

captain jack harkness 2

Captain Jack is definitely one of my favorite companions, so it’s always exciting when he returns. My only question for him now, however, is whether or not he will return once again to meet the Eleventh Doctor. Although he’s come back several times during the Tenth Doctor’s multiple seasons, he has yet to appear since the newest Doctor has taken over. Personally, I think that, because of the Eleventh Doctor’s ultra-quirky personality and Captain Jack’s ever-flirtatious attitude, their interactions would be the best Jack/Doctor interactions yet.

A Way With Words

dw quotes

One of the major appeals of Doctor Who, at least for me, is the show’s way with words. Fans for any show always seem to enjoy catchphrases, etc, which Doctor Who definitely isn’t short of. Each Doctor, as a part of the creation of his own personality, apart from past reincarnations, seems to have a catchphrase of their very own. For example, Nine’s was “Fantastic!” Ten’s was “Allons-y!” and Eleven had “Come along, Pond (after which this blog is named),” among several others. These catchphrases help to set the different Doctors apart from one another, while also making the show more memorable among fans and new viewers. The Doctor isn’t the only character with memorable quotes, however, as the companions also have catchphrases that help to establish their personalities and to make them memorable as well. For example, River Song has several: “Hello, Sweetie!” and “Spoilers!” These quirky catcphrases, among other quirky dialogue, also gives the show its ever so crucial comic edge.

timey wimey

The show’s writing goes deeper than simple catchphrases intended to become everyday sayings among fans, however, as the show also succeeds in making memorable quotes that  tug at the heartstings of viewers, allowing them to see the deeper sides of the characters and to become more emotionally invested in them and the show as a whole.  Although the show seems very ridiculous from a glance, what with crazy monsters, quick-paced and quirky dialogue, and a “mad man with a box,” the emotional quotes help to add another layer to the show, to make the show deeper than it appears. Fans can look back on these quotes when they are feeling sad, or discouraged, to give them hope. For example, the Dcotor says, “Do you know, in 900 yeras of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” All in all, Doctor Who has a way with words. The show is able to play at many diferent emotions in a viewer. even in just a single episode, which is was makes the writing of the show important: it appeals to fans from every angle of their personal being.

good things

The Doctor’s In… America

The series began in 1963 in England, staying on air until 1989. In 2005 the show came back with an all new, revamped season. The show has become a cult phenomenon in England, where pretty much everyone at least knows of the show, even on the off chance that they don’t actually watch it. The annual Christmas special is a huge family event, where everyone gathers around on Christmas day to watch. The phenomenon has been felt in England since the show’s return to the small screen, consistently receiving high ratings and appealing to viewers of all ages, young and old. Some have argued that the show has even defined the channel, BBC.  In America, however, viewers are just recently starting to feel the power of the Doctor and company.

doctor who utah

Two years ago, the show was picked up by BBC America, where ratings have been favorable and steadily growing ever since. Prior to that point, the show had been someone notorious for its less than stellar special effects caused by a low budget. Such aesthetics are typically hard to market to an American audience spoiled by the Hollywood industry, so more modern special effects have definitely been a plus in gaining a broader American audience. Another pull has been the fact that the most recent seasons, with the Eleventh Doctor, have even filmed in America several times, in locations such as New York and Utah. This was the first time that the series ever filmed in the US throughout it’s entire, nearly fifty year run. Publicity surrounding the first filming in Utah exploded among the online international fan base. The show has even received massive fan supports at major American conventions such as ComicCon, much to the surprise of the actors of the show.

doctor who comic con

The online community has also been a major draw for American fans. Known as “Whovians” in America (inspiration for the name of this site, of course), a term seldom used elsewhere, fans of the series use online methods to view and discuss the show and to become more deeply involved in the series. Websites such as Tumblr serve as hubs for Whovians to interact with each other and theorize about the show, spaz about the characters, and to spread the knowledge of the show. Soon, perhaps, American awareness of the show might even equal that of England. I for one, as someone who watched the show when it first came back on in 2005, have definitely noticed a major difference in its popularity over time. So, who knows? Pun somewhat intended.

doctor who new york

Sonic What?


Oh the sonic screwdriver – the ever present companion of the Doctor. It’s not really a screwdriver, of course, it’s an extremely helpful piece of Gallifreyan (Time Lord) technology that has a seemingly limitless range of functions that works on anything (except wood). However, it seems as though the Doctor usually just uses it to unlock doors and the like. Basically, I like to think of the sonic screwdriver as an extension of the Doctor as sort of a tool form of himself because it seems to embody everything that is the Doctor. First off, the screwdriver is not a weapon. Of  course not! The Doctor hates any sort of weapon and prefers to handle situations without them. Second, like a real screwdriver, it can fix things, which is all the Doctor is ever really trying to do: fix the mistakes of humans, aliens, etc. in order to save them all. Finally, in my opinion, the whole idea of it is just plain quirky, just like the Doctor, no matter which regeneration he possesses.


Although I like the sonic screwdriver and the possibilities it presents, I do think that it is oftentimes used by the writers as a sort of go-to loophole to get the Doctor out of an otherwise inescapable pickle. For example, the screwdriver can disarm, cause a short circuit, and reverse a magnetic field. The screwdrivers functions are never explicitly stated or known by the viewers beyond what they have seen, meaning that any new function can be invented if needed in a certain situation. On the other hand, the opposite is also sometimes true. When the screwdriver presents an all to easy or predictable means of escape, it has been known to suddenly become useless. For example, even though unlocking doors is arguable the most known and used function, there have been several instances where alien technology, or some other excuse, interferes with the all powerful device. So, even though I think that the idea of the screwdriver is brilliant, especially since it perfectly represents the Doctor, sometimes I feel like it’s slightly overused in the plot.

Who’s Who, Behind the Story

Several writers contribute to every season of Doctor Who. However, there is always a lead writer for each season as well. With the reboot of the series in 2005, Russel T. Davies occupied this position. However, he stepped down and was replaced by Steven Moffat who became the head writer at the beginning of the fifth series and has occupied the position since. To be honest, I remember watching the show when it was still airing with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, but I never really had the urge to keep up with the show, even though I liked it a lot. I didn’t have BBC or Netflix at the time, so it was too difficult for my lazy mind to handle. However, I recently watched Sherlock, another BBC show, which I instantly fell in love with. I was really surprised when I learned that one of the writers and producers of the show was Moffat and that he was also tied to Doctor Who. I really liked the intricate story lines and characterizations of Sherlock, so I decided to give Doctor Who another shot, starting the the Eleventh Doctor, whose first series coincides with Steven Moffat’s as head writer. The first thing that came to mind was that I was watching a completely different show than what I had watched in the past with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

When it comes down to basic story lines for the show, I have come to conclude that Moffat leans more towards the mysterious, overarching plots than Davies. Moffat includes plot elements that stretch over multiple series that effect most episodes in each series. For example, the Silence were introduced in series five, and are still involved in series seven without ever truly explaining their purpose of existence to the story in full, only revealing a little at a time. In addition, there was the over arching question of who exactly is River Song? Of course, this was eventually explicitly revealed in the episode titles “The Wedding of River Song.” Davies, on the other hand, included large plot elements, but they never seemed to stretch beyond a few episodes. For example, the reintroduction of the Master’s character was a huge twist, but it was resolved with his death a few episodes later. Something tells me that if Moffat had been at the reigns at the time, we might have more to see of the Master yet, which may still be the case, as it seems that any flaws in logic can be easily explained away within the show, no matter who is writing. When it comes down to it, I feel as though Moffat’s writing style for the show matches that of Sherlock in these respects, with the character of Moriarty being the over arching plot element, and perhaps this similarity is why I enjoy the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor far more than Nine or Ten.