The Whoniverse has finally arrived on BBC iPlayer, just in time for Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary celebrations. Are you ready to take your first steps in a new dimension of adventures?
For a long time, the Whoniverse has been fandom’s unofficial way of referring to all the media that constitutes the Doctor Who universe across television, audio, books, comics, and so on. These incorporate canonical (and not so canonical) series and numerous spin-offs. And now, as we approach Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, the BBC has made the name official by creating its own Whoniverse hub on the BBC iPlayer.
For many people, this will be their first introduction to the world of the Doctor, and they may be unsure where to start. Fortunately, the Whoniverse’s landing page has categorised everything quite clearly, making a distinction between the first era of Doctor Who (or the Classic era, as it’s sometimes known) which ran from 1963 – 1996, and the modern era, from 2005 – 2022.
And a person who is new to the Whoniverse could begin comfortably with either of these. Alas, the very first Doctor Who story ‘An Unearthly Child‘ is currently unavailable due to the BBC not having all the rights, but the next earliest adventure ‘The Daleks’ would also make a great jumping-on point.
At the same time, it’s worth remembering that many of the earliest Doctor Who stories were (relatively) light in terms of continuity, and many of the Classic serials were self-contained, like movies. So it’s possible for a newcomer to just pick a random adventure and have a great ride. Check out Lovarzi’s guide to Classic Doctor Who for our recommendations.
The modern era, however, is a little trickier to jump straight into, so if you’re going to start here then it’s probably a good idea to begin with ‘Rose,’ which is the very first episode. Alternatively, ‘The Eleventh Hour‘ from 2010 acted as something of a soft reboot, as did ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ in 2018.
And then there are all the spin-off series. The Whoniverse has amassed quite a few of these so far, and knowledge of the larger Doctor Who universe isn’t essential to enjoy these shows, as they can be enjoyed in their own right. So feel free to jump into Torchwood, Class or The Sarah Jane Adventures for a guaranteed good time, although you will of course have a greater understanding of their links to the Whoniverse if you watch some of the main Doctor Who adventures first, like ‘Army of Ghosts’ in Torchwood‘s case.
That being said, a good number of visitors to the Whoniverse will be hardcore Doctor Who fans who may have been watching the series since it first aired. Because of this, the BBC has also produced a raft of original content to appeal to the more seasoned ‘Whovian.’
Perhaps one of the most exciting of these is Tales of the TARDIS, which reunites characters from the Classic era of the show. This is a new spin-off series which sees Classic companions board a special TARDIS and, during their time there, reflect on the adventures they had with the Doctor. Each individual episode incorporates episodes from the Classic era, so in a way these new scenes act as introductions to past adventures.
But the Tales from the TARDIS episodes are also mini adventures in their own right. They maintain the continuity of the Classic era and tell new stories with past companions. These are Maureen O’Brien as Vicki and Peter Purves as Steven; Frazer Hines as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe; Katy Manning as Jo and Daniel Anthony as Clyde (from The Sarah Jane Adventures); Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor and Janet Fielding as Tegan; Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri; and Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace.
As the doctorwho.tv website puts it: “These Doctor Who legends step back into character to reflect on their adventures and in the process they discover something new, leaving viewers with a new insight into the story of each timeless pair.
“Over six parts, each episode of Tales of the TARDIS features a different duo, with brand new scenes woven together with classic episodes to create a feature-length omnibus episode.”
Here’s how Doctor Who‘s showrunner Russell T Davies introduced the Whoniverse: “The word Whoniverse was invented by fans, so it’s time to give it official status. And Tales of the TARDIS is one of the greatest delights of my career – to see old Doctors and companions reunited, still fighting the good fight, is a perfect way to celebrate the Doctor’s 60th birthday!”
Speaking later on Instagram, Davies added: “The Doctor and Tegan meet again! And face some difficult memories from the past. Companions from the 60s, Steven and Vicki, find themselves back on board the TARDIS with a very special wish. While Jamie and Zoe can’t possibly remember each other after their memories were wiped… or can they? Jo Grant’s got a very important message for Clyde Langer. The Seventh Doctor and Ace need to face some fundamental truths. While the Sixth Doctor and Peri are reunited after so many years… but with anger, or joy?”
Certainly, this initial wave of content is just the beginning. With three new specials on their way in November 2023, plus a brand new series with the Fifteenth Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, the Whoniverse is set to expand. Indeed, a range of other programmes have already appeared on iPlayer, including The Science of Doctor Who with Professor Brian Cox, the 1977 documentary Whose Doctor Who, and the new documentary Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes. It will be curious to see what other documentaries and spin-off series arrive as the Whoniverse gets bigger.
In the meantime, tell us: where will you begin with your adventures in the Whoniverse? And where would you direct a newcomer? Let me know in the comments below.