Doctor Who started in 1963 and had 26 seasons, ending in 1989. A movie in 1996 continued the story, and then in 2005 the show started producing new episodes again. Whether or not it was clear in 2005, it is now clearly established that the 2005 show is a continuation (not a reboot) of the original show.

This is a show that is created by the BBC, based in the UK. In the UK, batches of episodes are traditionally called "series", although this is perhaps changing (to use the US "season" terminology).

Wikipedia uses the terminology that Doctor Who purists use, referring to anything prior to 1990 as a "season", and anything after 2000 as a "series", i.e. the very first episode is in Season 1, but the 9th Doctor's first episode is in Series 1 (occasionally referred to as Season 27).

Rather than having discussion in comments about what the terms we should use on this site are, it would be helpful to have a consensus in this meta question. The question can then be referred to when it comes up, and a link can be added to the tag wiki.

  • 2
    If you downvote the question, could you explain it? I don't understand if it means that there should not be any discussion here, or that there are errors in the question, or something else. (Normally a meta downvote indicates disagreeing with a proposal, but there is no proposal in this question).
    – Tony Meyer
    May 29, 2011 at 5:52

3 Answers 3


I don't feel particularly qualified to answer this since I'm not a Doctor Who fan, but I do want to make two points.

Whatever terminology is chosen should be reasonably unambiguous. If my understanding is correct, that means “season 32” and “series 6” are both ok, and so are “season 6 of the 2000s revival” and “season 6 of the original series”, but a plain “season 6” should be edited (to any acceptable form) because it is ambiguous.

Speaking now as a moderator, snide comments addressed at people who don't use the same terminology are not acceptable. If legitimate confusion arises, politely refer to an explanation. If you just want to point out that your side of the Atlantic is Right and the other side is Wrong, keep it for yourself.

I've massaged the tag wiki a little. The section on “seasons and series” should clear things up. If it doesn't, please improve it (again, I'm not a Doctor Who fan, so I may well have made mistakes).

  • Note that specifying which number Doctor completely removes any ambiguity, as well as giving more information (e.g. not everyone will be immediately know that Season 16 is the 4th Doctor). I feel that "series 6" is only unambiguous to the purists that use the seasons/series split (because it could refer to the 1968/9 episodes), and (ok this problem is a long way off) "season 32" could refer to the 2037 episodes.
    – Tony Meyer
    Jun 2, 2011 at 23:19

My personal feeling is that the terminology should be left as the original poster used it. If they said that the first 2005 episode was in "Season 1", "Series 1", or "Season 27", then that should be left in place.

To counter any confusion, the question ideally has a link (to IMDB, tardis.wikia.com, Wikipedia, etc) to the episode(s), and specifies which Doctor (1st through 11th) is involved (this immediately clarifies which year is being referred to).

Although it would be nice to have consistent naming throughout the site, I feel that avoiding the bikeshedding has more value.


I was asking myself this question just the other day and left it in the too hard basket.

The classic series had it's own production identification. If I recall correctly (per the Target guide that came out early Tom Baker) each story was given a single letter code ("A", "B", "C"...) then the next 26 they went to the same letter twice ("AA", "BB", "CC") then 26 after that they went same letter three times ("AAA", "BBB", "CCC") and finally the next 26 episodes they represented the repition with a number ("4A", "4B", "4C). I think they kept this till the end, but I've also heard that they used alternate production codes too. You could go for story code then episode within story (eg. 4A-2 could be 2nd episode of Robot).

Of course this doesn't tell you which doctor, what year, and other than remembering that Robot was "4A" and guessing Unearthly Child was "A", it doesn't really give you an indication of the story.

And there lies the trick to this question. What do you want the identification to tell you?

If your interested in year and then episode within year then "yyyy-ee" where "yyyy" is the year (to be 2000 compliant) and "ee" is the two digit episode. This works better for the new series because it tends to have mostly single or double episode stories, and each episode has it's unique name anyway.

Likewise the series number + episode number works well, but just leaves you with the arguments about whether to restart the series number and whether to count years where they have a bit of break. Since the classic episodes predate torrenting, it seems that the accepted practice has been to restart the new series from S1 and move on.

Incidently most of the Hartnell episodes had unique names too even though they were all organised into multi-episode stories. They dropped the episodes names, I think towards the end of the season before the one that Troughton arrives in.

The problem for me is that I don't tend to think of the classic series as season + episode. I tend to think of Doctor + Story + Episode, and that's how I identify the classic series. So I use two different schemes, one for classic, one for new.

There was a fan/parody mag, I think called "Ming Mongo" or something that seemed to have a very solid argument for how to identify Dr Who episodes, with reasons for the format that made a lot of sense, but nobody else seemed to use it, so I put it down to even when your right, if everyone else is wrong, your still wrong.

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