The (eternally?) ongoing science-fiction powerhouse TV series Doctor Who made its BBC debut on November 23, 1963, and planet Earth has been a more enjoyably bizarre place ever since.
The Doctor, as the hero is actually named, is a galaxy-tripping Time Lord from an alien planet who explores every freaky nook of the universe in a wonky spacecraft called the TARDIS which, as luck would have it, looks like an early ’60s British police emergency telephone booth.
As The Doctor can, and does, frequently change his human appearance, the character has been portrayed by twelve different actors. The original, William Hartnell, was something of an aristocrat, while the current, unprecedentedly popular incarnation, as played by Peter Capaldi, is cheeky and roguish (to keep it in very British terms). The ten Docs in between have been a mixed bag of oddness.
Most famous among The Doctor’s crackpot adversaries are the Daleks, octopus-like brain creatures who cruise around in high-tech trashcan-looking armored vehicles and who can be defeated by whacking their eyeballs with cricket bats. Keep that technique in mind should you meet one (especially if it’s just some dude doing cosplay).
Prior to its current version, Doctor Who initially made its greatest impact stateside in the 1970s, when the titular hero was played by Tom Baker as a curly-haired sad-sack with a too-long proto-Harry-Potter scarf. That stage of Doctor Who also made the show’s eerie electronic theme song a worldwide semi-sensation, introducing many listeners to synth-pop and freaking out a lot of dogs who were sitting too close to TV speakers.
As Doctor Who has grown in sophistication and intensity over the past half-century, so, too, have fans of both the series and the character. Check out this gallery of Doctor Who devotees. If you’re not a Doctor Who devotee, it’ll still be pretty amazing–and considering the number of femme fans out there, it couldn’t hurt to recognize a Doctor Who tattoo when you see one…