50 Years of Who: The Doctor
John Hussey wraps up his 50 Years of Who series with an overview of the Doctor himself.
The Function of the Doctor
The Doctor’s function within the show is the most straightforward function of all: he is the hero. More than that he is the driving force and is the reason, we the viewer, return week in, year out. The Doctor forms the magnet for the reason we tune in. We want to know what the mad man with the box will be getting up to within his adventures. He is a multi-depth hero of many mysteries that it just leaves you wanting to know who exactly this Time Lord is. After 50 years of his adventures we still don’t fully know who he is and that is the greatest thing about his character: he leaves you wanting more.
The Different Doctor Personalities
The Doctor has had many different personalities throughout his time on the show. Namely down to the unique concept of regeneration. Regeneration is the means the Doctor uses to change his psychical form in order to feign death or fatal injuries. The process results in a complete renewal of the Time Lord’s body and personality, making him a completely different man while actually remaining the same person.
The Doctor within his first incarnation started off as a very grumpy and frail old man who wished to see the universe with an uncaring and selfish attitude. This way of thought was soon persuaded into a more cheerful one upon his interaction with his first companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. They mellowed out the alien nature of his biology and made him into a more caring and soft centred man, becoming a more sweet, loving grandfather figure among his many companions.
Upon his second incarnation however the Doctor became a very different man in terms of both looks and personality. His personality became more comical and somewhat clownish, making everyone around him to believe he was a harmless cosmic hobo in which he used to his advantage. Deep down his manipulative ways still remained and he managed to defeat his enemies through his clever ways. It was also in this form that he became more heroic and started to really display his beliefs in saving the universe rather than observing it like his fellow Time Lords would suggest through their bizarre laws for time.
The Doctor’s third incarnation led him to become even more heroic with a sort of James Bond feel in which he took up to using gadgets, vehicles and action to save the day. It was also apparent within this incarnation that his behaviour became even more childlike, with him displaying tantrums in order to showcase his frustration of being exiled on Earth by the Time Lords. He was often uncooperative or simply made his views apparent by being rude. Underneath all of this though was a gentle soul who wished to enjoy the company of others to join him on his adventures and to show them the universe he wished to see. He grew a fondness for his companions and this was especially reflected upon their departure. It was seen in his third incarnation during Jo Grant’s departure where he almost couldn’t bare to see her go and walked silently away before getting into Bessie and driving off into the night.
His fourth incarnation brought out further notions of his childlike side and his behaviour merely reflected this idea that inside the Doctor is just a massive kid. At the same time as this his darker side and anger did tend to creep up every now and again when provoked. This gave the Doctor a double-edge as to who he was and what kind of a person he could be. One moment he could be a lovable and caring character while the next he could retain a heartless and angry side which provoked many dark scenarios for his enemies. Although this was becoming the case through his maturing and development in time the Doctor was contained and expressed a very warm side that craved adventure.
The fifth incarnation of the Doctor became a very active and young spirited individual who took it upon himself to do things in a different light. He became more charming and gentle. For the first time the Time Lord gained a sort of human side to him. This side to him made him feel less alien and more concerning and understanding to his companions, whilst at the same time keeping his atmospheric feel of mystery and dark nature. Though he became more human like in behaviour and feelings he also became near enough vulnerable from time to time which was a first for the Time Lord.
The opposite could be said for the sixth incarnation who became a rather dark Doctor. His attitude was very smug and he thought very highly of himself. Along with that he became rather rude to his companion Peri Brown and was easily annoyed by what she and others said. He was also more hands on with how he dealt with things, resulting sometimes in more violent ways of defeating his enemy. This however started to change as his life-cycle progressed and he did in fact mellow out like with his first incarnation.
With the seventh incarnation we began to see further into the tropes demonstrated by the Doctor’s darker, manipulative side as he started to use trickery and mind games to defeat his enemies. He still retained his sense of jokey nature with clownish behaviour from time to time, more in his early days before the manipulative side started to become the dominate behaviour pattern. The seventh incarnation returned to a more mysterious nature and his adventures reflected that by giving him the sense of being more than just an ordinary Time Lord from Gallifrey.
A transition began with the eighth incarnation as he took the Doctor’s personality into a more modern setting. Like with the fifth incarnation he became more charming and gentle but still retained a very angry side to him when provoked, especially by the Daleks. The latest addition to his personality was romance and for the first time intimately kissed a fellow companion. One thing the eighth incarnation tried very hard to do was preserve the name in which he promised to himself to follow and act by until the very end.
The ninth incarnation took a horrid turn in direction to his previous incarnations by separating himself from them. He took away his name and became something that the Doctor had never become before: a warrior of warfare and carnage. The Time War turned him into something he wasn’t (and even to this day we don’t fully know the extent of his actions during the terrible conflict). In the end though his true personality shone out above the darkened ways he swore by in his war Doctor state: hope and kindness. Although he knew he didn’t have another way of stopping the war other than burning his own race with the Moment, he still knew deep down that he was still the Doctor and wished for another way out of the darkness around him. In many ways the ninth incarnation proved to be most Doctor-ish out of all his incarnation for the decisions he made in the name of peace and sanity.
The tenth incarnation became sad in his way of life due to the heartache of the things he had done during the Time War. The thought of his hands bringing an apparent end to the Time Lords destroyed him within, leaving him with regret which he hid through a layer of anger and a temper that snapped at the people around him. After a while though his companion Rose Tyler, much like with Ian and Barbara with the first incarnation, brought him out of his sorrow and gave him life again by the end of his incarnation.
The next set of incarnations continued the tropes introduced by the ninth incarnation. Though the eleventh incarnation had reached a point of relief, it soon changed when he began to experience loss while his enemy continued to survive. It made him bitter and regret the events of the Time War more and more, turning him into an emotional wrack while still trying to retain a fun, loving side to shroud his ever growing sorrows. When he was forced to regenerate, he cast the remaining energy upon healing himself into a spare hand and remained in the same form while at the same time being classed as the twelfth incarnation. The twelfth incarnation grew even bitterer against the universe and began to solitude himself from companions until a point where he needed someone to talk to about his pain and sadness. Sadness and regret took him in the end.
Finally the thirteenth incarnation became very much a big kid who wanted to have fun and fool around across time and space. At the same time though he proved to be one of the darkest incarnation when provoked and released a terrible wrath upon his enemies. In many ways the thirteenth incarnation was the most unpredictable due to his many traits and personalities displayed. It was hard to judge what personality he would take in each of his individual adventures throughout his tenure.
Why the Doctor Has Kept the Show Going
The Doctor has kept the show going for the simple reason that he has maintained the meaning of the Who within Who. He is the centre of the storyline and has been since the very beginning in ‘An Unearthly Child’. His character holds a great amount of mystery and it’s that mystery that has kept the viewers hooked. The Doctor represents the hero that we all want to stride to be: a man who does what he believes is right and wishes to do what he can to preserve peace in order to help others. That is what his name stands for. It is his code of honour and each incarnation follows those codes to maintain the promise. The greatest mystery of all about the Doctor is: what is his name? Why won’t he reveal it to us? What is so dangerous about one simple name that it has been kept from us for 50 years?
Other reasons are that he is just a brilliant character in both form and personality. He is everything we want to see. The Doctor can be both fun and entertaining whilst also being serious and determined. The great thing about the Doctor is he can be anything and that’s both the scary and exciting part. One minute he can be this daft old man walking through eternity, while the next he can become a dark manipulative man full of rage. It’s his multiple personalities that make him unique, making us never fully understanding his mind-set or what he’s thinking.
The final reason the Doctor has kept the show going is because he is forever. His ability to regenerate means that he can change and revamp the show accordingly. The many actors that have played the part can come and go as they please, leave their mark upon the character and then allow a new man to come in and do the same all over again. It allows the show to forever expand, forever develop and evolve. Regeneration has allowed it so that the same character can maintain throughout the 50 years of the show while at the same time give him the ability to change every now and again to remain fresh and exciting. The Doctor can be anything and his love for adventure will never end and will always keep him running, which will always leave us wanting to follow him on his mad and daft adventures through time and space.
Best Doctor Stories/Moments
‘The Daleks Invasion of Earth’ – The First Doctor
The First Doctor made the ultimate step in character development in this adventure. Not only did he become the hero who helped humanity devise a plan of action against the Daleks invasion of Earth, but also in finally having the courage to let go of Susan Foreman, his granddaughter, and allow her a life of her own choice and direction with the man she loves.
‘The War Games’ – The Second Doctor
The Second Doctor displayed a huge amount of courage during his trial on Gallifrey. Not only did he inform the Time Lords that their law and order was rubbish in protecting the lives of the innocent throughout time and space, but also that he was proud of the crimes of breaking the laws of time in order to become a hero and protect everyone from evil across the cosmos.
‘The Three Doctors’ – The Third Doctor
The Third Doctor went against his beliefs and views of the Time Lords in order to aid them against the threat of Omega. During this battle he learned to some degree in respecting himself by encountering his former selves and by working together with them he managed to stop Omega. As his reward he was finally forgiven by the Time Lords and allowed to travel in the TARDIS once more.
‘The Deadly Assassin’ – The Fourth Doctor
The Fourth Doctor realised the hard way about the values of a companion. He suffered a terrible mind battle with the Master within the Matrix and afterwards finally stopped his sinister plans to gain further regenerations at the cost of destroying Gallifrey. This earned him much appreciation by his fellow Time Lords and also reminded him why he needs someone to help him during his adventures.
‘The Caves of Androzani’ – The Fifth Doctor
The Fifth Doctor engaged in a horrific battle for his and his companion’s, Peri Brown, life after succumbing to Spectrox toxaemia. After suffering from the symptoms of the virus, he eventually decided to give the one and only drop of antidote to Peri and chose to die himself, ultimately regenerating in the process.
‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ – The Sixth Doctor
The Sixth Doctor underwent much trauma and sadness during the course of his second trial for meddling in the affairs of others. Not only did he have to suffer with the apparent loss of his companion Peri Brown, but also with the charges of genocide. In the end he discovered the truth behind his prosecutor; the Valeyard was in fact a future version of himself, a manifestation of all his darkness created somewhere between his twelfth and thirteenth incarnation. After much battle between his darkened self, the Sixth Doctor achieved the victory and stopped the Valeyard and earned another congratulation and pardon from the Time Lords.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ – The Seventh Doctor
The Seventh Doctor endured a fatal game of manipulation in order to bring down the evil of Fenric. The long game took its toll on both sides of the battlefield and ended up with many losing their lives due to Fenric’s game and curse. The Seventh Doctor showed off his dark manipulative powers all the way till the end in order to bring the final curtain call on his enemy. After his twisted one move game of chest failed him, the Seventh Doctor resorted to cruel tactics of destroying Ace’s faith in him in order to allow the Ancient One the ability to kill Fenric once and for all. Afterwards the Seventh Doctor apologised greatly to Ace and showcased that his friendship with Ace was special and forever.
‘The Night of the Doctor’ – The Eighth Doctor
The Eighth Doctor suffered greatly during his last hour. He proved a point in the hardest way possible, resulting in his life being taken from him when he stayed onboard a falling ship to prove to the last crewmember Cass (whom he tried desperately to save) that he wasn’t like the rest of his race fighting within the Time War. Upon his deathbed he had to make the terrible decision of turning against his promise of being known as ‘the Doctor’, after much fight with the Sisterhood of Karn, and becoming a warrior within his next life to end the Time War once and for all.
‘The Day of the Doctor’ – The War Doctor
The War Doctor proved to himself the hard way round that his actions of using the Moment to end the Time War was a good thing. He felt privileged to be able to end it all in order to make way for the great men that would follow in his place. In the end he was delighted to be able to refer to himself as the Doctor again for a brief time before his regeneration, after spending his entire lifetime in that form claiming he was no longer the man of healing.
‘Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways’ – The Ninth Doctor
The Ninth Doctor proved to himself after his battle with the Daleks that he could make the right decision and chose not to take the path that will bring destruction for the cause of victory. It was the Ninth Doctor’s call for redemption after the acts he had committed as the War Doctor and finally came full cycle and became the Doctor again.
‘The Waters of Mars’ – The Tenth Doctor
The Tenth Doctor suffered his greatest battle when he became fed up of time taking everything away from him while his enemies came back over and over again. He snapped and took time into his own hands and nearly destroyed the fabric of the timelines in the process by becoming Time Lord victorious. Luckily this act of power caused him to realise the hard way that he had committed wrongs and he must face them wrongs once and for all.
‘The Name of the Doctor’ – The Eleventh Doctor
The Eleventh Doctor made the ultimate journey by travelling to the place of his burial: Trenzalore. He did this in order to save his friends Vastra, Jenny and Strax from the Great Intelligence and in doing so, crossed a point a time traveller should never do. His acts of heroism and caring nature for his friends was taken one step further when he entered his own time-stream to save Clara Oswald from destruction after she jumped in to stop the Great Intelligence from killing him. He then encountered his greatest secret in the process, i.e. the War Doctor, and grew the courage to actually acknowledge and confront it.
Thank you for reading 50 Years of Who. Sadly we have come to the end of this part of my 50th Anniversary Retrospective series and we now approach the final chapter of this long-running series with the Eleventh Doctor’s Retrospective, which will be published shortly after his final story ‘The Time of the Doctor’.