Big 50: DWTV’s Favourite Doctors & Stories (Part 1)
The Doctor Who TV community and contributors select their favourite Doctors and stories.
By Thomas Capon & Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull
The big day will soon be upon us. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know that the 23rd is The Day of the Doctor. One of the huge benefits of Doctor Who has been its ability to create communities. This site is such a community and we, the members of this community, thought that this time of celebration would be a good point to firstly say ‘Thank you’ to the wonderful group of individuals who run this site and also to welcome new users who may be considering joining us.
Many members of this site will be aware why we have chosen that particular picture to act as header. It is a reference to one of the in-jokes. From left to right you can see: Trevor, Sea Humphrey and ‘The Sea Devil who broke the terms and conditions’. This is just one example of the silly stuff we get up to in the discussion areas.
This article is here to introduce you to many of the members of this site. So we dedicate this article to those who have been left by the wayside.
Now to introduce you to them, various members and contributors of DWTV have been asked to write a small piece about their favourite Doctors and stories. So now you’re sitting comfortably, let us begin:
Colin Baker! Because everything about the Sixth Doctor Era is just incredible. I love a loud, brash, egotistical and melodramatic Doctor in a cool Technicolor dream coat. Forget Captain Jack Harkness, Nick Fury, Jaime Lannister, Edward Elric or whatever other coat wearing hero you can think of because Technicolor dream coats are cool and they always will be! The dynamic between Six and Peri is also brilliant and there is never a dull moment whenever these two converse, not even if they’re talking about the weather.
My favorite story from the Classic Era is Attack of the Cybermen. Never mind tin-foil, pot belly Cybermen, you have the Chameleon Circuit turning the TARDIS into a pipe organ! Imagine that: Time Travel…in a pipe organ? Plus you have the Doctor being an absolute badass; destroying Cybermen with their own weaponry and generally being a pain in everyone else’s backside because as soon as Six lands somewhere, every viewer knows that he is just better than everyone else, but what sets Six apart from all the other Doctors is that he isn’t afraid to tell you that straight to your face!
The Great Patrick Troughton! When William Hartnell eventually relinquished the role, the fans of Doctor Who were left wondering – who would fill the shoes of the man that was essentially, Doctor Who? It was then we met Patrick Troughton, who brought a more energetic and eccentric style to the role. His ability to manipulate wit and cheek and still be very authoritative in presence at the same time is one that we can only marvel at. Patrick’s Doctor worked with his companions in a way that is unique to his venture – he was their best friend. The way the Doctor and Jamie work off each other is extremely nostalgic to look back on, with every interaction between the two being so effortless.
The Second Doctor was very much a little boy stuck in the body of an old man, a free spirit eager to explore the universe, ready to see the millions of sights that awaited him, but his presence was also a very strong one at the same time. Facing enemies like Salamander, the Great Intelligence, Daleks, Ice Warriors, Cybermen and even Sontarans in “The Two Doctors”, the Second Doctor never backed down on what he believed in, and stood for morals, freedom and compassion. In one word, the Second Doctor was ‘passionate’, and will sit forever in my heart, drawn with the Eleventh Doctor, as the Greatest Doctor of the all. and even though Patrick isn’t with us any longer, his legacy remains through his dedication and loyalty, to Doctor Who.
The stand out Patrick episode has to undoubtedly be The Tomb of the Cybermen which sees the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria face the Cybermen in such a terrifying style, with such class, more so than any Cybermen episode has managed before or since. The Doctor in the episode excels as a genius and a leader, but always puts his duty of care for his companions at the utmost importance. A close runner up to tomb was “The War Games”, with really pushed Patrick’s abilities to new heights in his final hours; I.e his terror when recognising the time lords, his joy in seeing Zoe and Jamie home safe, and his defeat after it was clear that the Doctor was about to Regenerate. Patrick Troughton; The Great, The Adventurous, The Passionate: The Doctor.
To eulogise the Best Doctor Ever, known to his mates as Chris (Eccleston), as plainly ‘the one who brought back the show’, is a severe understatement; and pretty flipping ignorant. He didn’t merely coincide with a landmark in the show’s history; though defined by his sternness and austerity, he was jovial, vigilant, Northern – and possibly the ninthest Doctor the show’s ever seen (yes, even ninther than Rowan Atkinson’s arguably non-canon incarnation). His age and temperament reflect that of a typical father-figure – the most paternal of Doctors, which RTD wrote sublimely.
Take Bad Wolf, where he found himself partaking in a Big Brother eviction (my favourite performance from his run). He coolly detached himself from the situation, however intrigued or excited he felt, as any phlegmatic father would. He isn’t disgruntled or self-righteous – his attitude reflects an obligation of responsibility for those he feels the need to care for.
To cut his story short saved him from unnecessary caricaturisation. Personally, I don’t think the Time War made him despondent – it forced him to put a value on the luxury lifestyle he enjoys and imposes on others. So here’s a toast, to Christopher Eccleston. The ninthest – and the best.
It’s difficult to decide on a story that balances nostalgia with genuine magnificence from my list of favourites – but for me, Aliens of London/World War Three clinches it. Brimming with the pantomimic splendour I have grown to mourn in recent years, it encapsulates my love for Russell T Davies’ episodes on the whole. Aliens of London felt like the definitive bridge between the classic and modern eras. For once, the monster doesn’t turn up until the very end; that’s a proper Part One in my books! Yet the whole narrative manages to be so gripping. It’s not about pigs and farts – something I’ve never said before and hopefully will never have to say again – it’s about humans. And I don’t mean characters; I’m talking about the human race en masse.
The thing about satire (though I’m not entirely positive, so pick me up on it if I’m wrong) is that it highlights how utterly ridiculous everything is – people, places, the universe in general – and how we’re nearly always oblivious to it. Throughout the story, we’re constantly reminded of humankind’s little blunders and complete ignorances, in all shapes and sizes. You’d think, with it being Doctor Who and all, that little by little, our characters start seeing sense by the climax. And they do – Mickey and Jackie inevitably become heroes, Harriet is elected – but then the papers claim the invasion was a hoax. And society returns back to where it started. “They’re just not ready,” says the Doctor. “You’re happy to believe in something that’s invisible, but if it’s staring you in the face – ‘Nope, can’t see it’. There’s a scientific explanation for that. You’re thick.” It’s a hilarious enough moral, isn’t it? Now that’s satire. I think.
When I first started watching Doctor Who in 2008, David Tennant was the Doctor and I thought he was fantastic. After watching my first classic episode, The Brain of Morbius, I realised that actually David’s portrayal of the character was really quite human, and despite the fact I liked it, after watching a few more classic episodes, I didn’t think that fitted an alien character at all. I watched Series 1, and found Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal brilliant, but I still preferred some of the classic Doctors because I preferred their more alien performances.
When I heard that David Tennant was leaving and a much younger man by the name of Matt Smith was taking the role, I was sceptical, but by the end of Series 5 my mind was settled. I thought that the Eleventh Doctor was the perfect mix of alien and silliness, and it fitted me perfectly. I love it because it was brilliant fun watching this crazy man interact with humans, how he has no idea about human culture and how it works and how he’s more interested in science and astronomy than in women (well, that’s debatable considering River Song) is what makes Eleven my favourite Doctor.
As my favourite episode I can’t decide between Remembrance of the Daleks and The Eleventh Hour. I think both episodes capture the essence of the show brilliantly. The Eleventh Hour is the perfect first story for Smith, with fantastic pace and a fantastic plot. I often find some of the classic episodes a little hard to watch, just because of the length. I find that many of them drag, but Remembrance of the Daleks doesn’t. It doesn’t drag, and it really shows off the Daleks, with possibly the greatest cliffhanger in Doctor Who history, when after 25 years, it is shown that the Daleks can climb stairs. 1963 was captured perfectly as well, and I can’t help but laugh at the moment when the telly is on and ‘a new science fiction show’ is about to start. Overall, two perfect episodes.
William Hartnell’s First Doctor was an amoral enigma. He was ignobly aloof, and he was a crotchety, callous old man; perniciously self-preserving, and perilously intrepid. His attempt to execute a wounded pursuer during “An Unearthly Child” with a jagged piece of stone was an exemplar of this; underlining his patent disregard for what he considered to be the lesser lives of human beings. Successive incarnations have had their morals greyed in various circumstances, but there has always been an angle of heroism to embellish it – whereas, the First Doctor’s actions were synonymous of the inherent elitism of Time Lords in general, and were thoroughly unprincipled at their core. Bill really obtruded the “alien” quality of the First Doctor through his emphasis on traits that were exhibitive of some degree of inhumanity.
This was further enforced through the gradual, evolutionary humanisation of his character. Ian and Barbara’s companionship taught him of the merit of human beings’, and the appreciable impression this left was firmly highlighted with their departure in “The Chase” evoking such obvious melancholy from the abandoned Doctor – somewhat veiled as ever by his outwardly staid demeanour. The progressive course of the First Doctor remains the most substantial, consistent and satisfying of any incarnation. His portrayal encompassed the connotations of the words ‘Doctor Who’ through the complexities and ambiguity of his initial characterisation, which eventually flourished into the template we now know and love, creating the mantle for all the others to pick up.
“The God Complex”, quite apart from everything else, serves as the most acute analogy for certain elements of the Doctor’s characterisation. The Minotaur, a godly being succumbed to its base instinct – i.e. it transports the faithful aboard its vessel so as to convert their various faiths into a form of energy it can consume – mirrors the Doctor’s compulsion to entrance human beings into the TARDIS, and how in doing so, most of his companions are irrevocably changed. Whithouse toys with the notion that the Doctor cannot restrain his exigency for the accompaniment of humans, and like the Minotaur earlier in the episode, has him acknowledge this during one of his communes with Rita, in which he draws parallels between the wonders of time and space and the allure of sweets to a small child. In effect, the sweets are soured, just like the exerted worship of the Minotaur, and those he offers them to would do well to turn them down.
Amelia’s near fateful constancy to the Doctor is the clearest example of the detrimental effects his impression on people can have, and is the crux of the narrative’s resolution, with her faith in him dispelled upon the Doctor’s revelation that in her he sought only adoration. Once again alluding to the fact that the Doctor *needs* this brand of devoted companionship, just like the Minotaur requires it for sustenance. The equivalences are numerous beyond this, though: the labyrinthine hotel is analogous of the TARDIS’ illimitably convoluted interior; the divinity of the Minotaur reflective of the Doctor’s almost deific standing as the last of the Time Lords; the rooms comprised of nightmares representative of the horrors the Doctor’s travels subject his companions to, and the faith these cause the Minotaur’s victims to fall back on comparative to the Doctor’s associates relying on his rescue from whatever predicaments transpire during their misadventures.
It’s difficult to do “The God Complex” the justice it really deserves in such a short segment, so I’ve chosen to focus on its homology to aspects of the Doctor’s character, since I believe it to be the most defining element. But this episode flourishes in all regards – in particular, with the eerie claustrophobia of Hurran’s direction, creating an otherworldly ambience, despite the seeming normality of the hotel’s décor. I’ll simply finish by saying it is quintessential Doctor Who, in every respect.
Join us tomorrow for the next part of this article.