Strangest of the Doctor’s Relationships… Is With Himself
Guest contributor Gustaff examines what happens when Doctor meets Doctor in the multi-Doctor specials.
‘The entire universe is at stake and I’m locked in here with another incarnation of myself, and not even one of the good ones.”
– Seventh Doctor
Yes. As much as we adore River Song, the most unusual relationship the Doctor has ever had is of course with himself (er…himselves). Since we’re less than one year away from another potential clash of the egos, I’m going to examine probably the most famous storyline that Doctor Who has ever produced. So famous that the writers only reserve it for SPECIAL OCCASIONS!
Being a show about time travel, the Doctor in all his 1200 years of meddling in history, has had the misfortune to run into himself on more than one occasion. Now one would think this is a good thing: X amount of problems divided by X amount of Doctors equals X times faster victory.
But no! For some reason, the Doctor detests running into himself and moreover, doesn’t like his successors or predecessors or at least, his taste in incarnations parallels his taste in clothing. This element in Doctor Who has given it a unique piquancy that has always made for pleasurable viewing.
Let’s start at the beginning…
The First Doctor
The First Doctor didn’t think much of his two immediate successors, relating them to a dandy and a clown. He also seemed exasperated by the 5th Doctor’s naivety in The Five Doctors. Being a grumpy old man and the original Doctor will do that to you.
The Second Doctor
Where do we start? Everyone knows the 2nd Doctor detested the 3rd. They contended in The Three Doctors. They disrespected one another in The Five Doctors. Their differing personalities meant that this was inevitable. If Pat Troughton wasn’t suffering from floating head syndrome in Dimensions of Time, we’d probably have gotten an extra 10 minutes of sparring between the two. Opposites attract? Not in this case. The 2nd Doctor seemed delighted however to meet the 5th Doctor and revealed that he greatly admired the wisdom of the 1st, so it’s not totally a loss. Then we have The Two Doctors. The 6th Doctor didn’t fare any better than the 3rd did in the 2nd Doctor’s eyes: another failure with even less dress sense. The brief time together was also met with constant banter and insult slinging. Thankfully we had the still gorgeous Nicola Bryant as then Peri Brown and her assistant referee Fraser Hines as Jamie McCrimmon to keep the Doctors on the right track. (By Doctors I mainly mean Colin Baker’s)
The Third Doctor
I’ve mentioned the Pat-Jon conflict above, but because this incarnation was used to action, he was never going to accept his predecessor’s faint-heartedness and underhanded scheming. There was never any chance of them working as a coherent unit. This continued in The Five Doctors, but like the 2nd, the 3rd Doctor treated the 5th with a witty cheek that was well received.
The Fourth Doctor
Unfortunately, the 4th Doctor didn’t have much time to bother with his other incarnations. I’d mention an audio adventure, but that 2nd Doctor was merely a clone so I won’t count it. The most I can say about this incarnation’s attitude towards his other selves was that he saw an immediate improvement over his previous body – especially the nose!
The Fifth Doctor
This Doctor was naïve, gentle and willing to follow others instead of leading if the situation called for it. Maybe it was because of this character trait that he got on so well with most of the other Doctors. He was a bit nervous around his 1st incarnation, but didn’t seem bothered by his 2nd and 3rd. That being said, he was happy as hell when they all left at the end of that story. The Doctor’s calming personality didn’t always count in his favour though. He disliked his successor and was very disgusted by the 7th adopted lifestyle in Cold Fusion. Also, he grew increasingly irritated by the 10th incarnation’s talkative personality in Time Crash and really wished the lad would just shut up.
The Sixth Doctor
This Doctor clearly thought he was the cream of the crop and in the early stages of his life; he’d have had no problem telling them that to their faces. Luckily for the others though, they didn’t occasionally meet up. That being said, this Doctor did declare his disapproval of the 5th Doctor’s… well everything in the moments after his regeneration. This wasn’t just the deliria from his regeneration though, on an adventure with Evelyn, he further touched upon his predecessor’s niceness and described his time in that incarnation as being on vacation. (Let’s keep in mind that this vacation included Adric dying, Tegan having an emotional breakdown, Nyssa infected with a deadly virus, Turlough trying to kill him multiple times over. What sort of vacation is this?) The 2nd Doctor’s abduction and side-effects that transferred to this Doctor in The Two Doctors made their relationship argumentative. This Doctor also seemed to take offence of his 8th incarnation berating his strange sartorial style in The Four Doctors and disliked his 7th incarnation in a real-life joke that consisted of Colin being fired for being too violent while Sylvester got away with blowing up planets on screen.
The Seventh Doctor
This Doctor couldn’t stand his 5th incarnation’s niceness and told Benny in The Shadow of The Scourge that almost all of his incarnations, past and future disliked the way his particular incarnation handled things. That didn’t matter though; this Doctor had more important things to do than worry about the opinions of others, let alone his other selves. The 7th Doctor also seemed annoyed with Benny when she dropped several hints about his next incarnation’s attractiveness and that maybe he should regenerate sooner rather than later. Even so, this Doctor was slightly more comfortable, even bemused when he met his successor in The Four Doctors.
The Eighth Doctor
Surprisingly, this Doctor didn’t seem to act out against the 7th when they met in The Four Doctors which is strange considering the complete personality change that occurred as a result of the regeneration. In the past, immediate successors showed uncanny disapproval of their predecessors. The 8th Doctor did however criticize his 6th incarnation’s taste in clothes and poked fun at his 5th incarnation’s incredible niceness.
The Ninth Doctor
I’m writing these last few based solely on the Doctors personalities should they team up and how they’d get along. I’m hoping nine joins the crowd. My assumed summary of his relationship with his other selves is simple. The 8th incarnation and he won’t be friends. They are too different. He probably blames the 8th for what he’s about to do in the Time War and I’d like if they touched that subject if only briefly. The same goes for the 11th’s jolly, childish nature. Hopefully it’ll return before the 50th special and if it does, the 9th and the 11th Doctors will be butting heads. Number nine and eleven would be like Dexter and Dee-Dee: One trying to work while the other busy pushing as many buttons and having as much fun as possible, much to the annoyance of the other. Measuring this Doctor against the 10th is difficult as I can’t even imagine the response. They’re somewhat alike, both still very hurt, but the 10th Doctor is further along in his healing thanks to Rose.
The Tenth Doctor
This incarnation showed an almost fanboy hero worship of the 5th Doctor (wink wink); more so than any Doctor and enjoyed poking innocent fun at his life and style. As with the 9th Doctor and the 50th anniversary, I can’t even imagine the dynamic these two could have. I can however imagine this Doctor’s talkative character getting on well with Matt’s energetic incarnation.
The Eleventh Doctor
Interesting about this Doctor is that he has met the same incarnation on at least 3 occasions, once in The Big Bang, once on a date with River Song in Last Night and another in the company of Amy and Rory in Space/Time. But after being alive for 1200 years, he doesn’t seem to mind bumping into himself. He actually liked the idea of more than one of him strutting around in The Almost People so I can imagine that if he meets his other selves in the upcoming special; he’ll be like a kid in a candy store no matter which incarnation pops up. Speaking of the 50th special speculation, I’m going to back up my previous statement and say that this incarnation would be the Troughton to the 9th Doctor’s Pertwee.
So why are these multi-Doctor specials so…special?
To name only a few reasons: It’s the different personality clashes that make these stories so fun to watch; the Doctors each trying to be in charge and outdo one another in the most bizarre alpha male competition ever; the annoyance of their companions trying at trying to keep them focused and of course the Doctors banter and reluctance to accept and work together. The biggest thrill is probably the fact that we get previous Doctor Who actors reprising their roles. Here’s a look at the numerous multi-Doctor stories we’ve been graced with:
The Three Doctors
The first of a long list! This story represented not only a 10 year celebration, but the first time this clever concept was used. Now that is special!
The Five Doctors
This story represented 20 years of Doctor Who, but also served as the biggest gathering of Doctors in a coherent storyline we’ll ever see in one special ever again. Not to mention it was Children in Need!
The Two Doctors
Not an anniversary special, but tremendous fun to watch if you’re:
- a) A Colin Baker fan
- b) A Nicola Bryant fan
- c) A Pat Troughton fan
- d) A Frazer Hines fan
- e) A Sontaran fan
- f) A fan of exotic locations
Dimensions in Time
30 years of Doctor Who and we get this jumbled mess? A universally abhorrent special, but it did serve as the story with the most Doctors in it. Counting William’s and Pat’s floating head syndrome, it also contained Doctors 3 – 7.
The Sirens of Time
Bringing together the 5th, 6th and 7th Doctors, this story is colossally significant for audio lovers. Multi-Doctor element aside, if it wasn’t for this story, Big Finish wouldn’t have existed.
Probably only one step behind Dimensions in Time. An audio celebration of 40 years of Doctor Who which brought us another multi-Doctor story that was too long, had too many returning guest stars and was problematic to follow. Plus it had Charley Pollard assuming a leadership role.
Also known as ‘Love from Tennant and Moffat’. It was the first and probably last time we ever got to see a new Doctor teaming up with a Classic Doctor. (Still hoping for number eight to return and prove me wrong though)
The Four Doctors
Celebrating Big Finish’s continued and well deserved existence, this story was unique in its format, had Doctors 5 to 8 and the Daleks, not to mention wibbly-wobbliness.
Not really a multi-Doctor story, but still very enjoyable thanks to the timey-wimey element.
First Night/Last Night
Also not really a multi-Doctor story per say, but 3 River Songs and 2 Doctors, why not?