The (Father’s) Day of the Doctor
This Father’s Day, Connor Johnston explores the 10 best Dads, Fathers, Pops and Papas of Doctor Who.
Throughout the last 50 years, Doctor Who has continued to present brilliant father figures during many adventures. Dads, Pops and Papa’s that envisage the best traits and qualities as well as the worst sense of comedy when it comes to fatherhood. So today, being Father’s Day in the motherland, I’ve chosen to count down my Top 10 “Dads of Doctor Who” …
10. Captain Avery
Opening our list we have one of the most interesting choices, Captain Henry Avery, who had a short yet substantial appearance in “The Curse of the Black Spot”. “What!” I hear you scream out in protest! “Captain Avery – the man who risked his own son’s life to maintain his riches?!” – Admittedly not his finest hour. If you’ve ever heard the saying “The most celebrated are the rehabilitated” you’ll immediately be able to sympathise with my choosing to put Captain Avery on the list today. Avery went from one of the worst fathers in the Whoniverse to one of the best by not only realising and admitting his mistakes, but by also acting purely to reconcile with his son for the many ways he’d failed him in the past. Say what you will about the main storyline of ‘Curse’ (I myself have never understood the hate), but there’s no doubt that the subplot is one that’s both touching and “booty-ful” (Get it! A Pirates Booty!) – A man that is completely unsuited for parenting that has fatherhood thrust upon him and against all odds manages to grow into a father his child can both be proud of and be inspired by. Avery eventually sacrifices his life aboard his ship to stay with his son Toby devoting himself to raising him and sailing around time and space together for the rest of their days.
9. The Doctor
Now we know the Doctor himself has been both a father and a grandfather before during his early days on Gallifrey, but there have been many times throughout the history of the show that he has fulfilled the role of the “father figure”. It’s for this reason he earns the ninth spot on our “Top 10” today. Primarily in his first and third incarnations, the Doctor was both protective and influential in the shaping of the way his companions lived – whether they be related by blood like Susan or accidental acquaintances like Dodo, Vicki, Polly and Jo. It’s my personal hope that Clara’s relationship with the Twelfth Doctor will be at times a paternal one. In a way, the Doctor has always been very parental and protective of the people of Earth. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. Earth seems more vulnerable than others, yes.” Possibly his most parental moment however has to be during the Tenth Doctor’s era in the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”. We watched as the Doctor gradually developed a love for Jenny, we saw the pride he had for her grow as the episode went on and finally we felt his heartbreak when Jenny (as far as he knows) met her demise in trying to saving her Dad.
“No. Too much…That’s the truth of it. She was too much like me.”
Alex is another example of a Father, like Captain Avery, who’s episode isn’t really well received by the Whoniverse (Again I’m bewildered as to why) but still shouldn’t be underestimated as a father. The are 2 main reasons Alex from “Night Terrors” scores so well on this list, the first being that through his character, Doctor Who pays tribute to all men that aren’t necessarily biological parents to the children, and shows that this in no way cheapens their feelings for their child or makes their rights to the title void. “Any man can be a father, however it takes a great man to be Dad.” – It’s a beautiful sentiment. The second reason the story of Alex and George is one that I love so passionately and why Alex is number 8 on our list today is because of the unconditional love Alex has for his son. While some father’s might have balked at the fact that their only son was in fact an alien, Alex refused to let a little thing like biology get in the way. His unconditional love for his son was enough to save the day and allow George to be released from the grip of his fears and his doubts that he was ever not treasured.
7. Rory Williams
Prior to “A Good Man Goes to War”, Rory Williams was a character that had, for the most part, come across as wimpy and weak when looked at beside both the Doctor and Amy. It was fatherhood for Rory that, like for so many other men, truly pushed him to rise to the occasion instilling such bravery when saving his wife and daughter. The determination Rory has is incredible and the love he has for both Amy and Melody is so pure, and so heart-warming, it’s nearly impossible to see it without bringing a smile to one’s face. It’s a real shame that we haven’t (yet) gotten to see Rory flex his fatherhood muscles with his son Anthony, and while I doubt we ever will it’s clear through his willpower, passion and love for his family exhibited episode after episode that Rory was born to be a Dad.
6. Craig Owens
Now the difficult one. What can I say about Craig Owen’s defining reason for his place on the list without sending people into a rant about how it ruined the Cybermen? I’m not going to claim that “Closing Time” is the best Cybermen story of all time, but in all honesty I was never really bothered in the slightest by the resolution to the episode as it really proved to me how much love Craig had for his child. I see nothing wrong with the Cybermen being beaten by emotions due to the fact that they see emotions as a weakness. They are so afraid of the thing that makes us so strong – the thing that give parents (primarily Craig) unlimited strength when their child’s life is on the line. Let’s not forget it’s not been the most far-fetched tool in beating the Cybermen – with both cleaning fluid and Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket being 2 shining examples of times where not the most intimidating of weapons are used to destroy or weaken them while taking nothing away from the quality of 2 great episodes. Craig is a man that nobody (myself included) believed could meet the standards of fatherhood, and in rising to the mark not only proved everyone wrong, but also developed a bond with his son unlike any we’d ever seen before.
5. Pete Tyler
Being the first real majorly explored father of the show, it truly would have been a crime to not include Pete Tyler on the list. Probably the most suitable episode to watch today, “Father’s Day” as well as the character itself capture one of the most powerful aspects of parenthood: Sacrificing things for the sake of your children. In Pete’s case, it’s the greatest of sacrifices he has to make: his life, to save his daughter and the rest of the world from the tyranny of the time paradox. It’s is one short episode that Pete does enough to not only make his daughter proud, but also inspire her to exhibit that same selflessness in the Series 1 Finale “The Parting of Ways” when going to all costs to save the Doctor.
“Dad wouldn’t give up! He wouldn’t. He’d tell me to try anything. If I could save the Doctor’s life, try anything.”
4. Wilfred Mott
Father of Sylvia Noble and grandfather to Donna Noble, Wilfred Mott is probably one of the most gentle and pure hearted human beings known to Whoniverse, as well as being one of the best father figures the show has to offer. Wilf’s belief in Donna and encouragement for her to follow her heart and aspirations is inspiring. He has such a pure soul and an innocent love for his family that makes him such a lovable character. Besides from his support for Donna, Wilfred’s most paternal moments have to be in “The End of Time” where this humble hero took on a paternal role with the Tenth Doctor, ironically a man over 800 years his senior, and eventually becoming the person the Doctor was honoured to sacrifice his life for. (Cue uncontrollable sobbing)
Wilfred, it’s my honour.
3. Brian Williams
Isn’t Mark Williams just the best actor in the world when it comes to playing fathers?! The man behind the killer character of Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films, Mark brought ‘Brian Williams’ – the father of Rory – to our screens during Series 7 with two appearances in both “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three”. The character of Brian Williams is one of my favourite Doctor Who characters of all time, and is one of the ultimate fathers of television as a whole. The main reasons why Brian reaches number 3 in our countdown is due to his patience, undying support and dependability when it comes to being a father to Rory. Regardless of his own interests, Brian selflessly encourages the Ponds to continue travelling with the Doctor – only having his son’s and his daughter in law’s best intrests in mind after seeing himself the passion and goodness that comes out of them travelling with the Doctor. It’s probably far too ambitious taking into account Amy and Rory have departed the show, but if I had one choice for a past character to return it would be Brian hands down. A man humble enough to stay behind and water the flowers happy that his son is living life to the fullest because of his support. (Cue uncontrollable sobbing… Again)
2. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Our runner up today is yet another unorthodox choice in the form of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Now I know what you’re saying: “We’ve never even seen Alastair and Kate onscreen together,” but to that I say: we really don’t have to in order to get an idea of what kind of father the Brigadier was to Kate. It is so evident in the characterisation of UNIT’s head scientific researcher the effect Brigadier had on his daughter. The tough grit attitude, the determination, the passion, the humility and the wisdom of both Nicholas Courtney and his character has been so wonderfully channelled by writers Chris Chibnall and Steven Moffat as well as actress Jemma Redgrave as a fitting tribute to him. This is one of the main reasons I believe that Kate is such a well-received character – because we see so much of our dear old Brig come out in her actions and her morals.
“I didn’t want any favours. Though he guided me, even to the end. Science leads, he always told me. Said he’d learned that from an old friend.”
1. Sydney Newman
Finally to the man I dedicate this article to, the true father of Doctor Who itself: Sydney Newman. I doubt you were expecting that one! Besides from conceiving the original idea for the show, which is of course an obvious reason why he is getting mention today – the real reason Sydney tops the list is because in those early years of Who, through the birth and laying down of foundations for its survival, Mr. Newman embodies all the many star qualities of the other 9 Dads of Doctor Who we’ve mentioned today. Akin to our listed father figures, Sydney invested a lot of belief and effort in his “child” especially during its first turbulent few months. The patience he had for the growth and development for the show, even under the pressure of higher powers of the BBC to abandon it was commendable. Finally the best fathers are those that not only allow change and growth in their children – but also who support it with all their efforts. Sydney proved his passion for evolution over and over by not only letting the show branch off into previously forbidden areas like “Bug Eyed Monsters” (with a little persuasion from Mama Verity) but also supporting the idea for the first “Regeneration” and completely embracing change and growth in the show. I think we all owe a massive thank you to Sydney Newman! The undoubtedly greatest Father of Doctor Who.
Of course this article could go on for pages and pages, but unfortunately I’ve had to limit myself to 10 of the best. Some honourable mentions however need to be awarded to a few of the other standouts. First we have both Augustus Pond from “The Big Bang” and Geoffrey Noble from “The Runaway Bride” who were both so entreating in their short cameo’s and whom I believe if given enough potential could of gone on to shine and become such great support systems for their daughters as so many of the top 10 today were. Many people don’t know that Howard Attfield was due to reprise his role as Geoffrey in Series 4, but tragically died in November 2007. His scenes were refilmed with Bernard Cribbins playing the character of Wilfred Mott, who had originally not been included. I urge you to check out Attfield’s scenes that were later included on the DVD release of Series 4 – they truly capture the legacy of such a great man and a great character. If there had been a 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th place on the list they would easily go to Guido from “Vampires in Venice”, Mo from “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood”, Jimmy from “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” and Jackson Lake from “The Next Doctor” for the equally overflowing and obvious love they each held for their children’s wellbeing. Finally, although the Classic series never really explored the “father figures” of companions or other characters in the way New Who does – a special mention must be made for Edward Waterfield (father or Victoria), Sole (Father of Leela) and Tremas (Father of Nyssa).
The Not-So-Honourable Mentions
One thing that Doctor Who prides itself on is realistic storylines and realistic characters. In our society of course there is no such thing as the perfect human being, however there are those who unfortunately exhibit “the worst of humanity” and while we’ve explored the best fathers of the Whoniverse, there have been those to whom “parental guidance” should be recommended. Today a few dishonourable mentions go to Chloe Webber’s Father in “Fear Her” (for obvious reasons), Eddie Connolly from “The Idiots Lantern” for his aggressive; stubborn, abusive and power drunk conduct, Father of Mine from “Human Nature/ Family of Blood” due to his influential position of leadership in driving his family into the “dark side” and of course Elliot Sardick from “A Christmas Carol” for raising his son to be exposed to, accept and inherit morally wrong levels of cruelty against society and a bitter, selfish attitude.
Now this isn’t to say we haven’t had our fair share of Mad Mummy’s in the show– take Mrs Gillyflower for instance and her tendency to experiment on her only daughter as a lab rat in “The Crimson Horror”, or Sylvia Noble constantly putting Donna down throughout all of Series 4 – and of course the worst parenting in the history of the show – the unnamed mother of Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and her disgustingly lazy attitude of ‘not existing’.
Alas those case studies are for another holiday, for today’s day the day where we pay tribute to the father figures riddled through the legacy of Doctor Who. It’s through these role models that we learn and are inspired. I can only hope that when the day comes that I become a father myself – I can draw on the determination of Rory; the wisdom of the Brigadier, the patience of Brian, the unconditional love of Alex and the selflessness of Pete when raising my own children, vowing to do right be them at every stage of their lives like so many Doctor Who Dads have done over the years…
…Unless they don’t love the show… Then they will be disowned. Of course I’m joking! There’s can be no chance of them not loving the show….. Or Else. (Insert Capaldi Stare)
Who tops your “Dads of Doctor Who” list? What ‘Who’ themed gifts have you gotten for your ‘Fan Father’s” today? Which episodes will you be adding to your list of “Parental Programs”? Let us know in the comments below and remember to wish all your dad’s a FANTASTIC Father’s Day (of the Doctor).