Why I Love The Ninth Doctor
Mark McCullough celebrates Eccleston’s incarnation of the Doctor.
2005 was a wonderful year which featured a Royal Wedding, London was chosen to host the 2012 Olympics, and an increase in the amount of people in the UK with internet access (smashing the 70% barrier.) It wasn’t all smooth sailing however as Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League, much to the dismay of those with good taste in football teams. In a year of high and lows, for me the most significant event occurred on the 26th of March. After an absence on TV since 1989, Doctor Who was back where it belonged, and there was a new man with the keys to the TARDIS.
Sitting down to watch Rose for the first time is an experience I will never forget. Annoyed at being forced to watch a programme I had no desire to at the time, at first I was pretty apathetic towards it. As the narrative unfolded showing Rose’s day and inevitable encounter with danger, I began to get more intrigued however. By the time a strange man appear grabbing her hand with a shout of run, I was captivated. This strange man whose name I didn’t even at that point completely grabbed my attention. The decision to introduce the Doctor in such a way paid enormous dividends because it showed us exactly who he was. A stranger with a high octane, dangerous life, trying to help when he can. Like Rose within the story, I was hooked. That scene was the start of a journey, the moment I became a fan, and I haven’t looked back since.
From that moment on we are gradually introduced to the Doctor. Interestingly Davies’ narrative chooses to establish the risk he poses first before he gets any real development. The stranger mantra is even made the butt of a joke as the Doctor finds himself in Jackie’s bedroom. By the end of his first outing we have built up a reasonable picture of who the man we are dealing with really was. Evidently this was enough to capture our intrigue otherwise we simply wouldn’t be here today reading this article.
Over the course of his next few outings the character’s past was alluded to. For fans of the Classic Series this must have come as a shock. It is revealed that Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home, is gone. Furthermore, the Doctor himself was the one to actually do it. Combining this knowledge with our overall lack of knowledge, and suddenly the Doctor’s role as a hero comes into question. Can we really trust this man?
“You think it’ll last forever: people and cars and concrete. But it won’t. One day it’s all gone. Even the sky. My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned, like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust. Before its time.”
Thankfully the rest of the series went on to prove that he was as the Doctor grabbed the hearts of the nation once more. His relationships with other characters played a pivotal role in how Eccleston’s take on the Doctor is viewed in retrospect. Through Jackie Tyler we had someone who challenged him and brought a real world point of view to proceedings. Mickey Smith arguably brought out the worst in the Doctor who belittled him at every opportunity. Rose provided a perfect foil to this, as the Doctor was at his best when with her.
The additions of Adam Mitchell and Captain Jack Harkness later in the series allowed for further exploration of the Doctor psyche. What showrunner Davies was able to establish with his impressive command of characters was an environment which allowed the Ninth Doctor to shine in ways that previous incarnations had been unable. In bringing a human element to a Sci-Fi show, Davies essentially added another layer to the Doctor which made him more interesting than ever before.
It was not just through interactions with other characters that we seen the Ninth Doctor at his best. It was the circumstances he was placed in which allowed a range of emotions to be examined. The hatred as he confronted the last Dalek in existence. The anger at Rose followed by the threat of leaving her after her actions in Father’s Day. The pure ecstasy shown when he realises that he can use the nanogenes to save everyone. Or perhaps my own personal favourite, his reflections with Margaret Slitheen on mercy which aptly foreshadowed the events of the finale.
Despite only featuring in ten televised stories, the Ninth Doctor was able to accomplish so much and create many memorable moments. He had the added advantage of having an extremely strong run, with no bad episodes in his only series. Furthermore he stole the show in every episode he was in something which ultimately made him one of the best incarnations of the popular Time Lord.
“You let one go, but that’s nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim’s spared. Because she smiled, because he’s got freckles, because they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.”
There’s an old saying within Television, ‘always leave them wanting more’. This was obviously in the minds of all parties, as the Ninth Doctor’s final adventure did exactly that, fulfilling another saying ‘save the best until last’. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways was the perfect swansong for an excellent Doctor allowing Eccleston to shine in the role one last time. His reaction to the Dalek’s threats of killing his companion are to this day some of the best scenes in the history of the show.
As you would expect of any swansong, the character’s story must draw to a satisfactory close. This is perfectly exhibited for the Ninth Doctor as we see the culmination of his arc as the lone survivor of the Time War. When faced with a similar situation to what was believed to be what he faced in the Time War the Doctor this time chooses differently, emphasised by the coward or killer line. It was in these moments that Eccleston cemented his take of the Doctor as one of my favourites. If I needed any more convincing, his regeneration scene was just as good. To see the Doctor I loved bow out doing what we first seen him do was a more than fitting end. The man whose first onscreen actions saved Rose, did the same with his last. Some of his final word for me just summed up his era:
“Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you: You were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I”
To sum up exactly what the Ninth Doctor means to me is almost impossible. With the fans of the show there is an acceptance that your first Doctor is special to you, and will always hold a place in your heart. The Ninth Doctor is my Doctor, and that is compliment enough. So the birthday of the man who so eloquently brought him to life seemed like an apt time to pay tribute. I would also like to wish Chris and absolutely wonderful day and many more birthdays filled with happiness and health. I know he himself may not look back on his time on the show with complete fondness. But he made enough of an impact in short tenure to ensure that millions of us will. And I can’t thank him enough for that.