Why we need The Eleven Doctors
Guest contributor Michael Falino on why there should be a multi-Doctor story for the 50th.
The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is quickly approaching. Later this year a celebration to this astounding accomplishment will grace our screens. But, as with all things “Who” there seems to be a point of contention within the fan base; to multi-Doctor, or not to multi-Doctor. That is the question.
I am on the side of the debate that lusts for a multi-Doctor adventure. Sure, the logistics of arranging all the actors (and appeasing some) are daunting. And yes, all the classic Doctors besides Paul McGann have aged significantly, some scarcely appearing as they did when they carried the mantel of the Doctor, but that isn’t the point.
They all deserve to be there. And the fans deserve to see them!
This anniversary isn’t just for new fans; fans exclusively of Matt Smith, or of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors only. It is a celebration of the whole of Doctor Who from An Unearthly Child, to long scarves, to carrot juice, to the oldest question. And at the centre of this celebration should be all the men who played the Doctor.
Some have suggested that the 50th anniversary should be self contained; something that doesn’t spend too much time harping on the past. I think that would be a travesty. One of Doctor Who’s most unique and endearing qualities is its sometimes subtle, sometimes overt homage to its own history.
One opinion I recently came across is that “we forget the Doctor is one man, so what is so interesting about a multi-Doctor story?” While it is certainly true that despite there being “eleven” Doctors, there really is only one Doctor. But the Doctor is a man made up of many men; each incarnation a new personality that, whilst maintaining a strong thread of morality and justice through each regeneration, is for all intents and purposes a new man.
For the sake of having as many previous Doctors in the anniversary special as possible I’d forgo overly scrutinising whatever story Steven Moffat came up with, if just for the chance to see Tom Baker offer Christopher Eccleston a jelly baby. Imagine David Tennant making some snide comment about Colin Baker’s jacket, or Sylvester McCoy rolling his “R’s” at Matt Smith’s rrridiculous hairdo! Really, all we need is a loose explanation of time splintering and causing the Doctor’s past selves to appear all at once. There…done. That’s enough for me.
Anyone who has seen the minisode Timecrash with the Fifth and Tenth Doctors has a sense of how well a multi-Doctor story could work. Not just from the perspective of the plot, but because of the sheer “coolness” of seeing Doctor’s past and present interact, if only for the briefest of encounters. Previous anniversary specials have employed the multi-Doctor technique, and they worked quite well (except for in The Five Doctors where unaired Shada footage of Tom Baker was used). One of my favourite stories is The Two Doctors which in my opinion is one of Colin Baker’s best, and also gives us the compelling interaction between himself and Patrick Troughton. I think the story worked quite well. The Second and Sixth Doctors interacted completely different than the Fifth and Tenth. Imagine what all eleven would be like!
There is ample precedent for a multi-Doctor story, and sufficient evidence that it could work brilliantly. I could even make a fanatical case for including as many companions as possible, and even every iconic monster to have appeared throughout the show’s history, but I won’t. That would be ridiculous. While I think they should include some old companions, such as Susan, Romana II, Tegan, and Captain Jack, as well as having the Daleks, or even the Master show up, this anniversary, at least to me, is about the Doctor himself. While the show is and has always been about more than just the Doctor, I feel the focus of the anniversary should be on him, and as many of his incarnations as is feasible.
The problem arises, however, in knowing that the anniversary special is to be no longer than the length of a Christmas special. Even I couldn’t accept trying to stuff in all eleven Doctors, as well as the return of a few companions, into such a short slot of time unless their appearances are brief cameos. I think we may not see a multi-Doctor story, or if we do, it will only include a few incarnations. I guess that would have to be enough, and I can only hope it would fulfil my craving for a modern multi-Doctor story…