My Favorite Doctor

My Favorite Doctor

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler in front of the Tardis

Every Whovian has a favorite Doctor and I’m no exception. I first watched Doctor Who in the late 70’s when the incumbent was Jon Pertwee, but unlike many my first Doctor did not become my life-long number one. Instead it was my second Doctor, Tom Baker, who earned that special place in my feelings.

There’s no one thing that sealed his place in my affections. He had that wonderful scarf, was always ready with a bag of jelly babies in his pocket, and — like every other Doctor incarnation — emerged triumphant from his many perilous adventures. But it was his mellifluous voice that did it for me more than anything else. To this day I will make time to catch a show that features him (although none have lived up to Doctor Who, even the remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)).

Your favorite Doctor is somebody who makes you feel that the vast universe is being watched over by somebody you can trust to keep the monsters in check. He might be a bit of a rebel, out of favor with the powers that be, but that all adds to his appeal: he’s one of us at heart. Making his way through life with his bag of jelly babies in one hand while flipping the bird at eternity with the other.

I really ought to come clean at this point: even though I watched all the Peter Davison episodes (Tegan was wonderful, and I was upset when Adric died) I never got into the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, and gradually stopped watching. Until that lovely man Russell Davies got the series restarted in 2005. Fantastic!

That was when I acquired another favorite Doctor (although he in no way diminished my love for the Fourth Doctor) in the person of Christopher Eccleston. I remembered watching him in Cracker acting opposite Robbie Coltrane and there was just something about his character that engaged me in a way that Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy (and not forgetting the brief Paul McGann) had failed to.

I recently watched his episodes again on Netflix (regrettably he only starred in one season) and was every bit as enthralled by his performance as I had been the first time I saw it. He brought a refreshing directness to the character with an understated approach that ignored costume quirks in favor of a simple T-shirt, jeans and leather jacket. The depth of the Doctor’s character was enhanced by this low-key approach: the emphasis was on the performance which I felt was nothing short of awesome.

Assisted most ably by Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, the Ninth Doctor faced Daleks and living mannequins alike with a dry humor and a strong compassion that served to hint at the pain of being the sole survivor of a war between two entire races.

It is ironic that a powerful, near-immortal alien should be one of the most human characters to appear in the entire series, but for me Christopher Eccleston achieved this to a remarkable degree. Much more than previous incarnations he displayed a complexity in the combination of hardness and vulnerability: he showed compassion while avoiding sentimentality.

It is difficult to take on such a well-established role and make it your own. Especially with a character as long-running as the Doctor there must be a degree of continuity with what previous actors have brought to the part as well as enough individuality to set your performance apart from the rest. I believe Christopher Eccleston achieved this most successfully and deserves a lot of credit for the success of the relaunch of the series.

He made the character much more dark and threatening:Β  here was somebody who could destroy whole worlds — and had. And yet he displayed a sense of fun and playfulness at times that contrasted sharply with the guilt of his instrumental role in the destruction of his race and their world. For me that is such strongly human behavior — to hold the pain inside and carry on fighting to survive even against impossible odds.

And the number one thing I take from Doctor Who? That one person can take a stand for what is right in the face of apparently insurmountable opposition and make a meaningful difference. It’s not about being a hero and receiving the grateful adulation of the saved, it’s not about being recognized as the savior. Watching from the sidelines while everything goes to hell in a hand-basket is not an option: allowing evil to continue without challenging it is the same as being a willing accomplice. And the Doctor has never been one to step aside from a righteous fight.

8 thoughts on “My Favorite Doctor

  1. My first doctor was Sylvester McCoy and I remember I really fancied Ace. But my 2nd first doctor (you know what I mean) was David Tennant. But that’s just because I came back to it just as Donna became his companion. Last year, I watched the Christopher Eccleston series from start to finish and I really wish he’d done a second series instead of only signing up for one. I found his Doctor to be very raw and emotional, with such passion and energy. DT will always be my favourite new Doctor, but CE is a very close 2nd.

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  2. I have yet to watch Dr. Who for real, I saw part of an episode maybe 10 years ago. It sounds like it’s something I would totally get into, but I’m currently on a Star Trek roll… πŸ˜‰ When I’ve finished with that I may join the Whovians.

    I love Christopher Ecclestone, though, and I can imagine he brought a humanity and a darkness to the Doctor.

    Completely unrelated to the post: when I received the “daily digest” informing me about the new post, it included a video of Nina Simone – Feeling Good. I was wondering how that is related to the post, or if it’s even something that you added at all?

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    1. Hi Petra. Star Trek, eh? I love that too! πŸ™‚ As well as Firefly, Farscape and many other sci-fi shows…

      That Nina Simone video was from my previous post (of the same title – Feeling Good). I published the two within a few hours of each other so I guess the digest pulled them together in some way.

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      1. Ah yes, now I see πŸ™‚ I didn’t get a mail about the other post yet, let’s see if that includes the video.
        Yeah, totally binging on Star Trek right now. Watched TNG 2x, currently watching DS9 for the second time and just ordered the Voyager box… πŸ™‚

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        1. I was a late convert to TNG because I liked Kirk, Spock, etc., so I didn’t see the episodes when they were originally broadcast. But luckily I did get into it before DS9 started. And I *love* Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard! πŸ˜‰

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  3. So I was away this weekend, and I just happened to chance upon this link on my other/personal Twitter. HOW DID I MISS THIS POST?! HOW?!

    “Your favorite Doctor is somebody who makes you feel that the vast universe is being watched over by somebody you can trust to keep the monsters in check. He might be a bit of a rebel, out of favor with the powers that be, but that all adds to his appeal: he’s one of us at heart. Making his way through life with his bag of jelly babies in one hand while flipping the bird at eternity with the other.”

    Excuse me while I have ALL THE FEELS.

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