My Doctor

David Tennant is my doctor.

It used to be Tom Baker, the mad-haired, bescarfed whirlwind who toured the universe in the late 70s, but that has all changed. I now belong to the tenth Doctor, a slender Scot given to occasionally shouting Brilliant! and Alonns-y! for no good reason whatsoever.

Every Doctor Who fan has _their_ Doctor. You can love the show as a whole across its four decades of intermittent broadcast, but there is always one actor, one Doctor persona that rings more true in your head than the rest, and that becomes your Doctor. When you talk about favorite episodes, it is their episodes you will mention first. When you think of the dozens of companions, somehow that Doctor’s companions were genetically superior to all others. And, when you see that actor anywhere else, he is The Doctor first and a real person doing a job second.

Now David is my Doctor, and he is dying. (The Doctor, that is. Not David.)

Over the coming two weeks I will celebrate his glorious incarnation and mourn his passing. When the impossibly young Matt Smith takes his place, I will hold an irrational grudge because he is not my Doctor, but I will watch because this has been a surprising show for four years running and I can't endure the idea of not knowing what happens next.

Doctor Who is not a television show for everyone, most certainly not for the stone hearted whose respect must be earned through unerring adherence to realism or even continuity. But, even under the harshest lights of criticism, I believe that some episodes have risen to equal the best of any modern genre show. 2007’s Blink, for example, is right up there for me with Firefly’s Out of Gas, Buffy’s Once More With Feeling or the best of the X-Files mythology episodes in making with the happy endorphins in my brain.

For a long time, decades in fact, Doctor Who had stopped being relevant. It was just a show I had watched when I was a kid. It was catchy theme song and kitschy costumes, frantic nonsense about time travelling madmen and barely ambulatory monsters. And as one of the dozen or so people in the US who bothered to watch Paul McGann’s aborted effort as the eighth Doctor in a 1996 Fox/BBC co-production that still flummoxes canon purists, it was something that could not be resurrected.

This is why I forgive Russel T. Davies, creator of the revitalized series, his many narrative sins. For all the things he may have done wrong, he did the really important things right. He cast a proper Doctor -- twice. He found and breathed life into the soul of series. He knew how to bring back and make relevant a slumbering beast whose time had come round again. Sure, he gets a little ham fisted with his writing, particularly when he feels like he has to go epic, but I can live with that.

And, I liked Christopher Eccleston — the Ninth Doctor — well enough. He had a manic sensibility and did a wonderful job conveying the wonder of the series. He was no Tom Baker, but who ever would be again? And, he showed moments of brilliance. The Doctor Dances — are you my mummy? — is a stand out that builds to a wonderful climactic resolution exploring the character in ways that had never been touched on before, all while introducing the iconic character of Cpt. Jack Harkness who would go on to lead Torchwood.

When Eccleston passed on the mantle to this new upstart, David Tennant, I was skeptical but not actively distraught. By the newcomer's 4th episode, The Girl in the Fireplace, I knew that the 10th Doctor was mine.

In its current format, this is a show that makes me feel the wonderment of childhood. I have no objectivity, no malice that I can muster to talk about this show. It is one of those shows that I talk about characters and events as they though they are real and we have some unbroken connection. Doctor Who does not happen in the context of television, but it happens within and around my own life in a way that no other series does. Where I can harden my heart to even the most gut wrenching film, I will openly weep when Rose and the Doctor are separated by a wall between universes in The Parting of Ways like I haven’t since Fry’s dog closed his eyes on that sidewalk at the end of Jurassic Bark.

(Sorry, Kat.)

And I come back to David Tennant here, because he carries the show in a way that is true to the character and unique to himself. He can shift emotional gears like a Ferrari, move from manic joy to a quiet bubbling darkness before you realize it has happened. I can't watch his portrayal of the tragic John Smith in Family of Blood without rubbing tears from my eyes in a very manly way. When, in the most recent episode The Waters of Mars, he bursts into the room shouting “We are fighting time itself, and I’m gonna win!” I want to leap to my feet and watch the fury of a timelord in all its insane glory.

Whether this is all great acting on the back of expertly crafted writing, I can't really say, but I can say this has been a meeting of genius minds on creating a Who universe that is steeped in the pure soul of the series. As Steven Moffat takes over the big chair and Matt Smith the iconic role, I don't know what to expect, but I do know that when I categorize my favorite episodes of the past 4 years Moffat's name comes up again and again.

For now, though, I'm not ready to look past the end. I am happy to know that David Tennant is starring in a new NBC pilot for next year (Rex is not Your Lawyer), but I am genuinely sad that his Doctor Who role is two episodes from an inevitable end. I suppose if nothing else I can take solace that he is going out on top.

The End of Time, premieres on Christmas Day on BBC-1 and on Dec 26th on BBC-America. You can see all four seasons of the updated series on Netflix Watch Instantly service. I highly recommend Blink (Season 3) or Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (Season 4) if you want a nice taste of what the current series offers.

Comments

Tom "mad as a sack of badgers" Baker is definately 'my' Doctor, but Tennant is pretty much on an equal footing. Wasn't too keep on Eccleston though, although he was good at the 'serious' bits.

This is one two-parter RTD better not screw up with one of his ridiculous Deus Ex Machina. I'm all for suspension of disbelief but towing the planet Earth through space back to it's original position? with a space-rope?...a bit much.

As for the forthcoming 'Edward' clone....we shall see.

By the by, I could write a whole 'nother article just talking about companions. Am I the only one that thinks Martha was the best of the most recent bunch. She had this amazing narrative arc that spanned a single season, and unlike others torn by fate from the Doctor she is given the unique honor of going out with free will and quiet dignity.

My Doctor was Christopher Eccleston. David is great but Christopher was the scariest thing on the show. Forget the monsters, giant heads in jars and super updated special effects, oh and the plastic men!

Christopher sold me on the idea the Doctor was an alien who has lived a long time and suffered a great deal. He might show compassion for a solitary person (Rose) but was accepting of the fact whole civilizations had to expire because, well, that was the result of time marching on.

He also had this wonderful contrast with Rose, who was the every-person. She was naive and had a warm-heart while the Doctor was edged and hard.

Man alive did I hate Eccleston's Doctor. I forget the episode title, the one where they meet Charles Dickens - but the way the character behaved in that episode was appalling. He gets the servant girl killed because of his own issues, doesn't listen to Rose and condescends to her when she's demonstrably right, and he suffers no consequences for it whatsoever. Rose doesn't pipe up with so much as an "I told you so."

Maybe he gets better in later episodes, but that one really turned me off to that Doctor.

You know, I've never actually watched a single episode of Dr. Who, nor do I know much about it at all, except that it has a die-hard fanbase that rivals the likes of any cult TV show. I'm seriously considering checking it out.

It's columns like this that remind me of the early days of the site. You know, before it became famous and whatnot.

Edit: And if Kat doesn't get you first, Elysium, I will.

Elysium wrote:

By the by, I could write a whole 'nother article just talking about companions. Am I the only one that thinks Martha was the best of the most recent bunch. She had this amazing narrative arc that spanned a single season, and unlike others torn by fate from the Doctor she is given the unique honor of going out with free will and quiet dignity.

Definately, although I thought Catherine Tate did suprisingly well as Donna, considering the only other thing I'd seen her do previously was an excruciatingly bad comedy sketch show.

Rose though can just go ahead and stay in an alternate dimension ta very much - didn't like her at all. Her mother would have made a better companion.

I'll be interested to see how Karen Gillan gets on in the next series, as she's a local lass

As Moffat puts it : "We saw some amazing actresses for this part, but when Karen came through the door the game was up. Funny, and clever, and gorgeous, and sexy. Or Scottish, which is the quick way of saying it."

This man is wise.

It's columns like this that remind me of the early days of the site. You know, before it became famous and whatnot.

It's interesting you mention that, because one of the things I want to do over the coming year is to get back to something like that older voice.

Get Out of My Head!

Elysium - agreed, on every single point. I was also crossing my fingers way back when for Paul McGann's Doctor to resurrect the series, but have been far more pleasantly surprised by the Eccleston/Tennant era. I liked McGann - he apparently went on to record a bunch of audiobooks as the Doctor - but boy, did that TV movie suck.

And yes, Martha definitely emerged as the most engaging of the recent companions. Rose had her moments - my personal favorite is the episode where she keeps trying to get Her Majesty to say "we are not amused" - but her story got a little too "emo" for me by the end of its arc, and like SocialChameleon said, she was often so lovestruck that she became a pushover. Except with poor Mickey, whom she often treated like dirt (even though he was pretty annoying himself).

I especially like your paragraph about how the show has affected you. My uncle had a little library of VHS tapes of the Tom Baker era, and when I would watch them at 7 or 8 years old, I would feel that same sense of wonder, and sometimes outright fear, that you describe. Maybe some UK Goodjers can confirm this, but I read somewhere that those were commonly known as "behind the couch" moments - you know, when the Daleks would suddenly appear, and you'd hide behind the couch in terror.

Didn't matter that the effects and costumes were unbelievably cheesy, or that those pepper-pot scourges of the universe were stymied by a set of stairs. I just loved the idea that there were so many possibilities out there for adventure, so many different worlds to explore and alien peoples to encounter (although they all curiously had British accents).

Looking forward to seeing what's next for the 11th Doctor, especially with Moffat at the helm.

DorkmasterFlek wrote:

You know, I've never actually watched a single episode of Dr. Who, nor do I know much about it at all, except that it has a die-hard fanbase that rivals the likes of any cult TV show. I'm seriously considering checking it out. :)

When my wife and I finally gave it a try about a year ago, we were delighted to find that it was a lot more goofy and fun than we'd gotten the impression. Go into it like a popcorn flick, with a few surprise nuggets of substance. (Hmmm, analogy fail...)

Blink is an interesting episode recommendation because it is fairly standalone, with The Doctor playing an unusually minor role. Honestly, if you are willing to give it a few episodes, I might just start from the beginning of the new series since it's all there on Netflix. It worked for us.

We also both feel like Donna was by far the best companion, since we could most readily identify with her.

I really like Donna as well. I'm hoping beyond hope that the final resolution we saw at the end of Season 4 is adjusted. This is an instance where I would turn a happy blind eye to some meddling retcon.

Elysium wrote:
It's columns like this that remind me of the early days of the site. You know, before it became famous and whatnot.

It's interesting you mention that, because one of the things I want to do over the coming year is to get back to something like that older voice.

Get Out of My Head!

You're also thinking of a word and despite assurances to the contrary, it is indeed "kitty."

I've been going through all the Tom Baker episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix recently. There's just something about that hair, that scarf, and that toothy smile that still gets to me, even after a couple of decades.

Both new Doctor's have been great, especially Tennant. I just can't have him replace Baker as my favorite Doctor if only for what those earlier Doctor Who's represented to the gangly 10-year-old that used to be me.

When I re-watch those episodes today all the bad special effects, the abrupt switch from film to early video tape, and the obviously boot-strapped sets fade away. All that's left is the Doctor and an adventure. Just like it should be.

Jon Pertwee.

That's the beauty of loving a show that's 46 years old, though. There's so much to love that there's room for all of us.

Christopher Eccelston got me back into Doctor Who. The way he played The Doctor brought an air of danger and insanity to the whole character of The Doctor. Tennant grew on me after a while, particularly after Billie Piper left and Martha (forget her the actress name) replaced her, but I still missed Eccelston's edge.

And Donna killed the show for me. I don't get her appeal. She's limited as an actress and vats of rendered fat are easier to look at.

I cannot decide, whether Tennant, or Eccleston is my doctor. I've been watching them both over, and over, and they both are my doctors, when I watch them. And eve if you push me I can't make that final decision.

I liked Martha in the beginning of her time, but by the end, and in episodes set next to Donna, and/or Rose I absolutely hated her! She sounds like a whiny schoolgirl, borderline A/W. This shows best in the "Utopia" / "The Sound of Drums" / "Last of the Time Lords" trilogy, when she tells the story of The Doctor, and during "The Stolen Earth" / "Journey's End" with the Osterhagen key. She overacts her part in the end.

Donna is my companion of the new series. Admittedly, I deeply disliked her in the Christmas special, but by the end she was the best...well, the Doctor put it perfectly, and I hope this isn't a spoiler:

The Doctor wrote:

I just want you to know, there are worlds out there, safe in the sky because of her. That there are people living in the light, and singing songs of Donna Noble. A thousand, million light years away. They will never forget her, while she can never remember. [visibly upset] But for one moment... one shining moment... she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.

There were some side character companions I like A LOT! Sally Sparrow was just wonderful, and Jenny, The Doctor's daughter, and even Lucy Saxon, for the tiny evil part she had, she was wonderful.

I have to say, in my opinion, River Song may be shown in episodes, but her time as companion should not be within the next 3!

When I describe this show in my head, right before I type this, I want to shout "Brilliant, Fantastic!" The 2 words imprinted in my mind in the voice of my two Doctors

Frankly, I'm more interested in seeing Officer Redhead than the 11th Doctor.

Fan-freaking-tastic article! I don't know how you so often seem to channel exactly what's in my head with your columns, but you've just managed to do it again.

And I'll agree that Donna was a fantastic companion. I was ready to dislike her on the basis of the first few episodes where she featured, but over the 4th series she managed to craft what was an annoying character into one with surprising depth and intensity, and I'm anxious as well to see what happens to her.

On a side note, I have my cousin to thank for getting me interested Doctor Who. In the early eighties, we caught what had to be reruns of the show on PBS. My cousin is 5 years older than I am, so her 11 years of wisdom seemed absolutely epic when compared to my brief 6 years on this planet. Still, I idolized her, with her Commodore 64, her love of Duran Duran and all the things she exposed me to at a young age. It's thanks to her that I started watching Doctor Who, and how Tom Baker became my first Doctor.

Fast forward a few years to when this reincarnation of Doctor Who comes along. My wife had never even heard of Doctor Who really, so when we started watching the series with Eccleston, she was very pleased and greatly enjoyed the show. When Tennant took over, she wasn't sure if she would actually want to watch the rest of the series and honestly neither was I, but I at least had a passing familiarity with the changing of the guard for the Doctors. However, it didn't take long for us to truly come to love Tennant's Doctor, and he is both our favorites at this point as well. There's something completely magnetic about David Tennant, and I'm not sure if it's just the role or him (since I've seen him be equally brilliant in other things). So, with his time as the Doctor coming to a close, I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little sad. However, with Moffat at the reins, I cannot wait to see where this goes.

Oh, and the Blink episode is probably one of my favorite hours of TV ever.

I love Doctor Who. Some random thoughts on this thread:

Although it's Tom Baker that's my gold standard, he isn't actually my favorite doctor. Instead, I grew rather fond of the Sylvester McCoy one.. but mostly in the (few) novelizations that I read, not in the pictures. The novels during the Great Hiatus actually established some new cannon, with some great ideas and the Doctor turning into something much more than a guy with a time machine and deep pockets, and only slightly less than a trickster god.

I agree with most of the article - Davies got the important stuff right. He toyed with the idea of the Doctor being sexual, but pulled back from the brink. (Personally I find it important he's asexual. It takes the curse off the sometimes scantily-clad companions, and it underlines the fact that he's fundamentally alien; he shares some things with humanity, but only some things. Maybe the best things.)

I once read a foreward to a book somewhere where Doctor Who was compared to Star Trek. Trek latter is hard-nosed and practical: the original Star Trek essentially glorified violence much of the time. Even TNG emphasized that peace-loving people were basically bland. Doctor Who celebrates the quirks and folds of life, and while it's always violent, it's basically a show about trying to stop violence.

larrymadill wrote:

And Donna killed the show for me. I don't get her appeal. She's limited as an actress and vats of rendered fat are easier to look at.

Each to his own. She's rather to my taste, both in the temperment (but not smarts) of the character and her appearance. But I have a thing for middle-class British women generally. It's the accent I think.

Edit: not bad for 41 years old:
IMAGE(http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/05_02/ctateDM2005_468x577.jpg)

I'm tempted to take back half the bad things I felt about her character on the show.

The sounds of Doctor Who are deeply embedded in my psyche from childhood. The TARDIS grinding its way into and out of existence. The eerie theme song. The disturbing sounds of the Daleks (EXTERMINATE!). And they brought it all back, better than ever.

The thing about Doctor Who that Davies and crew got spot on, is that it's fun. An old school adventure serial brought into the modern day. A family show to be enjoyed at various levels by various ages. And almost shockingly, each season has been better than the one before.

Plus, they made the Daleks scary again.

And if "Waters of Mars" is any indication of what's about to happen, then we are in for quite a ride over the next week and a half.

I think my favorite new Dr Who episode is still Eccleston's "Dalek".

Elysium wrote:

Get Out of My Head!

IMAGE(http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/xmen.jpg)

Rat Boy wrote:

Frankly, I'm more interested in seeing Officer Redhead than the 11th Doctor.

Hellz yeah.

Strangeblades wrote:

My Doctor was Christopher Eccleston. David is great but Christopher was the scariest thing on the show. Forget the monsters, giant heads in jars and super updated special effects, oh and the plastic men!

Christopher sold me on the idea the Doctor was an alien who has lived a long time and suffered a great deal. He might show compassion for a solitary person (Rose) but was accepting of the fact whole civilizations had to expire because, well, that was the result of time marching on.

He also had this wonderful contrast with Rose, who was the every-person. She was naive and had a warm-heart while the Doctor was edged and hard.

I would have to say he's mine as well. It's far harder as an adult to be taken to dark places. I think the show as a whole and Eccleston was able to do that. He made me believe, every once in a while, that he was the same character I remember from the Tom Baker years but having gone through a lot of crap.

If it had been Eccleston doing the final scenes of 'Waters of Mars' I would have been scared. With Tennet just came off as more pompous than scary.

Nice to see the good Doctor getting some love here. As someone who has read all the Virgin New Adventures and most of the BBC Adventures, I think Davies' series owes a fair amount to the way the Doctor was treated within those pages. (In fact, Davies wrote one himself--Damaged Goods--the tone of which permeates his first season of his Doctor Who)

It was because of those books that McGann's Eighth became one of my favourite Doctors. Yes, the movie was horrid, and the writers of the BBC Adventures knew that. They did away with the characterization (or what there was of it) in the TV-movie and created instead one of the most human Doctors we've ever seen: he fell in love with one of his companions ( a young teenage girl called Sam Jones, an alias Martha used in an episode of Torchwood) and he found that his compassion for all living things would take a horrendous toll on his psyche.

Spoiler:

(Which is akin to what happens to the Doctor in The Waters of Mars.)

And yes, McGann did a fair number of audio adventures for Big Finish, and are worth checking out. Just avoid the Zagreus storyline. It goes off the rails so badly you'd think Fox had a hand in it.

O Doctor! My Doctor!

It was more than ten years ago that I first watched Doctor Who on KTEH channel 54 in the California Bay Area, along with a string of rare Japanese cartoons that were still referred to as "Japanimation" or "Anime." I snored through Robotech and Tenchi Muyo, stayed fairly alert for Urusei Yatsura, but stayed up Sunday nights for Doctor Who. There is something irresistibly charming about the series.

It's generic as all heck, but Tom Baker's my Doctor.

I'm tempted to Netflix the old Doctor Who's and watch them all in order. Yes, even the black and white ones with terrible audio. But even then, I'd be missing out on all the novelizations and comics.

Elysium wrote:

Am I the only one that thinks Martha was the best of the most recent bunch.

I can't resist, even if its use in the show was hamfisted.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

I never really got into it when I was a kid but was definitely curious when it started on scifi. I think Eccleston did a great job of getting me interested and when he changed so suddenly at the end of season 1 i was like, "Eh? Wot?", but David Tennant is definitely my doctor.

He has made the series fun and I really enjoy it even if it can be cheesy at times.

I hope the young'un can make it happen...

Kurrelgyre wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Am I the only one that thinks Martha was the best of the most recent bunch.

I can't resist, even if its use in the show was hamfisted.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

I see what you did there.

Allons-y!

I also loved Martha. I remember there being some talk that she didn't win over the viewers as much as Rose did, which is why she was shown the TARDIS door, but I thought she was superb.

Yeah, Martha was great. I never really got the appeal of Rose. Donna started out horrible and really grew as a person, which is what made her end all that more tragic.