Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the contentious question all Dr Who fans must face

If you're a Dr Who fan you've likely heard this question over and over again from your fellow fans and even from some people who've never watched the show but are just curious to find out how you'll answer. The question is, of course, "Who is your favourite Doctor?".

Now, who anyone's favourite Doctor of all the Doctor Who's is sometimes hard to define. There are favourites picked from all the Doctors. Then there is the one you first saw and who became "Doctor Who" to you. There might only be one you've ever seen so that would limit your answer and possibly result in it being scoffed at by more hard-core fans. There is also the favourite only of the more recent episodes in case you've never watch any of the original works before the big break. Or there is the original Doctor for being the original.

Much debate usually results from this question, becoming heated amongst those who just refuse to concede that the other person's favourite was a brilliant Doctor, if not their own favourite. And if you hum and haw or sound like you've only watched the latest set of Doctors you'll only aggravate the avid fan even more. You cannot claim any of the latest Doctors the best without having seen the original set. On that I completely agree.

In fact it is a complete shame if you haven't gone back and watch Dr Who from the start. There might be a change in style that shocks you, a change in pace too. The difference in characterisation, particularly in that there is a wider range of personalities ascribed to the Doctor, could set you back. You might even struggle with him being older. But if you stop watching for these reasons it just shows you aren't all that clued in to television trends and story-telling history. That doesn't mean you have to stay so unenlightened though. Once you discard your expectations for high violence, overly-dramatic music, booming explosions and  more frequent cliff hangers you can really see the story telling art shine in Dr Who. There is almost no space saga, soap opera or intellectual debate on life, the universe and everything that's quite like it. It is well worth the shock to the system in going back to early methods of story telling to discover who the Doctor was, and is because of his past, and what it is all about.

Interestingly, this question can also be asked about the Master although there aren't as many to choose from as there are Doctors. The Master simply ran through too many lives off screen. Even with fewer to choose from I'm personally stuck between two of them. Then the same question can be thrown at TARDIS designs, Doctor costumes and companions. Only once you get past all these will you be able to talk about characterisations, ages, sexualising, weaponry, the mental versus the physical characteristics, the Doctor's tendency to pick up girls (innocently of course), which cybermen were the best, which daleks were the best, and whether he really has a family or not.

I should also mention/warn that there is also an immense pool of potential outrage waiting in the heart of any Dr Who fan that will come surging forth at the mere mention of Dr Who being unwatchable or difficult to understand. So don't go there unless you're in company likely to forgive you. Eventually.

But the biggest question of the all remains, and always will remain, "Who is your favourite Doctor?". And woe betide anyone who votes any of the great Doctors as worthless, even if they weren't your favourite.

The biggest twist to this question is that the Doctor is always the Doctor, a single Time Lord, no matter who is playing him. His appearance and character are (or at least should in some cases) be a form of evolution (not meaning progression) from his previous form. Only the first Doctor can be identified solely as the character he is and not as part of the Doctors that appeared before him. So the real answer to "Who's you're favourite Doctor?" is "The Doctor" as he's just one being. That won't fly though so steer clear unless you want to sound like an idiot pretending to be smart. The Doctor truly is a complex character who can be seen more as an onion being reassembled layer by layer rather than as a single being constantly growing and changing like humans do in a rather predictable way. He sometimes forgets his past, sometimes ignores it and sometimes draws on it directly. He can meet himself in old and current forms and fears the change as we fear death as the change really is the death of one persona and the birth of another. Still, in each new 'life' he reveals himself to be not quite the most stable of fellows, bubbling with whacky ideas, one who tends to leap before he looks simply out of curiosity and inquiry.

So, to the most important question of all:
Who's you're favourite Doctor?

The Doctor
Portrayed by
1987–89, 1996

I'm still pondering this myself. I love the first 4 for different reasons and enjoyed watching Tennant and Smith. Eccleston was too cool and not a Doctor Doctor to me. I loved the crankiness of Troughton and that it reappeared again to a certain extent with Tom Baker. Pertwee was loads of fun as he was styling, active and highly intelligent to boot. Hartnell was a brilliant beginning but a tad too staid for me, although I loved his cheeky side. Especially when he scoffed at other people's inability to realise what was going on because you knew he just wanted the person to figure it out. Tom Baker did last a long time and became a bit of an icon for it but I don't like him for this reason. I liked him as the Doctor because as smart as he was he was also rather dotty and you could get a feel for his age being great despite his appearance.

I wasn't a fan of the Doctor being violent towards his companion though, nor vague nor hip. I didn't mind the mental disorder though, just the violence.

Still, I ponder away and each time I see one of those I call my favourites I'm convinced again as to why they're of the best. But picking that absolute favourite is hard for me as I never did see Dr Who while growing up. I only caught up in recent years after first having a television introduced to the family and then meeting my (then a fair while future) husband and sitting down to watch them, marathon style. For me, there is no Doctor I grew up with. There's simply the beginning of the story through to now. For me the First Doctor was my first Doctor. In this, I actually manage to have a rather unusual viewpoint for a Dr Who fan as most avid fans encountered it part way through the story during their so-called formative years.

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