A children's TV show from 1963 takes on a life of it's own spanning 6 decades. When I chose Time Travel for June's Media Theme I knew I couldn't get away without doing the quintessential Time Traveler...Dr. Who. Fortunately for me, my husband is a major Whovian and the series has been held close to his heart since he first saw it...much like Dark Shadows which debuted 2 years after Dr. Who is near and dear to me. After much begging I convinced Rob to share his feelings on the show and do a guest stint here at Comic-Watch, writing an article about his experience watching the show. Without further adieu.....
My Travels in Time and Space with The Doctor
by Robert Price
In November of 1963 a little show hit the BBC called Dr. Who. The show was supposed to be an educational program, aimed at children, to teach them history with some sci fi elements thrown in, but the series soon became so much more. The plot follows an alien known only as The Doctor, who travels through space and time in what Americans describe as a “Phone Booth”, but we all know that it is a blue British Police Box. His ship is called “The Tardis” which stands for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”, which means it is a time/space machine that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
The Doctor travels around the universe helping people out, solving mysteries and preventing impending Armageddon. Each season (“series” in the UK) was divided into mini story arcs lasting about 4 episodes on average. The show has introduced society to some classic monsters, The Daleks, The Cybermen, Silurians and Sontarans, and is always joined by a slew of revolving helpers we call companions. The companion’s job is to get into trouble and to be saved by the Doctor.
The Doctor was originally played by William Hartnell, and was joined by Barbara, Ian and Susan, who the Doctor calls Granddaughter. In 1966, due to failing health and off-screen drama, William Hartnell left the show and the producers came up with a brilliant way to keep the show going. The Doctor, being an alien, has the ability to regenerate every cell in their body. This regeneration not only changes the doctors look, but also his personality. This allowed the show to continue.
I first saw Doctor Who while at a friend’s house in 1983 as he was flipping channels. I had never heard of it and my buddy was not at all interested. I went home later that day and looked through the TV Guide. At that point in time in America, the only channels playing Dr. Who were PBS. I found the next time it was on, and watched my first full story arch, Tom Baker was the doctor (4th actor to play him) and the arch was called Stones of Blood. The show is notorious for bad lighting, poor creature costumes and limited practical special effects with little after effects. By American standards, the production value was a bit poor. But that added to its charm. It had a campy humor and classic British wit. I was hooked immediately.
In 1984, my family life fell apart. I was in Jr. High and at the time, Doctor Who became my one respite from the chaos going on around me. Every week night at 7pm, I was transported to another universe, and the Doctor was a good friend. I would dream of being a companion traveling through space and time away from the sadness and the tears. I can honestly say, this show saved my life and kept me sane.
Usually, it is said, that “Your First” doctor, the actor you see playing the Doctor first is your favorite. This didn’t hold true for me. Where I really enjoyed the fan favorite, Tom Baker, and didn’t mind Jon Pertwee (#3s) take, there was just something magical to me in the gravitas brought to the role by Peter Davison. There was a youthful twinkle to him, but also a seriousness and urgency to him plus that British wit and sarcasm.
The original series spanned from 1963 to 1989 when due to low ratings it was finally cancelled. At that point in time seven actors had played the role (list of all actors in order at end of article). Each of these actors brought so much to the character and added greatly to what can only be described as lore!
In 1996, Fox televised the Doctor Who TV Movie. Sylvester McCoy returns briefly as the Doctor and we finally witness his regeneration into Paul McGann. The movie fell short in a lot of aspects but is still considered Cannon in the Mythos. A big mistake was casting Eric Roberts as the doctor’s classic foe, The Master. With a better script, Paul would have made a great doctor. The hope was that the movie would spurn a new series. Unfortunately, we would have to wait a few more years for that to happen.
In 2005, the BBC restarted the series. Christopher Eccleston took over the role with new companion, Rose, played by Billie Piper. The series brought a larger budget and with the advances in computer generated special effects, the production value was much higher. We not longer got monsters that couldn’t move their mouth or eyes. The show lost a bit of its campiness, but still had its sense of mystery and never-ending adventure.
Christopher was only the Doctor for one season and regenerated into David Tennant. David brought to the role something that I think was missing with Christopher the classic eccentricity that the Doctors from the classic show all had.
We are now on the 13th actor playing the Doctor, Jodi Whittaker. Where the idea to cast a woman in the part is not new, the fact that they did it is still a bit controversial. Everybody has a right to their opinion, and this is just mine, I love Jodi as the Doctor. She reminds me very much of the Classic series actors. She is eccentric, witty, and fun! She brings an energy that I think was missing in the seasons before. And she has a wicked sense of humor. Even more controversial was the decision to change the Doctors origin. I will not spoil it here.
Doctor Who is not for everyone, especially the classic series. It is a bit more cerebral with less adventure and it moves a bit slower than today’s fast pace ADHD audience is used to. But for those of us that were captured by its magic. It is an incredibly long lasting mythos that weaves wonderful stories into and every expanding tapestry.
The change in the Doctor’s origin has been said to have ruined the series. For me, this changes nothing. The adventures I shared with every companion, the tears I cried, the laughs I had, the joy, the sadness, the excitement are all still real. I still experienced it all and no plot twist can ever take that from me! I cannot wait for next season! Take a seat in the Tardis and enjoy the ride.
List of Actors in Order
1. William Hartnell
2. Patrick Troughton
3. Jon Pertwee
4. Tom Baker
5. Peter Davison
6. Colin Baker
7. Sylvester McCoy
8. Paul McGann
9. Christopher Eccleston
10. David Tennant
11. Matt Smith
12. Peter Capaldi
13. Jodi Whittaker
** John Hurt played the War Doctor. Technically he was Doctor between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston.
***There are a myriad of books, comic books and radio shows that I did not touch on.
I would like to thank Rob for stepping in and helping me out with The Doctor. Hopefully, lots of people will take a look at this article and I can bribe him into coming back and writing some more for us. And thank you, the Reader, I hope you enjoyed our Time Travel month. Next month it's anything goes with our Reviewer's Choice theme. Till then...Be excellent to yourselves!
It’s About Time: Dr. Who-My Travels In Time & Space With The Doctor
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 5/105/10
- Music - 6/106/10
- Production - 6/106/10