Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 1-11: 50th Anniversary Retrospective
In recent years if a television show manages to survive five seasons it is looked upon as an incredible hit. Three American series have reached the two decade mark; ‘Gunsmoke’, Law & Order (Prime)’and ‘The Simpsons’. Of this exhaled triad only ‘Gunsmoke achieved the distinction of live action with the same core cast throughout the twenty year run. A little TV series that is a staple of the BBC has just celebrated its golden anniversary, fifty years; ‘Doctor Who’. Its humble beginnings back in 1963 were as a children’s action science fiction show not unlike ‘Captain Video ‘over here in the States. The differences is rather than fading into a trivia question The Doctor has expanded like the universe after the big bang to become arguably the most expansive franchise in the genre encompassing the television series, comic and fan oriented literature. It is impossible to attend at comic or Sci-Fi convention with finding cosplay enthusiasts decked out in one of the incarnations of this persistent character or a friend or ally he has encountered throughout his long travels.
To celebrate this unparalleled achievement the BBC America begun releasing a set of retrospective DVD sets covering the full range of actors that have stepped into this highly coveted role. The first set examined here covers the first through fourth Doctors with the set for fifth through eighth Doctor due in a matter of months and the final three in early 2014. The brilliance of the premise is the Doctor is an alien, a Time Lord hailing from the planet Gallifrey. They nominally seem human except for possessing two hearts and the ability to regenerate into another form when death is imminent. Besides being an imaginative plot device it provided the writers the unprecedented freedom to reinvent the character whenever necessary. With each new actor assuming the role the Doctor is completely reinvented with a different quirky persona, costume preferences and style. This allows each subsequent actor to infuse the character with his own spin.
Another constant throughout the years is the Doctor’s perchance for finding traveling companions. While typically a single young woman the Doctor has had male companions, more than one at a time and even a married couple. The series hasn’t survived for half a century; it has thrived in a constant state of evolution. Even his trusty conveyance, the TARDIS, ostensible a blue British police call box, changes its inner appearance with each new Doctor. Vastly larger on the inside than the outside it has become one of the true universal icons of science fiction and integral part of our popular culture. Each of the four discs covers one Doctor with a retrospective special feature original and subsequent cast members, writers, directors and various experts in a talking head format. In most cases a four episode arc comprised a single story. One such story is included for each Doctor.
The First Doctor
Actor: William Hartnell
Tenure: 1963 – 1966 series 1-4
This introduction to the character was mysterious; the backstory of his home world, species characteristics and origins had not yet been fully formed or consistently canon. He traveled with a young woman, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) and referred to as his Granddaughter. Later a pair off teachers from 1963 earth, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) was appropriated as companions. This Doctor manifested what would become a common personality trait of exhibiting an exceptionally high self-opinion of as the most intelligent being in the room, which he frequently was, Susan was mischievous and adventurous which frequently precipitated the adventures. Other companions would take up the position over the three seasons comprising the Hartnell years.
The story the ‘Aztecs’ represents the first Doctor. The TARDIS takes them back to Mexico in the 15th century ,the height of the Aztec civilization where Barbara is mistaken as the reincarnation of a god, Susan her hand maiden, Ian a warrior and the Doctor as an elder advisor. When told she has to oversee a human sacrifice to ensure rainfall Barbara decides to rewrite history by commanding an end to the ritual. This upsets the Doctor since it would destroy the time line and potentially the future. This is an early introduction to a concept critical to the mythos, a fixed point in time.
The Second Doctor
Actor: Patrick Troughton
Tenure: 1966-1969 series 5-7
At this stage of the series there was some ambiguity as to the continuity of the person known as the Doctor. This was supported by the predilection the displayed by the Second Doctor of referring to his predecessor in the third person. As the show matured, building a solid mythos with the fans it became clear that Time Lords regenerate not only altering their physical appurtenance but much of the personality. The one trait that usually remained constant was an unquenchable curiosity and a need to share their experiences with a companion. This version of the Doctor was prone to mood swings frequently displaying a darker affect. He could swing between a Machiavellian plotter to and almost blundering caricature. This odd, child-like persona is fostered by his habit of playing the recorder in off moments. During his run he encountered several of the villains that would become staples for the show; the Daleks, Cyberman and the Great Intelligence. The story chosen to exemplify this Doctor is ‘Tomb of the Cyberman’. Unfortunately one of the better companions; Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury), a teenage girl from the twenty-first century was not represented in this story arc. She lived in a space station orbiting the earth and was a polymath that considered this Doctor almost as bright as she was.
In this story arc the TARDIS brings the Doctor and his companions, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), a Highlander from the 18th century and Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling), a young woman from England of the 19th century. While Jamie was up for adventure Victoria was homesick. In this story she is still relatively new to life in the TARDIS when the land on a plant with the remains of a powerful cybernetic race, the Cyberman. Unlike the Daleks they turn their hapless prisoners into their own kind.
The Third Doctor
Actor: Jon Pertwee
Tenure: 1970-1974 series 7-11
The central theme forming the personality of this regeneration was confined by order of the Time Lord’s council to the Earth restricting the TARDIS precluding intergalactic travel. As such the stories were more grounded than usual. This Doctor was a dapper gentleman always prepared for action. He served as an advisor for UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce, or United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, a militaristic group looking into extraterrestrial and supernatural occurrences. This group, along with Torchwood later on, would become vitally important to the Doctor’s adventures. This Doctor would also introduce one of the fan’s favorite companions, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) who would be associated with the most Doctors and receive her own BBC spinoff.
The representative story here is ‘Spearhead from Space’. The principle companion here was Liz Shaw (Caroline John) with this story her initial appearance. Liz was a civilian member of UNIT and an extremely innovative scientist. It was also the first for the Third Doctor and his imposed restrictions. In this story it came out that Time Lords have a binary circulatory system including two hearts. His first mystery is to assist UNIT in investigating a strange shower of meteorite which of course, was the harbingers of s far greater evil.
Actor: Tom Baker
Tenure: 1974-1981 series 12-18
With seven series to his credit Tom Baker was the longest running Doctor thus far. He was also the first Doctor regularly shown in America on PBS as part of the British television invasion they sponsored. Garbed in a floppy hat and exceptionally long multi-colored wool scarf this Doctor was a touch more jocular than his predecessors although he did have his dark periods, through him the fans received s greater understanding of the Time Lord society even becoming their President at one point and taking on a young Time Lady, Romanadvoratrelundar better known simply as Romana with Mary Tamm playing the regal Romana I and Lalla Ward Romana II, in the guise of an English School girl. This Doctor enjoyed tinkering with numerous gadgets and would use his easy going style to mask an agile mind and quick wit.
The story this time is ‘Pyramids of Mars’ featuring Sarah Jane and involves themes directly taken from a Gothic horror creature feature. Science and the supernatural collide as ancient mummies take over the living leaving the Doctor and Sarah Jane to save the day.
Along with the accompanying specials featuring the recollections and comments of former cast members and the creative people behind this ground breaking series this set, along with the two that are to follow, are perfect for the longtime fans or the burgeoning enthusiast to catch you up with fifty years of cultural history.
The Fifth Doctor
Actor: Peter Davison
Tenure: 1981-1984 series 19-21
When Tom Baker’s run concluded the BBC decided to go with a previously established actor. Although the series was still primarily geared towards kids there was now potential to pull in an older demographic with a recognizable performer. The look and feel of the series remained overall light hearted and quirky. Davison started as the Doctor after special story, ‘The Five Doctors where he revisited his previous incarnations. In Davison’s interpretation the Doctor took on more vibrant personae. This lighter aspect was physically expressed with the first blond Doctor, more human in affect. His typical garb includes a stripped jacket similar to the traditional British holiday camp attire. In a nod to the remaining children show was in the question marks affixed to his lapels. This Doctor wore a boutonniere of a sprig of broccoli as a detector of s certain form of radiation. He was fundamentally kinder in temperament and less condescending than his predecessors treating his companions less like a lower species even though a human is below a Gallifrian both physically and in intellectual potential. He had a number of companions more so than usual. Nyssa (Lucy Baker) was an extraterrestrial from the planet Traken where she enjoyed a privileged life as the daughter of a powerful man. She was brilliant in bioelectronics. Humanity was represented by a flight attendant, Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), basically just trying to get home. There were other but the best known was Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant). Peri remained through his regeneration to the sixth incarnation.
The story presented here was Earthshock. This story line was presented in the 19th series with a return of one of the Doctor’s most deadly and persistent enemies. They were humanoid created by turning living beings into mechanical entities with a type of hive consciousness intent on domination and turning the inhabitants of a planet into their own kind. The companions involved here were Nyssa, Tegan and a young man named Aldric (Matthew Waterhouse), a native of a planet in a parallel universe, Alzarius. Arriving in an underground cave system on Earth in the 26th century, the Doctor, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa find themselves caught up in a military investigation of the disappearance of a scientific team led by Lieutenant Scott and Professor Kyle. Two dark figures are stalking the troopers in the underground caves. The Doctor and his companions offer to help, but Scott thinks the Doctor to be behind the murders.
Actor: Colin Baker
Tenure: 1984-1986 series 21-23
This incarnation was rather unstable at times at one point attacking Peri. In fact his personae were fundamentally a 180 degree turnabout from his predecessor. He was exceptionally arrogant with a hubris and ego-centric attitude that frequently manifested by belittling his companions as lower forms of life. His curly blonde hair and constant smirk on his face looked human but he tolerated his companions more than enjoying their company never really respecting their input to the descions at hand. This was in contrast to the Fifth Doctor who sacrificed himself to save the young woman. In sharp contrast to his darker personality his selection of attire was an explosion of color. Basically he wore a frock coat with a patchwork of colors and tartans. He did retain the question marks on his collar but the darkness was decidedly in conflict with the precepts of children’s programming. At this point in time man fans grew up watching Doctor Who so there was a rationale behind the thematic maturation. The Sixth Doctor gained the moniker ‘the unlikable Doctor’ with a number of complaints made to the network concerning the marked increase in violence particularly in series 22. This resulted in a hiatus before broadcasting series 23.
The representative story was from the 22nd season, ‘Vengeance on Varos’. It is a good example of the rather abusive relationship this incarnation of the Time Lord had with Peri. When the TARDIS is damaged she tries to be helpful by locating the manual but when she presents it to the Doctor he summarily dismisses her. The TARDIS makes an emergency landing on Varos, a planet that used to be a penal colony, and where the native Varosians are presently entertained by broadcasts of real violence and death. Mistaken for rebels, the Doctor and Peri learn that Sil, an evil delegate of the Galatron mining corporation, bids to rule Varos and to control supplies of Zeiton 7 ore, which is the TARDIS's only fuel source.
The Seventh Doctor
Actor: Sylvester McCoy
Tenure: 1986-1987 series 24-26
In response to the negative reactions elicited by the dark themes, off putting personality and violence of the Sixth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy made a radical return to a more comical figure. He would be the last Doctor in the contiguous set although perpetuated in novelizations and a brief appearance in an attempted reboot several years later. His personality was somewhat of a bumbler prone to nonsensical quips. He frequently played a clown in order to better be underestimated by his opponents. In addition to the advanced technological knowledge of a Time Lord he playfully exhibited a predilection for illusions and magic tricks. He manifested a distinct distaste for violence which frequently put him at odds with his companion, Dorothy McCain (Sophie Aldred), whose nom de voyage was Ace. She was an emotionally disturbed human teenager with a distinct affinity for conflict resolution through the use of explosives. This was the reason for being expelled from her high school on earth. It also prompted the Doctor to searching her backpack for explosives before permitting her to leave the TARDIS. This Doctor tried to help Ace come to grips with her extensive emotional and psychological baggage.
This disc contains the story ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. It contained one of the fan’s perennial favorite adversaries, the conically shaped cybernic Daleks with their bathroom plunger limb and trademark mechanic voice ‘exterminate’. In addition we the story includes their evil creator, Darvos (Terry Molloy). This was an involved story line that is started when the Doctor returns to London in 1963 to retrieve a relic of the Time Lord technology, the Hand of Omega. It is capable of exploding s star; too danger to remain at large. He discovers that the Daleks are in the midst of a civil war making them potentially more dangerous and unpredictable than usual. When the United Nations organization mandated to handle extraterrestrial threats locate a renegade Dalek the UNIT forces are easily overcome until the Doctor and Ace intervene.
The Eighth Doctor
Actor: Paul McGann
Tenure: 1996 series none; made for TV movie only
This Doctor was the franchise’s only one off Doctor. In a failed attempt to reboot the series in a fashion conducive to attracting a fan base in America a made for television movie was produced. Some traditionalist fan contest this incarnation as canon by that position is strongly supported by showing his regeneration from the seventh Doctor by means of a guest appearance of Sylvester McCoy in the beginning of the film. Despite this limited exposure on TV the eight Doctor was heavily feature in other media; audio broadcasts, novella, a references in other television shows. He exhibits a firm of amnesia regarding his status as a Time Lord and his previous incarnations giving him a carpe diem attitude towards life. Had only one companion, a human physician, Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook). When he finds himself in need of an object he appears exceedingly adept at picking pockets to obtain it. His outfit is in sedate browns featured in a traditional English smoking jacket and cravat.
While transporting his arch enemy, the evil Tome Lord known as ‘The Master’, played here by American actor, Eric Roberts, the TARDIS crashes in 1999 San Francisco in its China Town district. The Seventh Doctor is seriously wounded in the cross fire between rival street gangs. Taken to the hospital for treatment he is under the care of Grace who attempts to resuscitate him by defilation. Unaware that only one of his two hearts had stopped she winds up killing him, a first for a companion. This results in his regeneration from Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann to the utter befuddlement of his physician. Grace soon believes and helps him stop the Master from obtaining a powerful artifact. In another companion first Grace and the Doctor kiss.
The Ninth Doctor
Actor: Christopher Eccleston
Tenure: 2005 Series 1 (rebooted)
After a nearly twenty year hiatus on television The Doctor returned to present day earth to meet a new companion and resume his adventures in time and space. Although the eight Doctor was featured in numerous other means of extending this saga The Doctor has be absent from the venue of a weekly television series. The BBC was faced with several challenges in revising this most famous figure in science fiction. This would afford the new writers and show runner an opportunity to apply some degree of remodeling to target a serious science fiction community that would demand a significantly more mature sense of character development and circumstances. This placed an unusual amount of pressure on the new creative team I the selection of the ninth Doctor and his new companion. To the benefit of the franchise and the unbound joy of fans the right selection was made. While many of the new members of the audience were not even born when the eighth Doctor was up many other would have followed the adventures of at least a few of the previous incarnations. The choice of Christopher Eccleston was brilliant. He was already a well-known and widely respected journeyman actor in exceptionally great professional demand. He was ideal to instill the greater feel of gravitas the reinvigorated series were to manifest.
Equally important was the selection of his companion. Billy Piper had been a popular signer in Brittan who achieved the recognition of a Kelly Clarkson over here. Her fame would help connect with the necessary younger demographic in this re-launch. As this new series progressed her Character, Rose Tyler, would be able to establish an emotional bond and means for the audience to identify. Rose was a shop clerk, a regular worker. She had an annoying mother, Jackie (Camille Coduri), the first mother of a companion the Doctor had met. Jackie initially tried to seduce the Doctor, consisted with her nature. Failing that she tried to convince Rose not to associate with him. We also meet Rose’s boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Clarke). Like Jackie He would become a pivotal character in subsequent story lines. One on the most significant companion every in the Doctor Who franchise was introduced here, Captain Jack (John Barrowman). A time agent and con-man originally from the 51st century, Jack was omisexual with little regard for gender or species preferences. If it is alive Jack will hit on it. As a result of the conclusion of this Doctor’s tenure Jack becomes truly immortal. He can even survive an explosion that blows him into little pieces; he would become the head of Torchwood, an autonomous covert organization monitoring alien technology on earth.
Beginning with this reboot the stories were no longer discreet four episode story arcs, the major arc lasted the entire season peppered with a several standalone threads lasting one or two episodes. The plot point here was ‘Bad Wolf’, words that appear throughout time and space in a seemingly random fashion. In the years that intervened since the eight Doctor most of the events were not revealed, at least not yet. What was disclosed was during the period the Doctor was engaged in the ultimate battle between his species, the Time Lords, and the universe’s most dangerous enemy, the cybernetic Darlek. He reveals to Rose that in order to end the eternal conflict it was necessary for him to annihilate both the Darlek and Time Lord Races; the Doctor committed a double genocide for the sake of the rest of life in the universe. During this season he finds one cripples surviving Darlek quickly addressing the issue. At the conclusion here he realizes that his previous action has doomed mankind to servitude. Their masters were a resurrected race of Darlek; he slaughtered his own species for nothing. At the end on the last episode the new audience gets to witness this Doctor regenerate.
The Tenth Doctor
Actor: David Tennant
Tenure: 2008-2010 series 2-4
Whereas his predecessor exhibited the classic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder the Tenth Doctor seemed more outgoing and light hearted. This did mask a deep seated seriousness that would emerge during moments of extreme and dire emergency. There streak in his personality that is significantly less predisposed to extending mercy to s for. After the Daleks eluded his ultimate sacrifice he was intent not to allow that lesson to repeat itself. At one point he is struck with hubris declaring as the last Tome Lord, the master of time and space, he is beyond the normal constraints of time. This does bring extreme consequences. He is balanced to some degree by the guilt of all the entities that have sacrificed their lives on his behalf. The foreshorten life spans of his companions weighs heavily on this Doctor. He has several companions starting with Rose Tyler, who witnessed his regeneration. The first companion specific to him was Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), late n her training to become a medical doctor. Once again her family becomes entwined with her adventures with the Doctor usually much to his and her chagrin. This would also hold true for the runaway bride, Donna Noble (Donna Noble). She is feisty, a characteristic common to many companions and frequently anxious to return back home. She vies the Doctor as her best mate (bff).
There are portions of several of the stories the Tenth Doctor engaged in. ‘The Stolen Earth’ has aliens removing the entire earth to distant part of the galaxy for their own heinous purposes. It forcibly introduces Martha to the true expanse of time and space from a personal viewpoint, ‘Journey’s End’ is the finale of the fourth series and marks the return of a host of former companions as well as Torchwood regulars and Sara Jan from the fourth Doctor. This is followed by ‘Journey’s End ‘. ‘Silence in the Library ‘features Donna as they explore a deserted galactic planet-sized library in the 51st century. This episode introduces River Song (Alex Kingston). Although the Doctor doesn’t know Where River certainly knows him. They are traveling through time in opposition perspectives leading to an eventual meeting point. She has a journal she forbids the Doctor to see declaring; ‘spoilers’, owns her own sonic screw driver and can pilot the TARDIS. She would be a continual mystery for a number of following seasons. In ‘Forest of the Dead’, we seem to watch as River dies but everything is relative when time and space are so malleable.
The Eleventh Doctor
Actor: Math Smith
Tenure: 2010-2013 series 5-7
Casting Smith as the 11th Doctor conferred on him the title of youngest actor to hold the role taking it away from the previous holder, Peter Davison, the 5th incarnation. Smith returned some of the carefree kid’s show attitude that surrounded some of the earliest personalities held by this Time Lord. Still, in keeping with the serious themes which appeal to dedicated science fiction devotees the stories retained the darker aspects that had become associated with the rewoven series. Donna fairly rapidly moved aside to make room from one of the youngest companions in many years, Amelia Pond (Karen Gillan). After meeting Amy as a child he promises to be right back but the iconic blue box doesn’t return for a number of years. By this time Amy is a young adult working at providing ‘Kiss—A-Grams’ while dressed in outfits like a sexy nurse or sexy constable making best possible use of her legs. She and her fiancé Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) they eventually would be the only married couple to serve as companions frequently shared with River Song. The three shared a close bond that would be disclosed through carefully paced and expertly written exposition.
The main thrust of this incarnation was the premonition that the Doctor would die without regenerating. The first episode presented in this retrospective is ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, which inaugurated the sixth series. This was also the second season to be presented in high definition by the BBC and released on Blu-ray. This was the first Doctor Who story set in the United States, a move the BBC made to pull in the greatly expanded viewership provided by the inclusion of BBC America on the slate of cable providers in the States offering first run episodes a week after they broadcasted in the UK. The companions had parted from the Doctor to resume what passes for post TARDIS life. They each receive mysterious envelopes, in TARDIS blue, telling them to meet in America. The Doctor also received the summons adding to the mystery. The companions watch in horror as the Doctor is gunned down on a deserted beach by a figure dressed in a sixties style American astronaut suit. The following episodes on this disc deepen the mystery and demonstrate the direction that dominated this incarnation was as a sleuth trying to piece together the clues of his own murder while opposing the several deadly alien races from taking over the world and/or destroying humanity.