For someone raised on a fairly steady diet of the extremely nerdy, it took me forever to finally see Doctor Who. While Marvel comics and Buffy The Vampire Slayer have been a staple of my life for years, it’s only been in the last few that the Time-Lord, who is celebrating his 50th year of profound adventure, has landed in my life. The Doctor has since taken his rightful place as something of a centerpiece of my fanboy life, toppling even Batman in my book of ultimate cool. A few things it’s important to note before I carry on; The Doctor is his name, not Doctor Who. That’s the question. A recurring gag in the show is him saying “Hello, I’m The Doctor” and someone else responding “Doctor who?” which I thought was a clever little nod. Also, the way the show has dealt with staying on the air for 50 years without having the same actor is explained away as part of The Doctor’s extraordinary alien biology. When damaged, he regenerates. This allows for a new face and a newly distinct personality, of which there have been Eleven so far, with the series revival of 2005 introducing Christopher Eccleston (Elizabeth, Heroes) as the Ninth incarnation of the time-skipping spaceman.
The first season of the revival, which is where I began my own journey in the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time And Relative Dimension In Space, his now-iconic blue box that’s bigger on the inside and travels through time and space) started rather slowly at first. Not terribly, mind you, but definitely not as strong as the show would become. These first 13 episodes reintroduce us to the premise of the show, that of a lonely and seemingly ageless alien being who travels around the universe in his blue box of a spaceship, occasionally picking up someone who acts as his travel companion and friend. In the first episode we meet Rose, a young shopgirl living and working in London whose life is thrown into disarray following an encounter with living mannequins and a man who plans to blow them up. Normally this does not make for the foundations of a lasting friendship, but through a couple of life-or-death situations, The Doctor and Rose grow close. As the season goes on, this closeness would come to define the characters, and as Eccleston departs with a kiss, the wonderful and fan adored Tenth Doctor takes his place, played marvelously by David Tennant, known for his role as Barty Crouch Jr. in Goblet Of Fire.
Tennant’s reign as The Doctor would see the character becoming something larger, the stuff legends are made of. Saving the Earth time and again, Tennant’s time on the show would see him go through 3 different companions, Rose Tyler eventually departing in a truly heart-wrenching episode that I am not in any way ashamed to admit made me cry. In the 3rd season we meet Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyemon, (Carrie Diaries) a doctor in training who spends much of her time onboard the TARDIS pining for a man who can never see her the way she wants to be seen. Uniquely, she decides to leave of her own accord, departing after some truly extreme circumstances that saw entire timelines rewritten.
The beginning of the end of Tennant’s time in the TARDIS comes now, and with it the arrival of his newest companion Donna Noble, played brilliantly if somewhat abrasively by Catherine Tate. (The Office, The Catherine Tate Show) After surviving Rose’s departure and growing used to Martha, it was very hard for me to accept Donna as the new companion, in part because of her cockney accent but also the attitude that came attached. (Oy! Watch it, Spaceman!) Once I did finally get used to her, the finale had arrived and nearly all of the Tenth’s former companions came out of the woodwork. After 3 seasons, Tennant’s work was coming to an end and that reverberation was palpable in the show itself. After the 4th season’s end, they aired 3 specials, the last of which marked the character’s regeneration with an emotional scene where he proclaims to no one, but really to all the fans that adore him so much, “I don’t want to go.” With tears in my eyes, I finally got a look at Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor. My Doctor.
The Raggedy Doctor, The Oncoming Storm, THIS was The Doctor that would see the turn in character that had been hinted at since the revival started. By the end of his first episode, stepping through a hologram of all 10 other Doctors to reveal himself, no longer raggedy, in a tweed suit, suspenders, and bow tie – which are cool, by the way – and chasing away an entire army by telling them to run. The Doctor had become larger than life, and for the first time since he was with Rose, he had companions that could keep up with him. Amelia Pond and Rory Williams; The Girl Who Waited and The Last Centurion; the first couple on the run with him, are on par with Rose Tyler just as Matt Smith is on par with David Tennant.
The 7th and most recent season marked the departure of the two companions I had come to love so much, and another in a long line of emotional episodes. The show returned at Christmas and shortly after, introducing The Impossible Girl, Clara Oswin Oswald. I thoroughly enjoyed the titles that the Eleventh seems to be giving to his companions, as it lends to the fairy tale feel of Doctor Who as a whole. The 7th season ended with quite a punch pretty recently, and will return on November 23rd with an episode that has fans everywhere drooling, as it will see the return of the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, alongside the Eleventh and Clara. Two of fandoms favorite Doctors occupying the same time and place? I’m pretty sure I got weird looks for squealing and jumping up and down with excitement when I read this on IMDB in Wal-Mart a couple of months ago.
While some things about Doctor Who are rather cheesy, the effects in the revivals beginning stick out the most in this instance, it’s been the writing of Russell T. Davies and Stephen Moffat, the writers and showrunners behind this brilliant gem of television, that truly make the show stand out amongst it’s many peers. Doctor Who’s impact on television is undeniable. The show came out in 1963, putting it 3 years ahead of Star Trek. It’s unique way of handling disaster, as The Doctor never uses a weapon; opting instead for a “sonic screwdriver” to aid in his battles, puts him in a unique position as a hero to want to emulate. His preference to talk things out or find a peaceful alternative are always valiant, though not always met with acceptance. When pushed, The Doctor will push back and push back hard. In later years, the show’s writers often compared him to Batman, as his legend had become something that struck fear in the hearts of the universe, and ended up creating some of his deadliest enemies to date. All good things must come to an end though, and after 4 seasons, the BBC announced Sunday that Matt Smith will be handing the role off to a new Doctor following the Christmas episode later this year. Having gone through 2 other regenerations at this point, and loving each Doctor more than the last, I have to have faith in the showrunners that they will cast someone equally as brilliant as the Twelfth.
The Doctor returns on November 24rd with the 50th Anniversary Special, airing on BBC America.