Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Old "Favorite Doctor" Question

With Matt Smith’s tenure at an end, folks are revising their lists of how they rate all of the Doctors.  Of course, many are also using this time to take pot shots at actors they didn’t like.

It’s pretty telling that all the Doctors did appear in “Day of the Doctor” looking like they appeared during their time on the show, to illustrate they are ALL included whether the actors are alive, dead or unwilling.

The lack of actor involvement, I believe, had more to do with the type of story they were telling than a reflection of any performances.  It was the goal to celebrate the Doctors as we remembered them.  If the BBC release, and the amount of current Who crowd involvement in “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” was any indication, the home office has a soft spot for the “missing” actors as much as we fans do. Final evidence of this is Colin Baker, the regeneration who was treated the worst in his day by the BBC, was chosen to narrate the “Making of” special that ran with the theatrical release of the Anniversary Special.

I know I sound like a broken record. But I've been following the show for over thirty years, have seen episodes of every Doctor, and think, while they may not be to everyone's taste, each actor brought something worthwhile to the character and were all worthy of being "The Doctor."

Some Doctors may cause negative comparisons to predecessors or those that followed, but that doesn’t make them any less “the Doctor"- part of the same character. I really don’t understand fans (mostly of the new series) that are willing to give up on a show that is almost entirely based on change because they don't like the "new guy."

OK, that rant went longer than I planned before getting to my new ranking method so I'll end it with the same Brigadier quote I always do.
"Wonderful chap, all of them"

Since very early on in my appreciation of the series, my standard line has been that I see them all as facets of the same individual, enjoy the show in any incarnation, and have an excessively hard time placing any one above another.

This is reflected in most of my past t-shirt purchases, where I picked out designs that featured “all of them.” The first time I did that, “all of them” only meant Five.

However, with vast piles of merchandise being pumped out for the Fiftieth, my family has gone on to amass an increased wad of Doctor Who stuff, realizing that this popularity spike can’t last forever.  The ranks are based on looking at my current, now much larger, collection of t-shirts. While it isn’t a complete ranking, I can split them into tiers.  I’m ignoring appearances on the “all of them” shirts for this.

Tier One:  Doctors I Don’t Have on Shirts:

Since it’s me, I have to start with a disclaimer:

I tend to avoid “New Who” shirts (with the exception way down at the end of this post) to make sure I am identified as an old fan.  The fact that I make comments like the one above about a “broken record” is apparently not enough.

Peter Capaldi: I don’t have any shirts mostly because there aren’t any. I foresee grabbing another “All of Them” shirt at the least.  This is because not only is the Doctor finally OLDER than me again, but also he doesn't like the color of his kidneys, which means he's also stranger than me.

John Hurt technically goes in this category as well.  his performance as the War Doctor was fantastic and I loved the way he acted as an amalgamation of the classic Doctors in his reactions to  the new guys doing things differently than the original series. I can get shirts of actual classic Doctors now, though, making one of him not necessary.

Matt Smith: He's my daughter’s Doctor, not mine, and she has several shirts featuring him and his sayings. However, I loved many of his stories, and his switching back and forth between being believably over a millennium old, and being full of boundless youthful energy was always captivating.

Christopher Eccleston: His Doctor was specifically designed for people new to the Doctor Who universe as a strong entry point.  As such, I wasn’t his target audience, but my wife was.  She has a shirt with him, but more with Tennant who quickly won her (and darn near everyone else) over.

The Classics

Paul McGann:  He gave an excellent portrayal, and his appearance in “Night of the Doctor” reinforced what a tragedy it was that he only appeared in one full television story. However, his lack of air time combined with co-stars that weren’t to my particular tastes keeps him in this group.

Jon Pertwee:  Probably the top of this tier.  He provided a fun filled performance, fantastic companions and intriguing enemies.  Too many of his stories seemed overly long and I felt trapping him on Earth pulled a little magic out of the series, though.  I guess I enjoyed him more in later episodes as his run transitioned in the style of show I was first introduced to when I started watching Tom Baker.  He’s more a case of I’d be much more likely to wear other Doctors before his shirt, even though I liked him.

William Hartnell:  Similar to my opinion of Doctor Number Nine, I have infinite respect for what he did, but I wasn’t the target audience of the show’s early years, I’m the target of what it became. I have full appreciation of his historical significance, but lack any real personal connection to him.

Tier Two: Shirts I have with pictures of the Doctor: 

Peter Davison- He’s kind of Tier 1.5.  He isn’t solo, but on a shirt of the “New Beginnings” DVD box art along with Tom Baker and Anthony Ainley as the Master.  This is symbolic of when I became a fan of the show.  The Fourth Doctor was on here in the US, but Number Five had already taken over in England, and my understanding of how the series worked really clicked with “The Five Doctors.” I thought he did a fine job carrying the show in a new direction after the exceedingly long and popular run of his predecessor. 

He's also my mother’s Doctor; she has a shirt with just him on it, meaning I didn’t need it.  This is one of many geekdoms in my family that is multi generational.

The shirts I have with a solo Doctor on them are the ones, I suppose, I gain the most enjoyment out of watching.

Sylvester McCoy:  One of two shirts I have from the new line showing the Doctors with their enemies.  I really enjoyed watching him explore, and cover up in entertaining ways, mysterious and darker sides of the Time Lord. (If he was one…we’ll never know now, thanks to Mr. Grade being a butthead.)  There were a fair amount of elements in his episodes that were the beginnings of themes that have been fully developed in, and added to the success of, the current series.

Patrick Troughton:  I have his shirt from the same line.  He was the first of the dynamic, funny Doctors who hid his brilliance to keep the bad guys guessing.  Getting to watch his episodes again on Netflix and Revisited specials made me see a great deal of what I like about Matt Smith’s performance can be traced straight back to the Doctor who's numeral does not reflect his abilities: Number Two.
(Somehow, it strikes me that he’d appreciate being used in a cheap poop joke.)

Tier Three: Costume Shirts: 

These are the actors that I feel were the best distillations of all the elements that make up the character’s blendered personality.  They are the ones I think of when I hear “The Doctor” before all others.  They played everyone’s favorite Time Lord with different levels of emotion, aloofness, alien-ness, and several other nesses.  But the humor, the sense of justice, the bluster bordering on madness, and the cleverness were all at the forefront.

I enjoy the performances of Tom Baker and David Tennant similarly to those in Tier Two. However, they are also the ones I’ve mimicked, borrowed, or flat out stolen some of their mannerisms into my own personality when needed.

Specifically, on the occasions where I’m called upon to give sales people tours of our R&D lab, I try to cover an overwhelming amount of engineering information in a brief time and somehow convey the ideas to non-technical people that we are thorough, competent and informed.  To help with this task I use some personality tics and vocal styles of those two.

(I also toss in a bit of Willy Wonka...Gene Wilder in that part is probably as close as any American will ever come to being worthy of the title “The Doctor.”)

Colin Baker is a special case. Technically he’s a Tier 3, as I didn’t buy his shirt. 

I’ve got some emotional connections to him as the first Regeneration that happened after I was a true fan, and his performance was dynamic and, like his predecessor, the type of change the show needed to continue forward in a new direction.  That would probably place him in the bottom half of Tier 2.  

But I'm really hoping to find an import Costume Shirt; because his outfit very closely matches my fashion sense. 

Or lack thereof.

Well, it’s a ranking of sorts.

I guess…

Though, having explained all this, it should be stated that I'd easily watch even any of the “Tier Ones” before any currently produced TV show, and if the classic Doctor’s shirts from that group hit the clearance racks I will totally be grabbing them. 

"All of Them" Verbally

Also, the only reason I don’t have more costume shirts, since I’m sure I have worked quotes from all the Doctors in each tier into everyday conversations at some point, is that they are hard to find here in the states.

Honestly, I’d be much happier sticking with my answer being  “All of Them” if it’s all right with everyone.

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