In my mad dash to find wild fan theories and cool thoughts about the recent seasons of Doctor Who, I’ve been disappointed to find that most of the online palaver focuses on the binary issue of whether people should consider Jodie Whitaker’s run as the Thirteenth Doctor good or bad. And, of course, a lot of that discussion boils down to people who don’t like the first female Doctor making some very thinly-veiled sexist remarks and those who do like her dismissing legitimate criticisms as anti-feminist.
It feels to me like there is a vast amount of discussion about the Thirteenth Doctor’s episodes themselves that remain untapped. I plan to explore some of those things that I feel people have overlooked. But before I do, I think it’s a good idea to establish my relationship with Doctor Who so people know where I’m coming from.
The Thirteenth Doctor is My Doctor
First and foremost, it’s worth mentioning that I like the Thirteenth Doctor. I like the structure of the series and episodes, I find the few duds easy to overlook, and I love Jody Whitaker’s performance as the Doctor. Perhaps most significantly, Jodie Whitaker is essentially my Doctor.
When I say that she’s my Doctor, I mean that she’s the only version of the character who has been current to me. I watched every other Doctor’s episodes only after the actor had left the role—a product of my relatively recent fandom. With the Thirteenth Doctor, I’m buying the episodes on YouTube as they come out and following along with new adventures week by week.
While I tried to avoid delving too deeply into spoilers with the other Doctors, they were always there. When the Ninth Doctor regenerated after only a series, for example, it came as little surprise to me—I already knew that the Tenth had taken over the series quickly.
By comparison, I’m writing this blog entry less than a week after the continuity-shattering episode “Fugitive of the Judoon.” The revelations there turned the whole show on its ear, and nobody has any idea of what to expect. My mind has been racing as to what [REDACTED] means, and in any previous run I probably would have turned to TVtropes to get some spoilers. But since I don’t have that option, I’m left sitting on the edge of my seat and coming up with my own crazy theories. That sense of immediacy and suspense forms a deeper emotional bond between me and the show.
Whether she turns out to be my favorite or lands several notches down the ladder, the Thirteenth Doctor is the first version of the character who feels like the present Doctor to me. That has no small impact on my view of her series.
The Tenth Doctor is My Favorite Doctor
That said, I think the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant in series two to four of the rebooted Doctor Who, set a high mark that the show has never matched. While other versions of the character all have their appeal, the Tenth Doctor is the guy who immediately brings a smile to my face and who managed to keep me engaged even when the episode itself was a bit of a dud.
It doesn’t hurt that David Tennant was the reason I got into Doctor Who in the first place. After hearing his voice and loving him as Uncle Scrooge in the DuckTales reboot, I turned to YouTube to see what else this Tennant bloke has been in. A few clicks later, I came across this clip from “The Day of the Doctor:”
Now, it’s worth noting that my friends have been telling me for years that I should watch Doctor Who. It’s not like I didn’t know about the series. But this was my first major exposure to the show in all its ridiculous yet awesome glory, and I fell in love with it.
My hurdle with Doctor Who in the past had been that there was simply too much continuity for me to carve through. Luckily, the beginning of the rebooted series starring Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor served as an excellent jumping on point. While I loved Eccleston in the role, though, I was impatiently waiting for Tennant to appear from the moment the first episode began.
The Tenth Doctor did not disappoint. Brilliant but flawed, kind but bearing a notable dark side, he served as an amazing hero who could also be his own worst enemy. The fact that the Thirteenth Doctor’s second series mirrors the Tenth Doctor’s run in tone and theme is a major reason why I’m so excited about the current run.
The Twelfth Doctor is My Other Favorite Doctor
No matter how good Jodie Whitaker is, I doubt she’ll ever rank higher than my third favorite Doctor. That’s because Peter Capaldi was magnificent as her immediate predecessor, the Twelfth Doctor. In fact, I would probably have quit watching the show had he not owned just about every scene he was in.
I did not like the Eleventh Doctor. He was bound to be a but of a letdown because he followed up the Tenth, but his series were also plagued by inconsistent writing and a severe lack of consequences. “The Curse of the Black Spot” is a prime example of the issues I had—one of the key players disappears halfway through the episode without explanation, and the entire story is a poor person’s version of the Ninth Doctor story “The Doctor Dances.” That type of sloppiness seemed to plague the Eleventh Doctor’s run, and I didn’t have the patience for it without David Tennant’s charisma to carry the show.
I found everything from the finale of series five (the first to feature the Eleventh Doctor) to the end of series seven (when he regenerates) to be exhausting. Most egregious was the sixth series, where it’s implied that the Doctor will die and the entire story that follows is a convoluted way to for Doctor to cheat his way out of what should have been a notable sacrifice. The constant time travel and cheating out of consequences left me with no feeling of stakes or connection to the character. By the end of the seventh series, I questioned whether I still wanted to watch the show. Then the Twelfth Doctor came on and got me re-engaged.
A lifelong fan of the series, Capaldi brought amazing passion and energy to the character. Moreover, he was the first modern Doctor to really move beyond the Time War, meaning that we could see who the character really was when he wasn’t desperately trying to act like a goofy young fop to cover up his years of trauma. Capaldi played the character with notes of the actors who had come before him, so he really did seem like an amalgam of the other Doctors.
It also doesn’t hurt that he could pull off amazing speeches:
The Tenth Doctor is my favorite version of the character. However, I think Twelve most completely represents the Doctor. If Tennant is #1 on my list of favorites, Capaldi is #1a.
Twelve is also one of the reasons I like Thirteen so much. His whole arc was about wanting to become a kinder person, and he transformed into the bubbly, kind Thirteenth Doctor. Too bad things were bound to make the Doctor dark again in the future.
The Seventh Doctor is My Favorite Classic Doctor
I like classic Doctor Who well enough, but I’m not obsessed with it in the way I am the new series. My list of favorite classic Doctors marks me as something as an oddball among many fans. For starters, I’m not big on Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. Maybe I was expecting more out of the iconic version of the character, but his adventures always seem to leave me a little cold. I definitely enjoy his stories, but I have yet to see what made people love that incarnation so much.
Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor stands out as my favorite of the classic bunch. It probably helps that, of the four serials from that era that I’ve watched, two of them are “Remembrance of the Daleks” and “The Curse of Fenric,” which seem to stand out as two of the stronger episodes as the original series wound down. There’s something about the goofy malapropism-spouting trickster who has a secret plan for everything that I find both endearing and dangerous.
Behind the Seventh Doctor, I have a deep fondness for William Hartnell’s First Doctor. He has the most pronounced character arc of them all, going from a downright evil old man who kidnaps people and has little compunction about killing as a matter of convenience to a much gentler and more noble hero.
The First Doctor’s adventures begin when he kidnaps a pair of schoolteachers who discover his true nature:
As he develops more humanity, he eventually turns into somebody capable of personal sacrifice to help those he loves:
Aside from those two classic Doctors, most of the rest are interchangeable to me. The only one I’m not a big fan of is Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor due to his willingness to engage in fisticuffs. I very much enjoy the fact that Doctor Who goes to such great lengths to show the value of talking and cleverness over violence.
So why all that rambling without even an SEO-friendly “top Doctors” list to tie it all together?
Basically, this blog entry is my primer for future discussion about the current Doctor Who series. It lets you know where I’m coming from when I discuss the show, what I liked and didn’t like about past Doctors, and what I consider to be important aspects of the series.
I have a lot of thoughts about the Thirteenth Doctor’s run, and this piece is essentially my opening paragraph. I don’t plan to give episode ratings or discuss whether the series is currently good or bad, because the rest of the Internet has that covered to an extreme. Instead, I hope to touch upon areas that have gone neglected in all the noise around this series. If you found this preamble interesting and engaging, hopefully you’ll be back to join the discussion in the future, regardless of whether you share my views on the past or not.