I’ve finally added my first general review of a book adapted to another medium, in this case, Doctor Who! I find this infinitely appropriate as I am a long time fan still reveling in the joys of the 50th Anniversary and the realization that the rest of the United States has finally caught on to what an amazing show this is! Yes, I’m a Whovian from way back, and, as all Whovians must, I have often been asked that question. You know the one I mean.
Who is your favorite Doctor?
Often I said, and still do say, that the 7th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, is my favorite. I do love him. I know that by the time he came along most long time fans had abandoned the show. I can’t say I understand it. I always believed he brought a certain mystery to the character, and I adored the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, his accent, and his umbrella. Of course, there is one other thing I found incredibly compelling. His Doctor brought to light what I called the Camelot Connection in the episode “Battlefield,” which, I’ve heard has been voted a least favorite episode. I’ve seen it and again I don’t understand. It’s got U.N.I.T. and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, Jean Marsh as Moraine, I think there are other episodes that deserve the title much more than this one.
Regardless of my usual answer, I do have a really hard time with the question. My first Doctor was Tom Baker. I distinctly recall channel surfing (though it wasn’t called that at the time, and you had to do it standing up by the TV with your hand on the dial) and I landed on the episode “Pyramids of Mars” starring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. Already a huge sci-fi fan, I stopped to watch it and I was hooked. It was several weeks before I had the opportunity to see another episode, though I thought about “Pyramids of Mars” often. When I turned on the TV, I found another Doctor. It was “Spearhead from Space” starring Jon Pertwee and Caroline John. I did wonder what had happened to the tall man with the long scarf, but as any child of the times, accustomed to actors being replaced, I accepted that this was the Doctor. It was several episodes before I really understood the premise, and eventually, Elisabeth Sladen reappeared, followed soon by Tom Baker.
The thing is, and I confess it’s conceivable that I misremember this, but I can recall seeing different Doctors on different TV stations. There were several PBS stations that all broadcast in the same general area, and each would be on a different Doctor depending on where they were in the episode rotation. I distinctly recall watching the credits to see which Doctor would be in the episode I was about to watch.
In the intervening years, I’ve seen every Doctor in action. After the series cancellation (for which I still haven’t quite forgiven the BBC) I bought the novels, though most bookstores in that day were much smaller than the current Barnes & Noble mega stores and didn’t devote a lot of shelf space to cult favorites like Doctor Who. I joined fan clubs (and I still have all the newsletters!) and sought out hard to find memorabilia at sci-fi conventions. (Yes, I’m avidly a member of other fandoms as well, but I’ll save that for future posts!). Even at sci-fi conventions, however, it wasn’t easy to find pieces of the Whoniverse.
When I first heard the show would be coming back, I was excited but apprehensive. I’d been through it all before in 1996 when Whovians everywhere anticipated a return that never quite materialized.
When the new series hit the U.S., it seemed an overnight sensation, though in reality the popularity grew gradually. I still know many fans who haven’t seen all of the Doctors yet, even though BBC America gave everyone the opportunity in 2013 when they showcased one Doctor for each month of the year leading up to the 50th Anniversary special.
The show spawned spinoffs in Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and there have been animated episodes, movies that seem to stand outside the official cannon of the show, and an industry of its own as more and more Timey Wimey Stuff is available at more and more stores, outlets, conventions and websites.
In all of that there have been Thirteen official Doctors if you count John Hurt. (I know about Peter Cushing, but even the BBC doesn’t include him!) Some Whovians don’t count Hurt, and I come down firmly on both sides of that conundrum, though that’s a separate blog post! Thirteen Doctors and more than 36 years of television episodes, but 50 years of stories, novels, graphic novels and comic books, audio plays, spinoffs, soundtracks, posters, collectibles, conventions, The Proms, and special Fathom events…in all of that, officially, who’s my favorite Doctor?
The one I’m watching.